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Young And Stupid, But Not A Fool

, , , , , , , | Working | CREDIT: Gt3Red | August 1, 2022

In the early 2000s, I was living in the commuter belt and working in central London. For those not familiar, London only has one train line running through it from North to South. The rest of the lines terminate somewhere on the Circle Line of the Underground, roughly. For your average commuter, that means your local train will go to between one and four stations, so you’ll favour jobs on your side of the city to save yourself from getting a bus or tube, but for many, it involves one or two of them too. For me, I only had one destination from my local station, which was a tiny, slow-trains-only one, and it wasn’t the station right across the road from my office. To get there, I would have to make a change. This added to the journey time just enough that I was five minutes late to work every day.

However, I’ve lied to you. There was one and only one train a day that went to the station I wanted, but it left an hour earlier and got me in an hour and twenty minutes earlier. There was also a single train back in the evening thirty minutes after I clocked off. So, my daily routine was to get the train with a change in the morning, arriving five minutes late, and in the evening, I’d work twenty-five minutes extra and get the direct train home. With the station being so close, I was fine to leave it that close to the wire. I usually got a seat even cutting it so fine, so all was good… for about eighteen months.

For some reason I do not understand — maybe it was my fighting with the guy who kept assigning me work even though he wasn’t my boss — my actual boss relayed that his boss, the head of IT, was unhappy with me constantly being late. I was young. I was naïve. I thought they’d understand that I was working a net plus twenty minutes every day. My boss was actually very cool and didn’t want to be dealing with this, but his boss was making a stink, so he explained to his boss and the reply came back that I must be in on time, because “those are your contracted hours”.

I was young and naïve, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a pedantic little s***. I proceeded to get the early train, losing an hour’s sleep each morning, and arrive at the office an hour and twenty minutes early. I took my shoes off, put them up on my desk, set an alarm, and did my best to claw back that lost sleep. As people trickled into the office, I refused to work or even answer a phone until I was within my contracted hours. Come clocking off time, I would pack up and leave to go stand on the platform for nearly twenty-five minutes, staring off into the distance, thinking about all the work they were losing from me.

This lasted about a week before I was told I “couldn’t sleep at my desk”. So, I found the smallest break room that had a sofa and made that my nap spot. It wasn’t comfortable, but I was pissed at how strict they were being. Of course, I carried on going home when my contracted hours were up.

A few weeks later, my chance came. The s*** had hit the fan and they needed me to work late. As I said before, my immediate boss was cool, and I had an “I know you know what I’m really saying when I say this” conversation with him about how this was outside my contracted hours, but I understood that there was give and take in that when it was needed or didn’t cause an issue. Give and take, right?

After that evening, I started showing up five minutes late again and nothing was said about it again. I also started staying right up until my train was due… sometimes.

I didn’t get paid overtime unless it was approved beforehand, like the day it hit the fan. I just worked the extra to finish up what I was doing, and because I was young and dumb enough to think hard work got you somewhere. Also, I worked late sometimes to make sure I was actually working the number of hours I should, but I didn’t cut it so fine for the train, and I didn’t do it most days anymore.

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