It’s Friday at work. Last night I went to the pub. It wasn’t a particularly boozy evening, just a couple of pints, but I feel a little groggy. And I’ve just had a coffee. My body has decided that what I really need is some ‘alone time’ and who am I to argue? So I get up from my desk, stroll over to the gents and enter. So far, so good. All going to pla… What’s this? Excuse me? There appears to be someone in my cubicle. This is outrageous! There are two perfectly good, free cubicles either side of this one, and yet this bastard has decided to use mine.
For a minute, I genuinely contemplate waiting outside for him to finish, so I can take back what is rightfully mine. But then my rumbling stomach reminds me that this is an expedition of some urgency… Also waiting outside the cubicle would be completely mental… So I slide disgruntled into one of the identical-yet-inferior berths that flank “old trusty”.
Whilst I appreciate that this post has got off to a fairly inauspicious start in the highbrow stakes, my weekly jostling with the other hundred or so men in my office highlights the value and comfort of having a certain familiarity in one’s surroundings. Homo Sapiens is a creature of habit, and particularly in times of need there is an innate need for us to have something reliable to depend on. Something immovable. A rock to build on. I may not be qualified to comment deeply on human psychology, but in this, the week of Valentine’s day, it is a good explanation as to the existence of relationships as more than just our primal requirement to breed.
No-one likes change. Deep-down, no one wants it. Sure, people might move cities (even countries) for work, quality of life, or dare I say it, love. However I doubt that people would do this in anything like the numbers if the same opportunities were available on their doorstep. We like things to be done on our terms, the way we have always known it. The existence of terrible ‘catchphrase’ comedies like Little Britain is further example of this. Thick people like knowing that a moment is coming that they can laugh at.
I find this admission that we don’t like change a refreshing character trait that you can find in others. There is no better example of this than when you address the issues of holiday.
In the past, I have been down the ‘travelling’ route. During my gap year (a phrase that can normally draw a comment of “on my gap yah” from staggeringly unoriginal people in a vain attempt at humour – note another catchphrase too), I went Inter-Railing for a month. It was fun, it was exciting, it was freedom. Would I do it now? Not in a month of Sundays.
If I go on holiday, I want to settle somewhere. I want to know where everything is and I want to be able to relax. None of these things are possible when the crux of your break is charging round a never-ending series of trains, planes and automobiles with a wheelie bag in tow.
It speaks volumes that those who love ‘travelling’ are amongst the most nauseating people on earth. They have thrown off the shackles of familiarity, man. Not for them is the pleasing comfort of knowing exactly how much lunch would cost, or having a coffee at 11 every day. Even when back in England, these ‘mavericks’ wouldn’t have a favourite cubicle at work. In fact, they probably don’t even have work, and they conceivably just go in a hole in the ground, because some wise, beardy old man they met in Tibet told them to. They’ve escaped the gravy train, and don’t they just want you to know it?
But realistically, all the sane signs in life point towards familiarity. It’s tribal. We all like the same things we always have.
Look at brand loyalty. In fact look at any sort of loyalty. Whether it’s a football team, a brand of cigarettes, a newspaper or an item on the menu at Wagamamas, we’re all just suckers for more of the same. People yearn for the moment they can walk into a pub and ask for “the usual”. We love it when we’re at a party and someone we know turns up, we like soaps and shows that go one endlessly in weekly portions. We’re all hooked on the norm.
So why fight it? Don’t whinge about the mind-numbing regularity of your commute to work, you’d miss it. Yes, the Metro’s a shocking aberration of a newspaper, but it’s part of your life now. Bite the bullet, take a deep breath and bask in the glory of your repetitive existence. You know it’s what you want…
But first get out of my bloody cubicle.
by Harry Harland