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Harriet stared over at Claire. Oh my god…

It was about quarter to three and Claire had sighed heavily and loudly enough to make sure Harriet and the rest of the office heard her. She had got up from her desk and was standing out of her cubicle and doing strange exercises. Harriet rolled her eyes. She couldn’t take much more.

The new boy however, had never seen this embarrassing display before so of course, as Claire well knew, he would be curious enough to ask about it.

“Claire, what are you doing?” he asked innocently.

“Hhmm?” she pretended not to hear.

“What are you doing?” Adam asked again.

“Oh this?”

“Yeah” His frows burrowed. Harriet’s only ray of light was the in Adam’s furrowed brow she saw the tiniest hint of distain. Yes, she thought. He will be one of us in time. He sees.

“Oh it’s just DSE exercises” Claire said vaguely.


“Display Screen Equipment”


“Doing these exercises means I increase blood flow and stuff y’know…”

“Oh right, okay”

 “Yeah I mean there are various things that can be damaging in the working environment such as this…”

What Harriet hated most was the way Claire never really looked at who she spoke to. She just stood there pulling her arm across her chest, each one at a time as if she was preparing for the 800 meters. Normally everyone else is so incensed and bored by this parade they just sit and ignore Claire. She stands and does it every day at the same time regardless but it was easier to take when no one paid any attention. It would even be amusing and cause the rest of the small office to join together:

“I’m worried about my screen glare. What can I do?”

“I think you should go to A&E”

“Will you take me? I’m scared to go alone”

“No I can’t – I’m taken some valium for my posture-related stress. I should stay put…”

But now Adam was asking her about it. It was understandable. She wanted him too sighing and strutting in front of him. What was the poor boy going to think?

Harriet knew though, that soon he too would leave her to it.

Her last exercises were the ones for the eyeballs. Harriet could see her in the corner of her vision madly staring to the left for 5 seconds and then to the right while explaining to Adam the importance of regular blinking.

“…eyeballs are actually quite dry while watching a screen…”

“Urgh” Harriet was so bored with her. Claire should be a substitute teacher. Or bite the bullet and go work in Risk Assessment. Then she could prattle about Health and Safety bullshit all day. The woman was a total weirdo.

At three o’clock she sat down and there was a collective silent sigh and everyone got back to normal. The hum of computers and printers slowly cooing everyone into a coma again as Harriet started back at her screen. She couldn’t face the rest of the day. It was Friday, she had no concrete plans and she knew after last weekend there was no way she was going to see Toby again. Yes, he was beautiful, yes he was good kisses but no he was not worth it after sharing those kisses with half the town behind her back.

Her head rested in her hands as she flicked through mindless gossip pages on the internet. Maybe I should get a fringe…

Her computer pinged. She’d got mail.

“Come for a drink? People are taking Adam out, we should go and corrupt him”

She smiled, there were always work drinks. The work was dull but most of the people were good company.

“Sure, I’ll show him the ropes” she replied.

“We have no doubt of that, love but he actually wants to be able to show his face around here afterwards so…?”

“Oh by the way you stopped being funny about a year ago but it was too tragic to tell you at the time.

“yes yes, so I’ll see you there?”

“Make mine a GnT”

“Always a skank”

Charlie was one of Harriet’s best friends and an incredible booze hound. If you wandered past the work local you would always find him there and he would always be in a good mood.

Her spirits picked up and with restored energy she finished the last of her jobs.


At the pub she found Charlie and their other cohort, Marianne along with practically the rest of the company as they always were, spilling out on to the road fags and pints in hand.  

“I never tire of being pleased by the sight of a cool GnT” Harriet proclaimed as Charlie handed her a drink. “Thanks dear. And how were days?”

Charlie and Marianne worked upstairs in accounts and they filled her in with the news from the day from their floor.  It was always the same. There was the saga about the kitchen mugs:

“So then Rich took Andy’s one, knowing he would get pissed when he saw it on his desk…”

And there was the icy receptionist:

“I’m not sure it was a look of contempt but it felt like one…”

And the mystery about the disappearing stapler:

“what gets me most is that there are literally shitloads in the stationary cupboard –why do they take mine?!”

Harriet smiled. The familiarity of these mundane events comforted her along with the smooth gin snaking its way down her throat. A few of these and I’ll go home at peace with life.

Marianne took a sip of her pint and dug Harriet’s ribs. “How was your day then?”

“Oh the usual – Nothing. 3pm exercise with Claire. Nothing. And now I’m here!”

“A good productive day” Charlie as he lit a cigarette, “sounds like mine”

“Where’s the new boy?

“Oh he’s with the sales team, they got him first.”

“They’re welcome to him” Harriet sniffed.” He was asking way too many questions with Claire today. I did think he was secretly laughing inside at everything she said – but he still asked.”

“He’ll learn. It’s probably the last time he’ll do it too.”

“How old do you think he is?”

“Maz’s has got dibbs already!” laughed Charlie

“Fuck off Charlie. It’s because he looks about twelve”

“Well he can grow a beard” Harriet said “so that’s a good start”


The three of them looked at Adam surrounded by the buff and noisy sales team boys. Competition didn’t stop at the office for them.

“They are such school boys” Harriet said after another sip of gin.

“Yeah, I hope he doesn’t get sucked into that”

“ Don’t fret Maz, he works on my floor” she comforted her with a pat on the back “Sales would never been seen dead in Research.







Created: Jul 27, 2012


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