Office Junior

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I sat my last ‘A-level’ exam on Friday morning, I was already eighteen and there was only three weeks left until I officially finished my school life. I went from the exam room to Miss Wren’s office, who was my careers advisor, to ask if it was okay for me to stop attending school. We had a long chat about my plans, I knew my grades wouldn’t be good enough for university…not that I wanted to spend another three years at school.

“Something clerical, anything in an office that pays a wage while they do training.” is what I said.

“Don’t quit school until you get a job, you can come into school and use our facilities, I can help you amend your CV to suit the jobs you’re after, you can use our post room to send your CV’s out…” she jumped a little and pulled her mobile phone out of her pocket, “Sorry about this, always makes me jump when it’s on vibrate.”

She pressed two buttons and said, “Good morning Mr Prescott…what can I do for you today?”

I sat back in my seat and zoned her conversation out as she spoke for a few minutes before covering the mouthpiece with her hand, “…Would you like to try a temporary clerical job for a few weeks at Prescott Engineering?”

I shrugged my shoulders at first and then nodded my head. Prescott Engineering was our town’s largest employer as well as largest family; we had four Prescott’s in my class alone that were all cousins.

She uncovered her telephone mouthpiece and smiled at me as she said, “I have a very bright student here with me right now and she’s looking for clerical experience, wants to train on the job to be a secretary eventually…I’ll send her right over…will she need to bring her CV along?”

The call ended, “They’d like to see you before lunch so get your skates on! They don’t need a CV, they’re willing to take my personal recommendation as to your suitability so don’t let me down.”

“I need to go home and shower first, get changed, do my hair and makeup!”

She shook her head, “They want you as you are and as soon as possible!”

I was lucky that the bus onto town was waiting outside the school gates and that one stop before the town centre was the stop for Prescott Engineering’s Office. I was walking into their reception just fifteen minutes after my career’s adviser had put the phone down.

I had a very quick interview with Paul Prescott, the Office Manager who took me on a whistle stop tour of the works that ended at the staff canteen where he treated me to lunch.

Page 1

I didn’t get the full hour for lunch that I’d usually be entitled to, just twenty minutes to eat and I was whisked through to the basement storage room. A disgruntled employee had shuffled a few files around in some of the filing cabinets and now they were desperate to have someone do the boring job of going through every drawer to find the misfiled folders. I was told that it was important to be thorough but complete the job as quickly as possible.

I opened the first ‘A’ drawer and looked in, I pulled the first folder forward. It was ‘ABB Electrical Engineering’ the second folder was ‘ABDT Alarms’

“So Sarah…what’s your plan?”

“Simple shuffle search, if the folder behind has a higher alphabetical value than the front folder then just move on, if not…” I thought for a moment, “I’ll pull the folder and place it to one side, that way, when I get to the ‘Z’ drawer, I’ll be able to quantify what the problem was and start refilling the folders in their proper place.”

He just stood looking at me for a moment, I started to get a little worried, he was in his forties, greying hair and salt and pepper moustache, he was just a few pounds overweight but his suit fitted him like a glove, expensive…hand stitched but not gaudy or ‘in your face’…it was a bit like when a teacher had asked a question and your answer was wrong or perhaps didn’t go far enough, the teacher would just look you up and down giving you a little more ‘Rope’ to hang yourself with.

“Was that right?”

“I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, I liked your thinking, do the search as fast as possible, pull the errant folders and count them before refilling them in the right place…of course we won’t know if any of the folders content has been tampered with but at least we’ll be in a better place than we are right now.

I was left on my own to continue at the ‘A’ drawer and go through everything.

At three o’clock I had to use the bathroom and spotted a free vend coffee machine, I took a coffee back to the dungeons and pressed on. I’d reached ‘O’ when the lights suddenly went off, “ERM! Working here!” I called out at the top of my voice.

The lights came back on and Paul Prescott’s head appeared around the corner.

“Sorry, I assumed that you’d left for the day…it is eight o’clock in the evening you know?”

“Sorry…my bad… no watch, I have no idea what the time is and I haven’t seen a living sole all afternoon.”

“No, we’re holding all filing back up in the main office and we’re holding back çatalca escort requests for files from the clerical teams for this week…have you done A through to O already?”

I nodded my head.

Page 2

“Did you find any misfiled folders?”

I pointed to a stack, “One hundred and two so far. What shall I do with these?”

I pointed to a second pile of folders, the file headers were, ‘Arseholes’, ‘Bastards’, ‘Cunts’…One insult for each letter of the alphabet that I had already sorted, “They were at least filed in the correct places in the drawers even though the folders are empty!”

I opened the ‘P’ drawer and the second folder in was entitled, ‘Paul Prescott is a Paedophile’…well, that caused me to blush but Paul just smiled, “I think that the insult folders should all be shredded and I’m sorry that you had to see all of those things…and if you’re wondering…I do like younger women but never dip below eighteen years old!” Paul smiled at me as he said that.

There was a ping from Paul’s inside jacket pocket, he was walking away from me when he looked at the message. He stopped in his tracks and gasped, he turned to look at me, there was no colour left in his face…I stopped flicking through ‘Ps’, “Problem?”

“Big problem, we have a conference in a Brighton hotel starting on Monday and they’ve just had a fire in the lobby, it’ll be some time before they know if there is structural damage…I’ve got to try and whistle up a new venue with three hundred and fifty bedrooms before Monday or cancel the Annual conference.”

He looked very confused for a few moments, “Sarah…you may as well finish up for the night…it’s getting late.”

“When do you want me to come in again?”

“Are you willing to work tomorrow?”


“See you at nine o’clock…I’ll probably still be here ringing around all the hotels in the south of England.”

I got a lot of stick from my grandmother for being late home for dinner until I told her that I’d been working after my final exam. Over dinner I told her about the hotel in Brighton having a fire and that the Prescott’s annual conference was on hold while Paul Prescott was looking around for a hotel. “Wrong time of the year to look for a block of rooms in one hotel, he’d be better off looking for a few rooms in different hotels and a room in a central location to hold the actual conference meetings in.”

I was watching TV lounging against my grandfather on the sofa while my grandmother was chatting to her friends online, she often posted messages in and at ten o’clock she called me over to her PC, “Sarah, come and look at this!”

Page 3

It was a message from one of her friends, ‘Cruise and Maritime Voyages latest ship, MV Roald Amundsen has left their refitting dock in Amsterdam a full week ahead of schedule and is sailing towards Tilbury Cruise Terminal tonight. The Amundsen’s first scheduled trip was a round Britain cruise starting in eight days time.’

“What will they do with it until their first cruise?”

“It’s happened before, they had to just keep moving it from the terminal every time a ship needed to dock, they either sailed it up and down the Thames or just moored it out in the estuary until the dock was free again…actually, the Roald Amundsen would be great for Prescott’s needs, it has just over four hundred cabins and it has a show lounge that could seat four hundred people at a time, perfect venue for a conference of up to four hundred delegates.”

It was certainly something to mention when I saw Paul in the morning…if I saw Paul in the morning!

I caught the seven thirty bus into town and walked out from the town centre to Prescott Engineering. There was another bus at eight thirty but because of the extra traffic, the eight thirty bus didn’t get into town until five minutes past nine and then there would be another five minute walk out to the offices.

There was just one car in the car park, an Audi Q-8 with the registration P4UL-P, the spacing and the black mark between the ‘L’ and the last ‘P’ made the number plate illegal but the police didn’t seem to care about that too much.

I found a back door open and wandered past the coffee machine, I had remembered from lunch the day before that Paul liked his coffee black with extra sugar so I got him a coffee as well as myself. I had a copy of the advanced literature from CMV about the newest addition to their cruise fleet and I took it up with me to Paul’s office.

I knocked on his door and opened it, he had his computer on and was talking to a booking office for a hotel group, it sounded like they were making the same suggestion as my grandmother had the day before, small numbers of rooms in lots of hotels and then a separate conference room.

I held up the coffee cup, “Morning Mr P…black with extra sugar, hope that’s okay for you.”

“No…thanks for your time though, I’d really like to keep all of my delegates in one place…” Paul put the phone esenyurt escort down, “…you’re early but I’m glad, you’re a life saver!”

“No luck yet with a hotel for the conference on Monday?”

Paul sipped at his coffee and shook his head. “This is my first year organising the conference…my brother Ray usually looks after things, his baby but he’s in Germany finessing a big deal with a German customer until tomorrow.”

Page 4

“Well, it might not be helpful but the grey grapevine has it that there is a new cruise ship lying idle for the next week just outside London, you might be able to hire it for the week!”

I pushed the literature from the ship in front of Paul for him to read. He spotted the CMV office telephone number on the back page and dialled it right away. I backed out of his office as he started talking to someone in CMV’s office.

I was working through the files as quickly as I could and by lunch time I’d finished looking through the ‘Z’ drawer. I surfaced and wandered to the staff canteen only to find it closed. I got Paul another coffee and knocked on his office door.

“I’ve brought you a coffee and just needed to tell you that I’ve finished going through all of the files, three hundred and five folders out of sequence. I’m going hunting some lunch…do you want me to come back and re-file the folders after lunch?”

Paul looked ten year younger than he had looked at eight o’clock. He had a smile on his face. “No, I’d like to take you out to lunch…after lunch I’d like you to sort out the folders so that on Monday morning my clerical staff can work normally and use the filing system as it should be used.”

We drove out into the country in Paul’s Q-8, it was a five-star restaurant in a hotel with a golf course wrapped around it. There was a lot of small talk over lunch before we reached the business part of the meal.

“Sarah, I’ve managed to negotiate the hire of that new ship from Monday onwards, would you be willing to provide clerical support to the speakers at the conference?”

“What kinds of things will I need to do…I’m not really very experienced in clerical work.”

“On Sunday night we’ll know who’s going to deliver the first talk, you’ll need to find the relevant file on the portable hard drive, type in the time and date on the front cover and print out four hundred copies, collate and staple the pages and place one on each seat in the conference room…or, in this case, the show lounge. While the first session is happening you’ll get the details for the second session, make the alterations and repeat the process, while delegates are at lunch, you’ll place a handout on each seat ready for the afternoon session.”

“I think I could handle that.”

“When we get back to the office you’ll have to sign a European Working Time Directive waver form.”

“What’s that for?”

“Just says that you’ll be willing to work more than forty-eight hours a week if necessary!”

“Okay, so how do I get to Tilbury?”

Page 5

“We have to send a van to the docks with a printer and computer for the notes as well as close to half a million sheets of paper. You’ll need to go down with the van to set up your floating office in the ships conference room, you’ll be on the ship on your own on Sunday night and the rest of us will join the ship early on Monday morning.”

After dinner we went back to the office, on the drive to the office Paul asked me if I was a virgin. Well, I guess that I was in the adult working world now, I could have told Paul that it was none of his business but instead I shook my head.

“Boy at school…or…older man?”

“The school ‘Cherry Picker’, he’s the school football team captain and he likes to take girl’s cherries.”

“I think I’m related to your old football team’s captain!”

“He was David Prescott.”

Paul nodded his head and turned into the car park and stopped in his own space in the totally empty car park.

“Is David Prescott the only one?”

I shook my head.

“Do you have a boyfriend at the moment?”

I shook my head again, “Between boyfriends at the moment…exam times are stressful…hard to keep up a relationship and work on exams as well!”

“Come to my office and sign away your right to a forty hour working week.”

I signed the form and returned to the dungeon to file all of the folders in the right place.

I finished working on the files at four o’clock; I took a coffee to Paul’s office to tell him that I’d finished the filing and that I was going home.

When I got home I told my grandmother that I’d be going out on the new CMV ship. I knew that my trip on the new ship would make my grandmother jealous as she was a loyal cruiser with CMV, she’d even received an email from the company offering day visits to the new ship to have lunch, followed by a tour of the ship followed by dinner and a show for twenty five pounds a person or to extend the visit, stay on the ship overnight and have etiler escort breakfast for fifty pounds a person.

“Mind you, I got another email an hour later telling me that the offer was full during the week, only places for the following Saturday…obviously Prescott hired the whole ship for five days!”

Page 6

After dinner my grandmother helped me to pack a bag for my working cruise. My grandparents were seasoned travellers, when I went home to my parents during long holidays they would go cruising on CMV, because it was an adult only cruise line they couldn’t offer to take me with them…I’m sure that my parents would try and duck out of having me for the long holidays if they could ship me out on holiday with my grandparents as well.

I had to be at the office before the first bus on Sunday so took a taxi into town. A fifteen minute taxi ride took the equivalent of two hours work for an eighteen year old on five pounds ninety an hour minimum wage.

The office was locked up, just a Prescott engineering van in the car park. I was wandering around like a lost lamb when a large roller shutter door opened and an elderly man drove a fork-lift truck out of the loading bay, the man stopped the truck, he looked at me, “Sarah Clark?”

I nodded my head.

“I hope you’re good at reading a map!”

“I’m not bad…I don’t think anyway.”

“Grab a pallet raiser and follow me over to the van.”

He drove the stack of paper almost to the back of the van before stopping, he opened the doors of the van and then lifted the paper into the back of the van, he lowered the pallet onto the floor of the van just inside the doors, he reversed back and then lowered the forks, he put the tips of the forks against the side of the wooden pallet and pushed it further into the van.

He rolled the pallet lifter onto the forks of the fork-lift truck, “I hope you know how to use this, I need that stack of paper as close to the cab as possible and as close to the centre of the van as well.”

He lifted the pallet raiser and placed it in the back of the van and while he went to get a second stack of paper I repositioned the first stack the way he’d told me. That one stack of paper weighed half a ton, a second stack was loaded into the van and I moved that so that it was touching the first, a full ton of paper on the back of the van. The third pallet had a photocopier printer combination on it that was almost four feet tall as well as a computer and monitor screen. I had to move that pallet to touch the second stack of paper and this time I had to leave the roller truck in place under the pallet and a third stack of paper was brought to the van and that was pushed into the van to hold the pallet lifter in place.

“Shall I put my case in the back of the van?”

“Hope it doesn’t weigh too much, I’ve got close to my limit on the back as it is!”

I looked worried.

Page 7

“Only joking but it would be better in the cab than the back of the van, it’ll float around too much back there.”

For most of the journey to Tilbury docks I didn’t have to give directions, we took the ‘A14’ east to the ‘M11’ and then turned south to the ‘M25’ where we turned east again. I had to give directions from the ‘M25’/’A13’ junction. It took close to an hour to get from the front gate of the London Cruise Terminal to the side of the ship so that their staff could unload the van into the main hold on the ship. It wasn’t that it was a long way but it was a very rigorous security system. It took a long while for one and a half tons of paper to be moved through the ship from the hold on deck two to the conference room on deck eight amidships by sack barrow, five boxes at a time, thirty-two trips. The photocopier/printer combination was harder to move, they had to find a trolley and wrap its wheels in cling film to protect the carpets in the public areas of the ship.

I waited in the conference room and directed the placement of the boxes of paper so that I wouldn’t have too much of a struggle to move the paper from the boxes to the printer. I also set up the computer and linked it to the printer port on the photocopier and tested it worked properly.

The conference room was on the port side of the ship between the card room and one of the shops. Opposite the conference room was the Polar Bar, a seating area that was in the centre of the ship for passengers that may suffer from seasickness, there were no windows to the outside world from the Polar Bar and the middle of the ship moved the least in rough seas.

I had the keys to the door into the conference room so that no one could go in and mess with the expensive equipment so as soon as I’d finished testing things out I took my suitcase down to my cabin on deck five and while I was unpacking I got a telephone call from the reception desk, the safety officer wanted to meet me in my makeshift office.

The table that I’d placed the PC and monitor on had to be covered in cling film to stop the PC sliding around in rough seas and a clamp had been provided to clamp the flat screen monitor down to the table. Cotton covered rope was used to tie the photocopier to a handrail to stop that running amok in the office in rough seas. The safety officer’s last task was to restack the paper into a series of pyramids to make them more stable too.

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