Social autism January 23, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…won’t get the rent paid.
I am currently at war. A low-intensity war, where I mostly lie low and then leap out of the jungle in a limp attempt at an ambush every now and again. It’s fairly Davidy-and-Goliathy, and I’m very much the David. Only there are twists. One, I don’t win. Two, there are three Goliaths.
I am at war with my employers. The bane of any freelancer’s life – well, apart from having to do the work in the first place – is the extra hassle of getting paid. The transaction would appear easy enough. Thief requires translation. I do translation. Return it to thief. Thief pays.
Except it isn’t that simple. My thieves, though they have never dealt in outright robbery, can’t seem to manage to last part of the transaction. Tradition demands you wait 30 days for your dosh once the job is complete. In my more childish moods, I wonder why this can’t be quicker. What takes 30 days, after all? Have a shufti, biff the invoice off to whomever, transfer the wedge. Hey presto…
There is a hierarchy of ineptness amongst thieves. And you’ll be happy to hear, I hope, that it is strictly along national lines. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked for people in many countries. My freelancing activities have only taken me, financially, to Russia, Switzerland, Belgium, the UK and, of course, Germany. Now, darlings, give your prejudices and stereotypes free rein and try to put the thieves in order of unspeakable cuntery… But just in case you can’t bear the suspense, let me tell you who pays like a dream and who are heartless, thoughtless arses who’d happily let you starve to death rather than bother signing the bastard invoice onto the next stage of the snail-speed process…
Admit it, you thought the Russians were going to be the naughtiest, didn’t you? They’re not. They’re the best. Along with the Swiss. Send them an invoice and they pay it. Imagine! That simple! No 96 reminders. No saying, “Oh, 1 euro seems a bit much. Can we pay you 99c instead?” (They leave that to the Germans.) No waiting till the 29th day to have the money on their accounts for that bit longer. No solicitor’s letter before they budge. Just straightforward, honourable, gentlemanly interaction. From the Russians, perhaps, because they know the value of eating. From the Swiss, no doubt, because the invoice is fed into a cuckoo-clock alarm-reminder. Or something. And they need to launder the money as quickly as possible.
The Germans are the tightest. There’ll be (virtual) head-shaking and hand-wringing when you quote a price that will keep you above the starvation threshold. “Couldn’t it just be a borderline starvation wage?” they’ll ask, and I say, “Oh go on then. You don’t ‘arf drive a hard bargain.” And we’ll guffaw, virtually, and all will be pally… Until 31 days later when they still haven’t paid and I fire off, at one second past midnight, an e-mail so full of bile and vitriol that I hope it comes through on their two-bit, shit-stink computers with a warning. “WHY hasn’t this invoice been paid? When EXACTLY will it be paid?” And the office Sabine, who can probably hardly get in the office door with such huge teeth and glasses, will answer sheepishly that something must have gone tits-up, as on every other occasion, but they’ll pay soon. But she does answer. And they do pay.
By insulting Belgium, I am really insulting every nation in Europe, so please don’t feel excluded. Trying to get money out of the EU is no doubt on a par for difficulty with every other interaction with an organisation with such a huge bureaucracy and at which, presumably, every message scribbled on a post-it note has to be translated into however many official languages it is now. You do your work for the EU thief. The EU thief is in contact with you 1700 times a day during that process. “Could we have it back a day earlier? Can we quickly just change that whole text and add another bazillion words and not pay you any more? Can we just…?” And then a deafening, echoing silence the moment the work is done and the invoice is with them. You can even see the phone ringing, unanswered, in an office that’s been cleared in a rush. E-mails go ignored. Calls to other departments don’t come up trumps. And then, you sneakily ring at 9.30pm. A sheepish voice answers. “Can I speak to Thief, please?” “Speaking.” “Um, hello, this is BiB. Perhaps you’ve had my 17000 e-mails this last half-hour?” “Um, sorry, Thief isn’t here.” Extraordinary.
But for downright, brazen, spectacular wickedness, I’m sorry to say my compatriots win hands down. Private sector. Not spectacularly huge companies. All loaded. They pay well enough. But you practically have to kidnap their children to get the fucking money out of them. It gives me BSE every time.
My current multi-front war is, unfortunately, UK-heavy. I decided to spread my guerrillas a bit thin but go for a three-pronged attack today. The Germans surrendered with relative ease. Sabine answered my pornographically rude e-mail and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been paid but would get onto it within the next 5 years. But the English are made of sterner stuff. I’ve only written 800 e-mails pointing out that I’ve now relocated to under a bridge and haven’t eaten since Hallowe’en. Not a peep. Heartless, they are. Heartless. One set of thieves is only scandalously, wickedly, disgracefully late. I am happy to have my e-mails ignored by them for another good few years. But the other set is so criminally, unforgivably, contumaciously late that the invoice is written in pounds, shillings and pence. In Latin. Cunts.
So I thought it was time to phone.
I am rubbish at the phone. I don’t know how they work. I have never, ever – OK, that’s bollocks, but never since moving from potty to real loo – willingly made a phone call. The idea of sitting with a bit of plastic wheezing into my ear as recreation has never sat well with me. No, the phone is a necessary evil which I use as rarely as possible. Which means I stutter and dribble and make a hash of phone etiquette.
Today, I phoned Thief Headquarters to ask for an up-to-date e-mail address for the correct thief to contact for matters relating to their theft. I assumed the previous thief had left or been murdered seeing as he had ignored my previous missives… in Latin, Old English, Middle English, French and our current tongue. “Would that be ledgers or accounts?” asked a dowdy woman with one hand on a doughnut. “Fucked if I know,” I stuttered back. She left a passive aggressive pause before transferring me to another human. A 29-year-old gent, slightly overweight and who’d never had a moment of unhappiness in his life, dealt with stage 2 admirably efficiently. I stutteringly explained that I was naked, shivering and under a bridge as my translation of the Magna Carta – or was it Beowulf? – hadn’t been paid for. “Which mag was it for?” “Cartas Weekly.” “And your name?” “BiB.” “OK, I’ll put you through to G_,” and before I could say, “But I only want an e-mail address,” I was being put through to a girl with a modern name.
“Fuck, fuck, I’m going to have to be assertive.” The girl with the modern G-name answered. “Fuck, fuck… Um, hello. Um, bridge, rags, hungry… BiB… Latin.” “Oh, that’s funny,” said the bubbly G-girl with a LAUGH. “I’ve just been forwarded your 9000 e-mails from the man in accounts.” “So you mean he hasn’t been murdered?” “No, he’s just been ignoring you.” “Oh good.”
“So, um, about the invoice?” “Oh, sorry, I’m afraid I’m not in a position to give you any information further to your inquiry. I don’t do invoices.” Pause for laughter. “You’ll have to wait for an answer from the man in accounts… Yes, the one who’s ignored your 9000 e-mails. Thank you for your patience at this difficult time.”
So once you hear the news-story about a man in rags, speaking depleted English, who goes on a murderous rampage through a central London accounts department shouting, “Don’t you understand? I’ve got a Russian homosexual to support!” before surrendering feebly to the (beefy, uniformed) police, don’t forget to write to me in prison.