I didn’t think this was possible, but I’ve reached a new low in idleness at work. I’ve just been transferred to a new site, this time in Karl Gustovgatan. In terms of laziness, it has surpassed all other sites I’ve worked at, and makes The Avenue look like a sweatshop.
Part of the problem is that it’s a large sight, with lots of rooms. It’s easy for people to hide and slack off. There is only one foreman, which is unusual for a site this big, who cannot possibly keep an eye on everyone and keep them accountable.
But the main reason why it is so relaxed is because of the apathetic and equally lazy foreman, Tony. When I first arrived, I started asking around for him, so I could introduce myself and find out what I should be doing. No one seemed to know where he was, and I was forced to trek throughout the building, trying to track him down. I felt a bit like Captain Willard looking for Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. As I was searching I could tell things at this site weren’t quite right, that strange twisted things had taken place here. There were people everywhere, yet no one was working. Materials and tools in every room, yet everything was only half finished.
Finally I found Tony. I then spent the next half hour following him around the site, while he tried to think of something I could do. All around us people continued to slack off, not even offering pretence of doing work, yet Tony said nothing. We walked into rooms and saw workers lounging around like it was happy hour in Club Med, and he thought nothing of it. In fact he often joined their conversations while I stood on the sidelines still waiting for some instructions.
Trying to get Tony to assign jobs was a constant problem. Over the week, whenever I asked him for something to do, he would sigh and give me a “why-are-you-asking-me-for?” look.
Eventually Tony told me to find a guy called Aba, and help him out with whatever he was doing. The problem with that plan was that Aba wasn’t really doing much. He spent practically the whole day standing around chatting. He made sure he was always holding a broom, so if Tony did walk in he could just start sweeping, although I don’t know why he bothered. Whenever I tried to do anything, he gave me a disapproving look. “Take it easy. Don’t stress,” he kept telling me, “We need to stretch this out until 3.30.” He also showed me a way of sneaking onto the roof, where we could go to hide from Tony. He then told me of the time he went up there and feel asleep. When he woke up two hours later, he just climbed down, went back to work, and no one even noticed he was gone.
During our long chats throughout the day, we started talking about all the Polish workers. As with The Avenue, this site had up to 20 Poles working there at one stage, but again nearly all were sacked quite recently. Aba had a whole list of disasters at the site directly (and indirectly) caused by the Polish. “They’re useless,” he told me when we were sitting on the roof, “They don’t do any work.”
To give you some idea how slow it is at Karl Gustovgatan, I’ve written up a plan of what an average working day should entail, and a rundown of what I actually do on an average shift.
My Day As It Should Be
6.45: Start work
9.15: Back to work.
11.15: Coffee break
11.30: Back to work.
2.00: Back to work
4.00: Finish for the day.
My Dad As It Is.
6.45: Arrive at work. Begin the day with a coffee in the staff room while I wait for everyone else to arrive.
7.15: Finally everyone has arrived, so we make our way onto the site. Ask foreman what I should be doing.
7.30: Find tools/materials, and set up my work area.
7.45: Have a general discussion with colleagues about what it is I’m doing, and how I’m going to do it.
8.00: Discussion gets side tracked into a completely irrelevant conversation.
8.15: Actually start working
8.30: Stop for Breakfast
9.15: Return to the site, and resume working.
9.30: Someone starts telling amusing anecdote. Everyone stops to listen.
9.45: Back to work.
10.00: Stop for a cigarette break, or in my case, a stand-outside-and-get-some-fresh-air break.
10.15: Suddenly realise I’m missing a tool. Go to storage to get it.
10.30: Back to work until I run out of screws. Back to storage.
10.45: About to resume working until I discover I’ve got the wrong screws. (5mm flat heads on gips and plywood? What was I thinking?) Back to storage.
11.00: Decide my workspace is a little cluttered so go and get a broom to give the floor a quick sweep.
11.15: By the time I find a broom it’s time for our coffee break.
11.45: Back to work, resume sweeping floor.
12.00: Get distracted by a work colleague showing me funny videos on this mobile phone.
12.15: Another fresh air break.
12.30: Back to work.
12.45: Work colleague starts asking me questions about life in Australia.
1.45: Ease our way back into work with another discussion about what we are doing, what still needs to be done, and how we are going to do it.
2.00: Two co-workers start play wrestling. Everyone stops to watch and egg them on.
2.30: Stop, stretch, and stand around with my hands in my pockets for a while.
2.45: Realise how little I’ve done so work solidly for 30 minutes to make it look respectable.
3.15: Start packing up.
3.30: Sweep the same floor repeatedly to kill time, or alternatively go hide on the roof.
3.45: Try to sneak out early, until I bump into the boss. He’s sneaking out early too, so I drop the pretence and just go.
4.00: Already on the tram home.