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Having been down-on-my-luck for a few months now, I will, almost without question accept any placement that my agency finds me! Having spent the past couple of weeks working for none other than the ever-so-unpopular London Underground, my heart is sinking fast.

Prior to this, I have done the odd day here-and-there and a few weeks at an Architectural firm. What can I say, it was good when it was busy, and like most other places, I’m sure, a tad dull when not. My tactic used to be turn into a smiling tea & coffee making fool and people would appreciate this and therefore not notice that you’re not doing too much! Although this worked out quite well for a while there, what I perhaps forgot, is that I noticed and really, I don’t like being bored, sitting restlessly waiting for something trivial to come my way…

And although I left that job much to the annoyance of the agency – sympathetic bunch that they are! – the situation has all but repeated itself, once again. This time for those lovely people at London U/G! Why am I still here I keep on asking myself, I mean I argued that it was a moral as well as morale issue before! I can’t help it, but I hate taking money, when I haven’t really done the hard-days-graft, but I doooooo need the money! My overdraft is huge and I have just discovered I have passed that three-year graduate mark and have to start paying for these kinds of services… oh boy! And don’t get me started on the credit card bill!

But even with all those arguments spinning round my mind, both pro’s and con’s I cannot help but turn-up to work, (sometimes on time, others not quite!) because, no matter how dull it is, I am getting paid to do so.

God, its not a wonder that the entire U/G network is in a mess, believe you me I have heard a few stories that would make your hair curl! But, I know that as I sit here, that somebody (maybe even you) are paying my wages, and it just feels awful!

But the ray of sunshine, of hope: is that there’s at least one chap here, who’s older, wiser, more experienced my view of him is that he represents the new, whatever that may mean! I think he’s definitely old school, in the sense of background and what have you, but he’s new in the fact that he does not resist change, even when its not necessarily for the better!

Having witnessed a couple of chaps argue against the whole new scheme of things, the whole middle management as a whole waste of time, the political backdrop is becoming more clearly apparent to me. I can see that it is permeating its way through to every possible outlet… but there are a few people that can see that things are a-changing, and rather than fight it, they listen and learn and work around it.

Not that I think that the passionate anti -management chap is wrong, a lot of what he said seemed to make very sound sense. The only examples that I can think of, (and please I am paraphrasing, so don’t sue me) is this new method of hiring in maintenance people to do the work that the usual teams or gangs would normally do, why? Because, I don’t know, it’s cheaper or some such nonsense. His point, was that these guys get taken to a track and make repairs as directed, as if on automaton, so unlike the chaps here for life, they simply don’t care, they’re sloppy for want of a better word.

So the usual teams have to still go out there and tidy up and probably fix the problem again, properly anyway. Plus, the actual permanent boys/teams would also use their heads. If they saw another problem, even if it wasn’t their area, well they’d fix that too – seems to make perfect, common-sense to me; but you’d never get a contract group to do more than they have been asked to do, that too makes sense, as unfortunate as it is! (I won't tell which is the least safe station in the system, needless to say I have to use it everyday and it scares me... )

So here I sit, being paid to do very goddamned little. And yet there are guys here, people with knowledge, experience and ideas. No ones listening to them. No one seems to give a damn. Its all tick-box, check the figures, make sure that a bunch of people have got safe jobs, dishing out prosperous tasks to more experienced staff. A vicious circle line?

I’m not sure what will happen. I have heard rumours that other lines, ones that have better figures, have really crap safety records. But the feeling seems to be others will go that way too. Again, I admit my own shortcomings I don’t really know the ins and outs of this system, both historically and politically. But I fear for this fantastic network of lines, tracks, trains all underneath your feet, your homes, your offices. I fear bureaucracy will ruin it; it will view profits over people and like most big companies side-line those with age and or experience for fear of the old, for a want to embrace a new image.

But what will happen? There’ll be another accident. There will be public outcry. There will be people shaking their heads. And I know there’ll be a bunch of chaps across the entire U/G that will know it could have been avoided. And I bet you the long-and-short-of-it will be, management or whomever, still wont listen to these people. In fact they have probably, all but been silenced, beaten down and kept in their rightful place, somewhere along the way. And yet, as I started this, the thoughts on my mind were justifying taking money for nothing, something that really sickens me. And then there are all these wider implications, something that doesn’t really involve me at all. And I just can’t help but think the whole place is doomed. I can’t help but think, why?
It’s all a bit daft really.

April 2001

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