I know things are a little twitchy at the moment for 6,500 of the 350,000 people who work in the City – what with some of the hedge funds going bust, and a couple of the big players whooping with delight at the chance to off-load some of the chaff on the back of the sub-prime drama.
But then with some companies’ reputations for favouring the lower end of the salary spectrum, I can’t help pondering that the winners of the “black sack, clear desk” lottery might be pleased at the prospect to up their salaries by going elsewhere.
Of course, the real players in the City won’t be going anywhere except to the Rolls-Royce garage. It seems there’s a sudden rush on Rollers with production up by 22 per cent and, hey, what’s a 16 per cent cut in your bonus when you still haven’t managed to spend all of last year’s?
But it comes to something when the bitch-slapping starts before even getting into the office. I was crammed on the Drain (Waterloo and City Line), reminiscing about the good old days of company drivers, when the doors re-opened at Waterloo, allowing us a moment of relief.
A corporate-uniformed woman managed to slip in, so thin I couldn’t help thinking that a sudden gust of wind would have serious consequences for her. As her sharp little elbows jostled through the crowd in an attempt to make it to the empty void in the middle of the train, she yelled: “Can you all move down and stop being so selfish?”
As Skinny Woman’s demand was ignored – of course – a bohemian-looking woman smelling of incense and radiating love, piped up somewhat naively with: “They’re not being selfish, they’re just trying to get to work.”
Skinny Woman responded with: “So am I – to an extremely important meeting,” and pushed herself into the back of a rotund woman who retaliated with an indignant “Excuse me” followed by a shove right back. Skinny Woman goaded with: “Why? Because you’re no stranger to a fish supper?”
As the crowd tried to disperse to avoid the DIY acrylic-nail crossfire that followed, Rotund Woman quickly stole the advantage by flexing her copy of City AM in Skinny Woman’s face and calling her a stuck-up bitch. Not to be outdone, Skinny Woman grabbed the paper and screwed it up amid sniggers from passengers.
When the train reached Bank, Skinny Woman made a break for it, giving Rotund Woman the finger as she shoved past her. In front of me I heard a little girl ask her mum if they’d be getting to the zoo soon.
As I walked off I couldn’t help thinking that she’d already had a sneak preview of the human zoo that is the City.