As the thin veneer of democracy starts to fade...

It's not been a good first week of 1998, as far as personal liberty in Stalag Luft HSBC goes. First off was the new timesheet regime, which means we now have to account for our time, not on a day-to-day basis, but hour-by -hour. No more majestic sweeping of two days a week into the nebulous bucket labelled "Live System Support". Instead, it will be not-so-majestic sweeping of one hour per day into "Downtime: miscellaneous" (going to the toilet, getting the coffees in, phone calls, and other, perfectly legitimate ways to avois work) and "Admin: timesheets" (trying to remember what the hell you spend the rest of the day doing). I suspect that when they realise we're spending three weeks per year on this bureaucracy, the system might go the way of all the others, and be quietly abandoned on the scrap-heap of office automation.

Second up was the unilateral declaration by the new Chief Executive Operating Vice-Deity (or some such similar, meaningless title) that the Dress Down days which had happened on Friday, were to be finished. So it's back to shirt and ties for us now: as a protest, a large number of the department have taken to wearing the company tie on Friday (see a previous editorial for bitching about this fatuous waste of money), and finding the most horrific shirt they can to clash with it [in my case, a white shirt covered in huge black stars. It's brilliantly awful]. The dress down days were great; they broke down barriers and improved working relationships, as well as the obvious point that when you are comfortable, you work better. AND I got to show off my enormous collection of really cool T-shirts. This seems to be less important than the "image" presented to our clients -- even though, in the Siberia-like outpost of the company where we work, clients are rarer than hen's teeth.

Third, and on a more personal level, muggins is looking likely to be lumbered with the delights of the early shift. This means being at your desk at 7am in the morning -- which is, as you can imagine, pretty incompatible with life as we know it. Negotiation is currently under way to see what compensation we'll get for having our social life wrecked one week in four; but whatever it is, it won't be enough. There is NO amount of money in the world that will make me leap out of bed at 05:30 with a song in my heart, and a spring in my step. Only recreational pharmaceuticals, in life-threatening amounts, would be up to that task.

Between all this, and the imminent prospect of losing my nice, comfy window seat in favour of one next to the boss (which as any student of such things will know, is a passport to menial tasks galore), I am giving serious contemplation to changing my job, after nine years here in once capacity or other. The only thing keeping me here are the share options, and if the Asian stock markets continue to do their impersonation of a brick, even that won't be much of an inducement. Maybe 1998 will be the year I finally rip loose and head for the Elysian Fields of free-lance computing. On the other hand, that might mean I have to do actual WORK -- which most of the time isn't a serious threat where I am. But if the current climate continues to deteriorate, I might have to reconsider...

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