I never thought I would ever hear someone really say ” Do you know who I work for?” as in,” I am a very important person and I wont take any shit from you!” But hear it I did in the form of Irma ( aka Mrs Panamanian) speaking to some poor Booking Clerk at the Royal Pavilion, but there you are. She goes and does it anyway.
The Royal Pavilion is a confection of Indian ( and Chinese) extravagance paid for by one of our more louche members of the Royal Society. But it is a “Must Do” if you visit this part of the country…. and thousands do. However, Irma could not understand why they wouldn’t accommodate 55 French students at 10.30am on a certain Wednesday in May and what were they going to do about it. She has a tone about her which can immediately ruffle feathers. Not meant, I know, but it doesn’t help. As the situation continued, and I watched her cross and uncross her leg; snap a pencil and pace the floor I could see the conversation wasn’t going too well. By the time she had demanded to speak to the Manager the only way this was going to finish was ” badly”. I couldn’t bear to hear any more and left the Office.
Whilst it can be very funny and interesting listening to different accents and conversations in foreign tongue, it can also be quite wearing trying to understand the cultural differences. I have had to move Irma’s desk closer to mine which isn’t the best way to start my day, but I cant have her irritating the arse off Mr Wu or, Lana, our Ukrainian any more. If I keep her next to me I can throw a paperclip at her or divert her, if I feel the equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis is about to kick off all over again.
When I returned after a brisk ( de stressing) walk of fifteen minutes, she was still on the phone but in slightly more buoyant mood. Apparently she had managed to get the Booking Clerk to change the time to 11.00am which even if it wasn’t 10.30., then Irma would see it as a mild victory. She told me afterwards that she will just tell the group to get there for 10.30 and barge their way in. I daresay they wont disobey her.
As I was seeking out some liquid refreshment, sadly only in the form of Camomile Tea this time, I caught Lana, our Ukrainian, bent over the Air fresheners in a very odd fashion. Okay, I’ll tell you. She had one arm above her head and the other was holding the Air freshener! Every time it puffed some synthetic perfume out, she put her underarm in front of it and took the full force. ” Lana what on earth are you doing?” I ventured but deep down knowing I shouldn’t.
” Oh, no deodorant today. It run away ( I think she meant, ” it had run out”) so I use brain cells and think, this smell nice so when it goes poof poof I use it for nice smell under arms. No want to smell like Russian old lady picking potatoes in field!” and she winks at me.
” …and Lana, tell me, is the Fresh Cotton fragrance to your liking?” I ask dryly.
She shrugs her shoulders and says.” ok. Its ok. My favourite is summer breeze but none left” I am slightly dumbfounded because Lana has reduced the time lapse between sprays and now we have her smelling like some cheap perfume ( I might have actually preferred the Russian Potato Pickers armpit smell instead of the heavy cloying fragrance which is now lingering around the office) as it is dispensing “fragrance” every 90 seconds! I leave her as she now has it angled at her thighs ( I kid you not) and the term ” too much information” forms speedily in my brain.
I decide to have an informal chat with both Lana and Irma on the slightly thorny subject of Office Etiquette and at the same time I asked Irma not to say ” do you know who I am or who I work for” because the British don’t like that sort of pompousness and it incites others to bring about our downfall. I try to smile and spread largesse about the community, not rule Brighton with an imaginary rod of iron. She shrugged her shoulders and walked away. A few minutes later, she was back. ” I have to go to a funeral today”
” Oh Irma, I am sorry. Was it someone close?”
” I didn’t know him. I am going because they always have good food and I might find a nice man there! Let’s see. ( another shrug of her shoulders) I wanna go to one funeral a week now. My target. I just read the newspaper to find a good one on and stand with other meanies (??) and see who is about. Might meet nice rich old man there.” (Yes, I know readers, I also think she meant to say Mourners not Meanies, but as always with Irma, you never can tell!)
I smiled at Lana. “Just finish photocopying the Certificates please . You will have to use the one in the Teacher’s room. Ours is broken” I had lost the energy to say anything else and slumped over my desk
” Yes I know it is broken” she replied very determinedly and laid her head on my desk so we could lock eye contact. I caught a whiff of Air Freshener. It was acrid. Vile. ” so I used the other one next to it” she continued…..
I immediately sat upright. “Er, what other one next to it, Lana? We only have one here”
Sharp exhale of breath from Lana. “One next to big copy machine. I put the Certificates in – nothing happened yet. Very slow!” I just wish she wouldn’t reply to me in a tired terse voice. It does hack me off!
“Lana…you bloody idiot ” I screamed, yet again…. ” you have just destroyed 40 Certificates. Its a Shredder – not a photocopier”
“Hmm” said Lana ” No wonder its slow doing copies”