For most of us the weekend is a time of rest. We might hit the sauce responsibly one night, we might play golf one afternoon, we might watch a film or cook a roast as the long winter evenings roll in. Whatever we do though, we try to relax. We relax so that when the banshee-howl of our accursed alarm clocks pierces our ears on Monday morning, the pain is not too great. As we sit on the tube, awaiting the 5 day marathon ahead of us, we can reflect on a weekend of decadent enjoyment, one which fills you with hope that, come Friday, we can enjoy it all again.
Not so the office hero.
The office hero is one of the most prevalent pests of the 21st century, and one whose existence can be blamed on the likes of Gordon Gekko of Wall Street fame. His life’s ambition is to make himself out to be some sort of bionic superman in the hope that this will help qualify him as a success. All he cares about is work and fitness. He reads Men’s Health (Best cover headline ever: “How to get rich and die having sex”) and doesn’t find it laughable, while the weekend is an inconvenient break in his work routine.
Our hero bowls into work on Monday morning with a slight limp in his stride. “Did 10k on Saturday” he says. Leaving pause for this groundbreaking fact to sink in, before adding: “Then hit the gym last night…”
Any sane human being would not be blamed for just ignoring such a total non-event of a story, except he is not alone, they hunt in packs. “Oh yeah, how long did it take? I did it in 60 mins on Sunday” pipes up another ‘legend’. I sit there in astonishment. Who cares? Honestly, who cares? The only person I have ever given a toss about running 10km is Mo Farah, and even Mo would be pushing the limits of my interest if he told me how far he had run every weekend.
The running chat continues for hours, days even, and appears to spread like a virus. It seems that the only reason that anyone in the office goes on runs is so that they can drone on incessantly about how far they ran at the weekend. I don’t know if, after years of being subjected to this, I am supposed to be admitting how fat and worthless I am before cancelling my social life to embark on a weekend middle-distance running career, but I’m not breaking. In fact all it serves to highlight is how much I enjoy my life. Even if I was to think of the most boring things I did on the weekend, they would make for a more appealing activity than going on a run.
But my life is not one that the hero would enjoy. He probably views me as some sort of untermenschen. The sheer concept of my Saturdays of hangovers, DVDs and takeaways make him so angry that he has to go and benchpress another 120kg (which he does every night, obviously).
Exercise routines and babies it appears are the two subjects which, once engaged with, disable you from talking about anything else whatsoever.
After an evening in which he leaves the office at 9pm, despite finishing absolutely everything that he had to do three hours earlier, our hero mounts his trusty bike for the journey home. Cyclists take up an interesting position in the day-to-day dynamic of London by being despised by both pedestrian and motorist alike. As such, the world smiles when it’s a rainy day and you see the sea of sanctimonious lycra sloshing through puddles from the window of your bus, looking miserable.
Inevitably though, after a few too many such journeys, he catches a cold. But does that make him stay at home? Does it hell. He’ll be sat at his desk, shovelling lemsips down (although occasionally worrying about their calorie content) before guiding you into that meeting and sitting in a confined space coughing into your face for half an hour. I have never really understood the machismo of never taking a sick day. If you are ill, I’d rather that you stayed as far away from me as possible. Especially now the vast majority of jobs can be done remotely from home. But no, the office heroes martyr their way round the office, coughing loudly every time an authority figure passes them just so that they are left in no doubt as to how dedicated their employee is. Then, once he has infected you with the bubonic plague, he looks down on you for calling in sick a few days later.
But what can be done? I remember Eddie Izzard once jesting that the correct way to react to an overly-firm handshake was to collapse to the ground screaming and clasping your “injured” right hand. Perhaps a similar solution can be worked into these brash displays of overt machismo. The answer might be to provide the antithesis of his attitude. Make him feel like he’s missing out.
The correct response to a statement about running or gym work might be a beaming smile while you reel off your weekend’s meals using the sort of appetising language that one normally finds in a Marks & Spencer advert. Mention every morning how nice and comfortable your commute was, that you got a seat the whole way on an empty tube. If you take a sick day, state how much better you feel for it. Confront alpha with extreme omega, become a standard-bearer for inactivity.
Or just start jogging. It’ll tide you over conversationally until you have children.
by Harry Harland