It’s a Monday morning here in Holland and the week has begun. The newspapers have been spread across the desk, now at half past ten, the second – third? – mug of coffee is being drunk. The interesting headlines are a tranquillizer to the yawning desert that stretches ahead, ended with the joy of meeting the river on Friday evening.
The worst thing about working behind a desk is that you have to read the paperwork that is in front of you. You can’t switch off in the way you can if you’re fitting wheel-nuts on a production line. Physical work is a tonic in itself, repetitive physical work doesn’t need the brain to be active. You can’t read a document if you’re not awake. A different kind of stupor is needed here: the semi-dream world of the almost bored. Here, little gets done because time passes swiftly – the problem is that it still passes. There is still the long stretch of hours that run up to five in the evening. The offices of Holland are organized around the fact that bureaucrats can’t do much work and still remain sane.
In some cases, the work doesn’t get done at all. No problem: nobody’s looking and if you happen to complain, the complaint is sent to the complaints department who will deal with it. By filing it in the appropriate folder.
Never to be seen again.
Ignoring the outside world is perhaps the most effective way that a bureaucrat can keep reality at bay. In this way it becomes perfect because it works perfectly. Nothing is wrong with it because nobody takes any notice of the faults, and anybody who says anything against it will be outside the system and thus a threat to it. Those who are inside it are content because they know it cannot be better.
The long, boring hours are accepted because they are paid. In any case, how else can the world be? There is no possibility that it can be any different: the entire world goes to work in their comfortable car on a busy highway. They work in fluorescent lit offices that are heated to twenty one degrees in the winter and cooled to twenty one degrees in the summer. There are also rare days when the temperature outside is twenty one degrees. Only in a world that is temperate, who needs to notice what the weather is doing? If it’s dark, who notices? The lights were on anyway.
So when a person retires, and infirmities begin to take their toll: by its very nature office work will bring on the likes of dementia. One elderly lady had developed Parkinson’s disease to the point where she couldn’t look after herself any more. The system offered her a place to live, a place designed by those who know for those who can’t. But then, those who knew didn’t have pets.
And this elderly lady had a pet to keep her company through the long hours of the day. With her children at work, they wouldn’t be able to visit even if they did live in the same city. Thus a cat is the ideal friend for the lonely stretches that lead to evening and more interesting programmes on the TV.
Oh, and that cat is sitting on my knee, purring because he was given a snippet of my breakfast cheese. You see, in a world where the designers of the system didn’t need a pet, pets weren’t thought of and therefore no provision was made for them. We’ll meet this again in future posts: they don’t need it, so nobody needs it. It would never occur to them.
You can imagine that Misho needed a home, and I offered him one; furthermore since her sister lives down the road, it would be possible for him to visit. Which he has. She came here by bus, he trotted up the road with me. Because he’s sweet: he comes on walks with me, which is really lovely and I never expected it of a cat! He even comes to call, but he doesn’t do ‘sit’. Yet.
I’m working on it!
The old lady was happy to see him again, for all his shyness. She was worried that he’d forgotten her, but then, cats don’t really do memory. Within half an hour he was sitting on her lap, just as he always had. But it was a lot of effort to come all the way to her sister’s house.
I had suggested that she arrange some kind of help for her cat – cats are not a demanding animal. More than a bunny rabbit, but less than a dog. But no, it’s not possible. And what would her daughter think at all that expense?
What expense? This is her happiness we’re talking about!
But she was certain that her daughter wouldn’t allow it. I’ll not go into what I thought of that kind of daughter, but no doubt she’s part of the system too. (Sigh).
I was serious, though: I would have given Misho back had she been able to keep him. Had I needed the company, my friend Hendrik has two cats, I can borrow one any time. Then there’s a stray who I called Oscar that may come to live with me in any case. For myself, I would be happier for her to have him as a friend. He’d be fatter, but she’d be happier.
Then it came to trying to register his chip again, the kind of thing that is on an online computer system. I was missing one small card with a number on it, which meant I couldn’t proceed. I had his pet passport and everything else, I didn’t have this one little card. I sent an email to the organization who got back to me within the week with the necessary details.
Only, you see, before that moment Misho was still registered in Arnhem with his previous owner. The old lady who was so dependent on him. Their phonecall to her must have been a bombshell: asking in that oh, so direct manner the Dutch have. Asking if she had given her cat away. It’s not that they meant to be so off-hand, but they do have a lot of work to do, so just need the answer.
Yes, or no.
There are times a person is unaware of the effect they have on others. I’ll add that I hadn’t expected them to phone her. All I needed was the number.
There are times the system bites back.
The Secret Of Systems, Links To Other Parts In This Series:
Part 1: How Can Lidl Be So Cheap?
Part 3: A Different View Of Karma. (Published Privately).
Part 4: The Value Of Money.
Part 6: Thomas Hardy And Friedrich Nietzsche. (Published Privately).
Part 7: That’s Not Fair Play!
Part 9: When The System Bites Back.
Part 10: I Admit It: I Made A Mistake.
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