How to avoid having your contract renewed without a stain on your character

I consider it my sacred duty to gently piss off my work colleagues. This is partly because this is a holy course of action laid down in the rituals of Sajjam in 1306 BC. I do not expect any of my fellow contractors to be Sajjamists (I think I possess the only copy of the sacred scriptures, which I found in the car park of Safeways in East Grinstead), but I also have more pragmatic reasons that may strike a chord with many.

Although I have been lucky enough to have had a few really interesting and satisfying contracts, the great majority have bored me rigid. I really do not give a damn whether the client's bloody aircraft stays in the air or crashes into the side of Mount Fujii every other Thursday as long as I am not on it. Well, that is not quite true I suppose, I would really much rather it crashed into 10 Downing Street seven days a week and twice on Sunday with a full passenger list of tax inspectors, but I digress. Again. Anyway, if I have served the 6 to 9 months I can just about stand before my contract is not renewed, that is ideal. It replenishes the finances for a few boring things like new kitchen cabinets and puts me in the clear with the wife. Then I can go back to creating programs with pictures of squirrels for 100 a week, something I really enjoy doing, while living on her earnings. "Sorry dear, there seems to be no more work at that company at the moment. I will do my best to find something else. Let's hope eh?" If, most unlikely, she hears others are still working there, I blame it on ageism. "I do a good job, much better than that *** who spends half his time on the internet, but IT is a young culture and they don't like us older types. Insecure management personalities you know"

The purpose is not to actually get sacked from a contract, any damn fool can do that! Getting drunk at lunchtime and rolling back at 3pm to abuse the gatehouse security guard for example. (You know who you are!). Neither do you want to be incompetent or actively disliked by management or your fellow workers. These things can make it difficult to get another boring contract for the just about standable 6 months or so. Incompetence can go unnoticed for years at most big British companies anyway.

No! Not being renewed after 6-9 months without a stain on your record is an art! If you are a true master in this art you can even get a decent reference from your previous clients because you seemed amiable enough and did a reasonable job. There was just something rather odd and creepy about you they could not stick any more. They cannot really put a finger on what it was, or if they could, it is not something they can describe sensibly to others.

Here then, are the first installments of an ongoing xoggoth guide to how not to be renewed.

1) Talking to inanimate objects

The average open plan office is pretty noisy - printers, photocopiers, doors, mobile phones etc. Mostly the noise is of people talking or laughing. Therefore, you can make quite a bit of noise without anyone feeling they have adequate grounds for complaint. You just want to make the sort of noise, at acceptable levels, that bears little resemblance to the normal vocalisation others are making, such as exchanges about the test match or last night's Big Brother (even work on occasions), and leaves them feeling slightly uneasy.

Muttering to oneself and talking to inanimate objects all helps. However, make sure they are the right inanimate objects. Cars, PCs and vending machines are relatively social animals. Even quite well-balanced types talk to those on occasions, even if it's only "Start damn you" or "Christ you've swallowed my 50p again!" The best effect is to be gained by talking to those objects that nobody else talks to. The walls. paperclips. But that isn't weird enough. Don't just talk to paperclips. Hold separate conversations with two or more paperclips. Put a paper clip at one end of your desk and speak sternly to it. Accuse it of failing to hold your paper adequately. Then turn to a paper clip at the other end of your desk and tell it that nobody asked its opinion. Finally, address your ring binder. "These bloody paperclips eh? What are they like?" Placing all your paperclips in several rows along the desk and haranguing them with selected speeches of Adolph Hitler is even better. Since the words of Adolph Hitler are likely to be offensive to many, log onto AltaVista's Babel Fish and translate them into Swahili first to make them unrecognisable.

2) Singing

Sing. Audibly but just below the level that people can complain about. (See comments on open plan office noise levels in 1) above) Not just any song! There are rules you know!

  1. Songs must not be remotely topical, "Show me the way to Amarillo" is totally out. They must be familiar but obscure or years old. Christmas carols are acceptable in summer but never at Christmas.
  2. No more than 3 words or 5% of the lyrics whichever is the least, should be correct. The absolute ideal you should strive for is to pick out one word that only sounds a bit like a word in the song and repeat it over and over. If you cannot aspire to continuous repetition of a single word in the song lyrics, you should not feel ashamed; this is something that us true adepts have taken years to master. Just use as few as you can for now. This is known in the xoggoth household as an "Easy to learn" song. If a word does not fit the timing just compress it or draw it out or add syllables so that it does. This is indicated by underlining in the following examples.
  3. Do not attempt to sing a whole song. Usually just the chorus will do. If you must attempt verses, never attempt more than one. Just repeat it over and over.
  4. Another strategy is to avoid any real lyrics at all and substitute parts of the body. Those holiest of all parts, the teeth, spleen, nostrils and tonsils should figure prominently. Of these the teeth and spleen are the most sacred. Teeth, it hardly needs explaining, are the fount of the sacred action of biting, the fundamental action of all life. The spleen is the source of all spiritual wisdom. You can surely prove this for yourself by asking your family, friends and colleagues what the function of the spleen is. None will know. Of course not. It is not given to normal men to know these things. Tonsils and nostrils are known as the blessed duo because they complement each other so well in song lyrics.
  5. Whatever their secret proclivities, IT and professional technical types generally are rather homophobic. Therefore you should subtly seek to convey an impression of sexual perversity of the "valid alternative lifestyle" kind. A hint of illegal is even better. The subtle is important here. Songs about bumming dear old dad replete with four letter words could trigger complaints and, as I said at the outset, that is not the intention. Apart from a few harmless schoolboy words like bum or fart your song should convey perversity without containing any actual obscenity. You can render a song totally filthy without uttering a single naughty word, it's just the way you emphasise certain words and phrases. Slightly easier for the novice, just leave words out but have gaps at appropriate points in the lyrics. A gap is indicated by # in the examples below.
  6. Get stuck on single notes or short phrases and repeat over and over like a cracked record, then stop abruptly and corkscrew your head around like a deranged owl before starting again at the beginning.
  7. Whenever possible, use voices as different as possible to the singers who sung the best known version. "The Birdie Song" must be as sung by Placedo Domingo. "Old Man River" must be as sung by Demis Roussos. "Walking in the air" by Barry White. Enia songs must be sung in the style of Muddy Waters and vice versa.
  8. Introduce some reality. Most popular music has a quite nonsensical optimism and certainty about it. "I'll love you till the poets run out of rhymes" The real world is much greyer, full of ifs and buts and maybes and false starts that always go nowhere, just like life really. You can add as many additional words as you like with this format as long as the song remains vaguely recognisable. You can also insert lines that contradict the previous lines in case you accidentally left in too much of the original. This style is called the xoggoth Blues. Unlike the black music of the same name, it is not full of all that romantic phony despair, losing one's love, being on the road, etc. which is at least living. Xoggoth blues is born of the real despair of doing the same damn tedious thing everyday, not because you want to or out of duty but because you have long forgotten how to do anything else. Basically you just grumble and complain to music.

Here are some examples:

The (60s??) song about Lowrie by Brian and Michael:

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street with the sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and...

Should be rendered as:

And he painted matchstick men and matchstick men and matchstick men
and matchstick men and matchstick men and matchstick men
and matchstick men
and matchstick men

The song "Girls on Film" is a really good one that needs little adaptation to the "easy to learn" format:

Girls on Film
Girls on Film
Girls on Film
Girls on Film
Girls on Film
Girls on Film
Girls on Film
Girls on Film

The chorus (that's the only bit you sing remember - over and over) to "I wanna hold your hand" by the Beetles is rendered as:

I wanna bite your spleeeeeenn
I wanna bite your spleen
And when I bite it I feel farty inside
it's such a FEELING (breath heavily between words here) that my #
I can't hide, I can't hide

"Walking in a winter wonderland" is a very suitable song for July:

In the snowman we will build a snowman
and pretend that he's a snowman
We'll have LOTS OF FUN (leer and roll your eyes here) with Mr Snowman
until the other kiddies feel his #

Here is the xoggoth blues style applied to "The sound of music":

The hills are alive, not necessarily on Sundays of course, bloody killjoys, with the sound of music
(NO THEY AREN'T, it's probably just sheep or the wind!)
the hills fill my heart, well, it's probably just indigestion to be honest, with some sort of noise anyhow
My heart wants to sing every song that it hears, if it's in the singing mood obviously
most sings are rubbish to be honest, so I doubt it would, personally
My heart or something might (but usually doesn't) want to beat like the wings of... how does it go?
oh yeh, wasps!
my heart wants to beat like the wings of some wasp... from a lake? that can't be right
Must be mosquitos. Not that it matters really, what difference does it make?
my heart wants to beat like the wings of some mosquitoes or gnats or stuff
that rise from a small and very probably stagnant pond to something else a bit higher up
telegraph poles, or some other dreary thing
My heart's in the mood to sigh like a chime, probably sighing cos it's stuck in this contract with me
how the hell can a heart sigh like a chime anyway? what a load of old..., start again
The hills are alive, that's her story anyhow, silly stupid cow she was, nuns are all twisted old witches

"Lazy hazy crazy days of summer" is ideal for January and a perfect vehicle for your Michael Jackson impressions:

Roll out those lazy hazy lazy hazy lazy hazy lazy hazy lazy crazy hazy hazy lazy crazy hazy hazy lazy (owl shift here)
Roll out those lazy hazy crazy daisy summer
those days of nostrils and tonsils and teeth

PS oh yes, swap song lyrics at random - I forgot to mention that one.

3) Re-enact scenes from "Night of the living dead"

They really can't complain about this! Sedentary workers should get up and use their legs on occasions for health reasons. If you are one of those strange people that actually looks at anything on your client's utterly boring intranet you will probably find this is recommended somewhere among their health and safety policies.

If you can find the health and safety policies among all the other crappy policies, that is. Ethical policies, equal opportunity policies, security policies, policy policies etc. I had a brief glance at the policy booklet of the place I'm at last week. Apparently violence against my colleagues or peddling hard drugs around the office will result in disciplinary procedures. Really?, I have been entering up to 5 hours a week against "Peddling crack cocaine" in the timesheet system. Geuss I must have misunderstood it.

Sorry. Digressing again! Anyway, back to the walk. We will be applying a few variations to this essential health regime naturally.

Rise at random intervals and re-enact your favourite scene from Romero's classic "Night of the living dead". Gaze straight ahead and lurch along stiffly with unbending legs and stiff arms just away from the side. The lurching should avoid any semblance of a straight line passage. Bumping into partitions and bouncing off is quite acceptable. This pinball passage will also ensure that that your gaze is sometimes fixed firmly on various of your colleages. Should he/she see them staring at him/her, the true master/mistress of the art (this is an equal opportunities site - please see our policies page) will adopt a variety of apparently random and idiotic expressions. This is not recommended for the novice as it is essential that you do not appear to be leering at your female colleagues (we got bored with equal opportunities - this always happens by the third paragraph) or scowling at the "visibly ethnic" ones. Until you truly master the art, it may be safer to stick to the "budgerigar" move. In this tactic, you put your head on one side and stare in absorbed fashion with just one eye at some part of the furniture or ceiling. Then you rapidly cock your head to the other side and stare with the other eye. Repeat at regular intervals.

Should anyone enquire what you are doing, tell them it is a special eastern relaxation technique that you have learned. Should this re-assure them, you may correct that by saying it has helped you a great deal, you are ok now, really, and have not had that problem for a long time. Then zombie your way over to the wall and spend ten minutes peering suspiciously behind the filing cabinets.

TO BE CONTINUED. Next chapters. Fire extinguisher reggae, conducting security sweeps on your biros and 1001 uses for your security pass.

Copyright xoggoth