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For some people working for a company that sells sailing holidays would seem the ultimate perfect dream job. Dave Ross was nobody’s sailor, even he admitted it but the job suited him. He was an almost thirty four year old graduate and now the lead Human Resources person in a sizeable public limited company that spanned most of the world.
He was responsible for the pay, holidays, sick leave, discipline and the general health, safety and welfare of representatives, crews, shipwrights, mechanics, cleaners, riggers and chandlers that operated and maintained the large fleet of large yachts from marinas in the United Kingdom, down across the Mediterranean; from Gibraltar, St Tropez, Amalfi and around Sicily and the heel of Italy into the Adriatic, The Ionian and Aegean seas, and then Cyprus to Port Said and across to North Africa.
Brave Sailors could sail across the Atlantic, by boat if they wished, and cruise anywhere from Maine down to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, or alternatively fly to the West Coast of America and sail the Pacific from San Diego to Hawaii.
But Dave Ross hated the water,
“I don’t swim in the same way I don’t fly. When I develop gills or wings bring it on,” he would say on those many occasions he was offered the chance to crew a yacht to or from the far flung locations that to him were just pins on a map.
He’d seen all sorts of yachting videos and figured he could do it, no question, he just didn’t bloody want to! Dave just hated the pretentious crap spouted by the crews, skippers, and holiday makers in their stupid clothes who lived and loved the whole stupid concept.
A sheet for instance.
Sheets go on beds, everyone knows that.
There are sheets on a yacht.
Of course there are; for the money these people are paying they aren’t going to put up with a fucking sleeping bag for heaven’s sake.
“No, no, no!” the yachties would chortle at his idiocy, “it’s part of the rigging!”
“What, like a sail?”
The hilarity of the sailors knew no bounds,
“A sheet controls the angle of the mainsail!” the main sailor all but howled, pronouncing it mainsa’l as if they knew this would piss him off even more.
“And it’s made of rope?”
“Yes,” said the sailor seeing Dave’s look of incredulity, “but it’s called a sheet…”
“Why not call it a rope…” said Dave.
The Sailor took a deep breath,
“There aren’t any ‘ropes’ a yacht,” he snapped “they are called ‘lines’,” he took another deep breath and with some inspiration added, “unless they are halyards, shrouds or stays.”
“And they’re made of rope?”
The sailor stuttered his reply,
“Fucking thin rope then.” said Dave, finishing his coffee and going back to his computer and his nice files that were called ‘files’.
He considered calling them ‘personal detail portfolio’s’ and keeping them in large parchment ledgers rather than e-mail-able files seeing as many of his colleagues seemed like they wanted to use pointless fucking terms from the 18th century; perhaps he should pay them in doubloons rather than Sterling, Dollars or Euro’s and rather than use the staff disciplinary system for workplace transgressions or late payments from clients he could have them whipped, keel-hauled or hung from the yardarm — whatever the fuck a yardarm was.
He didn’t mind Rum though.
It was his contempt for this pretention that first brought him to the attention of his new colleague who heard a similar rant about port, starboard, for’ed and aft, when he thought left, right, front and back served the rest of civilisation reasonably well.
Deborah or ‘Debs’ Conway was a former lone yachtswoman and had been a very minor celebrity as she had chosen to sail the world at a time just after the Olympics and hardly anyone knew despite the publicity from her sponsors. The pictures showed the side of her yacht marked “The Harry Conroy Veterans’ Sailing Charity” and a swift Google search would show a picture of a young soldier killed in Afghanistan and the charity started in his name by his Father.
Once she stopped sailing the world and she hadn’t been made a Dame she went to her local town hall where she received the British Empire Medal from the Lord Lieutenant and like many sports personalities before her she moved into motivational speaking, and was then employed by Worldsail International as the UK Operations manager, her lonely BEM photographed pinned to her corporate blouse.
Many of her new colleagues felt she was employed because of her name rather than her skill as manager and were concerned at some of her more random decisions and her rather unpleasant attitude.
She had been told off for bullying a young staff member who was slightly overweight saying that she didn’t want any fatties on her bloody watch and berating her in front of two of her blonde, slim, now cringing crewmates arguing that there was no excuse for someone being overweight,
“less food, more exercise, simple,” snapped the motivational speaker Manavgat Escort Bayan tapping her victim’s belly.
The fatty in question was niece of the investment director and she phoned him in tears from the staff toilet within minutes of the incident.
Debs was made to apologise, and when she did stated that it was just tough love and merely grown up banter. She walked away from the sales floor with that director giving him the benefit of her hard-hitting creed, hating the twenty first century, entitled snowflakery she came across so often in the overpaid, molly coddled corporate environment found in Great Britain today. The Director didn’t stop to ask her about exactly where she had come across that seeing as she had been at sea with injured veterans or as a lone yachtswoman for the last five or six years.
His niece was posted to the Med as a Rep in the Cyprus office and was more than happy with the change and the distance between her and her previous manager.
Within a few weeks of that she had reviewed and replaced the staff uniform going for cheap unbranded gear heavy with sponsorship logo’s but short on comfort, and the nylon polo shirts that shrunk in the wash were universally detested as the numerous embroideries caused much itching and scratching across backs and shoulders, while the shorts caused sweating and rashes where temperate climate based staff least wanted that kind of thing; staff across the globe and out of her sight just ignored them except for photographs.
The smell of three or four staff members in any confined space was better talked about than endured that spring, and many brought a second set in for the afternoon after a lunchtime shower in the gym across the road. After the fifth week and no increase in the laundry allowance or clothing issue many didn’t and just wore the same.
The long trousers were slightly worse.
Dave was a shiny arsed bureaucrat, self-confessed, and wore the same kind of smart casual attire he had for many years along with the other office based staff in the main building and away from the rich customers.
She called him into the office a few months into her job.
“Ah Dave,” she said looking him up and down, “the trousers…” she waved her pointer finger up and down indicating them as if he hadn’t cottoned on to her description.
“They’ll have to go.” She said grimacing.
She stood and folded her arms, her face folding into a look of such anger he thought she might have hurt herself when carrying out the manoeuvre.
“What do you mean why?” she snapped, “They’re bloody jeans and wholly inappropriate for a work environment!”
“In your opinion.”
“In my opinion,” she stood up, “as UK manager, my job is smarten up and straighten out this…”
“As UK ‘operations’ manager,” he emphasised, “I’m ‘corporate’ manager – upstairs.” He pointed at the ceiling to indicate his office and his domain.
“Jeans?!” she all but squealed.
“Black jeans,” he said, “the same style, pattern and make I have worn for nine years, and no one has had an issue with them before.”
“Well I have,” she said, “You can wear proper trousers or I’ll get you the corporate uniform, your choice.”
“Deborah,” he said, “First off, I’m six foot ten inches tall as you can see, and I can’t buy posh work trousers for less than fifty pounds a pair.” She shook her head. He leaned across her desk and pushed the computer mouse at her. “You find them Deborah and I’ll wear them.” His look had enough challenge that she didn’t take him up on it. “Secondly I then have to go into various buildings and workshops to meet with staff and onto boats…”
“Yachts,” she corrected him.
Here we fucking go, he thought, another fucking yachtie.
“Boats AND yachts,” he replied and holding up a hand to stop her retaliation continued, “and I’m done with clambering around and wrecking expensive trousers when the black jeans I buy on line for twenty pounds last much longer, are far more hardwearing and practical for wearing around the boats, yachts and workshops and certainly more comfortable and I buy new ones as soon as they start to fade. Finished?”
“I’ll arrange for the uniform for you and all of the corporate staff.” She said with a self-satisfied nod.
“Really?” he grinned folding his arms, “I’m intrigued, do tell me how you’re going to swing that.”
“I’m UK operations manager,” she said, “I have only to snap my finger and the board will approve whatever I say.”
“Yes, but what happens when they ask HR to approve it?”
“You’ll do what you’re bloody told!” she said.
“Or what?” he raised his eyebrows.
“Human resources will take action?” he grinned, “I’ll sack myself?” he pursed his lips and tried a less confrontational look, “Deborah, I’ve worn black jeans for nine years, I can tell you the very day even,” he thought back to the morning he’d first worn them, the Friday Manavgat Escort three days after his wife’s funeral after he’d ripped his last good pair of cleaned and pressed trousers on a loose screw head clambering onto a just-arrived yacht the afternoon before, and his black jeans were all he could find, “and the board have never had an issue before even when I’ve been presenting to them and some significant investors.”
“Well I’ll soon sort that!” she snapped with a wobbling head of self-righteousness this time. She stood to leave the office.
“Really, so I guess you going to rewrite all of the contracts of employment for all of the corporate staff?” he shouted after her.
“What’s that got to do with anything!?” she said angrily turning back to him.
“The operations staff all have clauses in their contracts to say they will wear the uniforms provided, no matter how uncomfortable they are and how much they stink in them, the office staff don’t have that in their contracts and because of that, you can’t make them. And as the company’s HR advisor for almost ten years I can tell you that ‘because I say so’ is hardly going to stand up in an employment tribunal when twelve ladies all sue the company for constructive dismissal because they can no longer work in the office that gets all the sun in the afternoon and you’ve made them wear those cheap bloody polo shirts and they sweat themselves into a coma.”
Debs closed her eyes and shook her head and folded her arms,
“When I sailed across the pacific I had to…”
“Yes,” he interrupted, “the very moment the HR and finance teams need to sail across the Pacific I’m sure they’ll just lap up your advice, but right now I struggle to get the management team to buy enough electric fans seeing as air conditioning is too expensive and the blinds just make the place even hotter.”
“God preserve me from fucking snow…”
“Stop there sweetie!” he snapped, “I’ve already had to tidy up one of your bullying rants so don’t even think of trying that shit with me! Those ladies are all committed to the company, many of them long serving and under appreciated and they ‘are but warriors for the working day’. They aren’t here for the sailing or the occasional trip to the Med, they are clerks. Boring, simple support staff that keep this company running and without whom not a single fucking boat could set sail no matter how non-snowflake the crew are!”
“Lose… the… jeans!” she leaned across her desk and hissed at him.
“Make… me!” he leaned back across it.
He could see that she was fuming, and obviously used to her own way. He was probably the first person to stand up to her despite the below stairs bitching that he’d had to put up with about the nasty woman and the shitty clothing she had sourced.
“I’m going to the board.” She said picking up her mobile phone and keys.
“Best of luck,” he said, “Don’t forget what I said about rewriting those contracts and finding a way to get thirteen office staff to sign them!” he grinned as she made to storm out, “Oh yes, don’t forget there will be a pay increase for them as well, can’t be expected to wash all that shit for free now can they!” Her bottom jaw flapped, “Or they could just have the air conditioning installed that they promised us. After all, the board will do whatever you tell them Debs, however much extra money it will cost.”
He walked back to his office, just as angry as Debs had been. He stormed into the large open plan office and his crew of ladies that did indeed keep the whole organisation, to coin an apposite phrase, ‘afloat’.
“Whassup Davie?” said Lisa the accountant seeing the storms across his eyebrows.
“That bloody woman!” he snarled, the entire office knowing in an instant who he was referring to. It was the standard term of reference for the former round the world yachtswoman.
“Yeah,” he said walking towards the kitchen. Once there he restarted his tirade. “That bitch only said I couldn’t wear black jeans anymore.”
“What the fuck has it to do with her?” said Lisa.
“Throwing her weight around,” he said, “only I caught it and threw it straight back.”
“Bitch,” said Lisa opening the box of tea bags.
“Is she one of yours?” he said. The gorgeous Lisa was a committed Lesbian and there had been much banter around her sexuality, much of it started by her, between the two of them after he had asked her out to dinner one evening shortly after she had arrived five years before. They had been out to dinner many times since of course but with her partner Trudy.
“Is she fuck,” said Lisa, “she’s quite fit I do have to say, more so since she’s taken up a more sedentary lifestyle and put some weight on, but no, definitely not Lesbianic.”
“Fit?” said Dave who had never looked past the hard faced masculinity of the short-haired, trouser and trainer wearing, make-up free martinet that reminded him more of a school PE teacher than a world class manager.
“Oh yeah,” said Escort Manavgat Lisa, “she has a great arse, and fantastic tits!” Lisa grinned, “Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t stop to piss on her if she was on fire but if she was drunk and giggly and asking me to take her to bed and show her the ways of love that only another woman can, I’d cheerfully push you out of the way.”
“Thanks,” he said, “that’s good to know she has at least one redeeming feature.”
“Like I said, if she was on fire though mate…”
“Yeah.” He took his tea and went back to his desk.
He sat and thought about options. Much as he had told Deborah that the contracts couldn’t be changed that was actually rubbish; with appropriate notice the company could achieve it in one calendar month and anyone not signing the new contract would render themselves unemployed, but with the resort to a tribunal a very real, but expensive, option.
But fuck it, no way was he telling the company that.
He had years with the company and knew that they wouldn’t want to upset the back office, that included the personal assistants that did all of boardroom stuff and while they might want to indulge the yachtswoman, no way would they want to see Jenni, the rather overweight but terrifyingly efficient 59 year old PA, in shorts or squeezed into the cheap nylon shit they had bought for the late teens to early twenties boys and girls on the sales floor, the prep and handover teams or the crews.
He knew that almost the entire board didn’t have the first clue about human resources and the legal advice they sought from a local firm of solicitors would come down firmly with him. He was good mates with them after all.
Three days later he was talking to the managing director who made him a coffee and asked him to sit down.
“David,” he smiled handing a mug across, “I understand that you’ve had a falling out with Debs.”
“No Stuart, I just didn’t agree with her, that’s completely different.”
“David, We’ve rather a lot invested in young Debs,” he said with a placatory smile, “It’s all about global profile, and she has been brought in to attract the younger female market.”
“And what does that have to do with me and my girls having to kowtow to her because she thinks she’s in charge of everything?”
“Daviiiiid!” Stuart crooned, “You two need to be able to work together if this is going to be a success…”
“And I can’t do that wearing the trousers I’ve worn since Sally died?”
“OK,” said Stuart, “that was perhaps a little high handed of her…”
“And none of her bloody business,”
“And none of her business,” Stuart rubbed a hand across his bald spot, “But please, don’t go out of your way to piss her off.”
“Absolutely; on the understanding that she does likewise.” He thought about the youngsters on the ground floor and their silent bitching about the crap clothing, “And what about the team clothing,” said Dave, conscious of his captive audience and the lateness of the afternoon.
“What about it?”
“They teams hate it.”
“No one has said anything?”
“Not to you they haven’t, and have only talked to me off the record because they all know that Debs will start to shit on them the second they complain and be branded as 21st century snowflakes.” Dave finished his coffee and stood, “come with me if you really want to know.”
They walked downstairs to the huge open plan office festooned with seafaring memorabilia and the occasional palm tree and label ‘sails sales’ in letters made out of fake driftwood. The Sales floor was always slightly stuffy because of the number of computers, TV’s and other electrical items generating heat and the appalling ventilation in what has been designed and built as a dockside factory back in the late thirties.
All doors and windows were open but without any wind blowing outside it was very hot and humid, even for early June.
“Breath in through your nose mate,” said Dave and they both stepped closer to a set of tables with three sales staff and the smell was noticeable. As they got closer to them they could see the huge dark patches on chests, armpits and backs and red sweaty brows dotted with beads of perspiration that the sufferer would occasionally swipe with a hand.
All of the girls had their long lustrous hair tidied up and away from their necks and even the few customers were picking up brochures and fanning themselves with more than one wrinkled nose against the body odour.
“Bloody hell,” said Stuart walking across to one of the girls leaning over a desk fan, “What do you think of the new corporate clothing Tina,” he said with a grin.
“It’s…” Tina looked around her rubbing the skin around her neck, “it’s… not as comfortable as the last stuff but…” she looked across Stuart’s shoulder seeing Debs in the distance, “I’m sure it’ll be fine…” she quickly walked away.
“Tina!” said Stuart.
“Debs has just appeared,” said Dave, “and Tina wants to keep her job.”
Stuart, like Dave, saw the daggers look that Debs threw across the room at the retreating Tina. He walked across to the sweating group looking at the customers being escorted to the cashier.
“How’s everyone!?” he said with a jolly bark. Debs was there in seconds making eye contact with all of them.
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