Notes from a desk job

(In the spirit of procrastination.)

I couldn’t resist. After all, sitting at a desk for fifty hours a week is almost as novel to me as being a cycle courier is to you lot. (And yes yes, I know some of my readers are actual couriers. But I’m pretty sure they’re not the ones who account for the massive spike in views I get during office hours.)

It’s strange concentrating on the same activity for so long. If you get into a good groove, there are fewer distractions, and the time passes far more quickly. If your concentration lapses and you start to daydream and procrastinate (like I’m doing now), then it suddenly starts to drag intolerably.

I get hungrier sitting still than I do riding around. Or maybe I just notice the hunger more, because there’s less physical exertion to distract me from it. I remember this from desk jobs long past – the impossible-to-ignore tummy rumbles at 11.30, only four hours after breakfast, and far too early for lunch.

In fact, I think the lack of distractions will prove both a blessing and a curse. I’ll probably be more productive with a whole day to devote to writing, rather than snatched hours here and there, when there are half a dozen other things screaming for my attention. But it’ll also be much harder if I end up trying to do this with a hangover, or period pain, or if I have something big preoccupying me. I won’t be able to calm my mind down with traffic.

There’s no one to talk to. I quite like the solitary nature of couriering, but at the same time, I have the whole of London to keep me company, and if I need to vent my spleen, or complain about the weather, or talk about the hilarious thing that’s just happened to me, it’s usually pretty easy to find someone who’ll nod and smile. Just now a particularly beautiful cat walked through the garden and for a moment I really wanted to phone or email or text someone to tell them – then I realized that would be completely pointless and no one would care. It’s not the cat that’s the important bit. I think I just feel cut off from the entire world. It’s very quiet here.

I’ve just realized that the last time I spoke to another human being – in fact, the last time I spoke – was when I paid for my early morning swim at 6.30. If I hadn’t gone swimming, it would have been my housemate, at 10pm last night.

You get surprisingly cold when you don’t move.

Every hour or so I stand up, to make a cup of tea or go to the loo, and my legs and hips feel terribly stiff. They will probably stop working altogether if this continues.

It’s boring! Sitting in the same position, with the same view, doing the same thing, for eight hours a day – and probably more, now that I’ve wasted half an hour writing this. How does anyone manage to do this for an entire career?

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13 Responses to “Notes from a desk job”

  1. mintea Says:

    The Internet is one great big distraction & social input/output device when you are stuck sitting at a desk. Facebook, Twitter, email, skype, feeds (where I read this blog) etc. Without people with office jobs, I doubt all of these companies could thrive, but all these companies are made up of lots of people sitting at desks… the cycle repeats back on itself. Mobile has only amplified this trend.

  2. welshcyclist Says:

    You definitely notice the hunger more, I’m a railway signaller working in a panel box, we all eat too much. I’d love to breakout and become a courier or something else cycle based. Where do you see cycling based jobs advertised?

  3. Nico Says:

    To help with legs/hips stiffiness, try a stand up desk. Or my low-cost solution, put your laptop on a a box on the kitchen counter.

  4. Cudzoziemiec Says:

    Yeah, I remember those hunger pangs from my last desk job. I’d have breakfast at home, cycle in for 7 (theoretically ; – in practice my lateness was tolerated up to an hour!) ) (all of 2km from Indiranagar to MG Rd!), do a bit of work, then have the firm’s breakfast (idli vada and so on), then about 11 I’d have a snack, then lunch at 12 or 1, then something else when I got home about 5. Somehow I did not get fat – guess I burnt it off at the weekend.

    But hey, at least you’re at home rather than in some huge anonymous office where you have to swipe in and get stuck in your cubicle.

  5. don_don Says:

    The money helps! Oh, and the occasional look at t’internet 😉

    I guess if you are effectively self-employed and working from home, you could sneak out for a quick ride during the day?

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Indeed I could! A friend of mine works from home and I think he sometimes schedules his conference calls and things so that he can fit in a two-hour ride in the afternoon.

      But I think I’m going to get into a routine of early morning jaunts – I barely need to sleep at all now I’m not couriering (was wide awake after five hours or so), and I love being out when no one else is up. Went for a run this morning (yes, a run!) and was at my desk by 7.30. Flagging a bit now though. Lunchtime..

  6. Paul Says:

    You do, of course, have your blog as a means of offloading thoughts you want to communicate to ‘someone’. Twitter is also really good for this. Not quite the same as a human being who will talk back but it can prompt a certain level of interraction.

    In any event, a change is as good as a rest – and you’re getting paid for it. Enjoy. Before you know it, you’ll be back couriering.

  7. Cudzoziemiec Says:

    Hey, I went out for a ride at 6 this morning. Lovely clear roads. When I got back at 7 everyone else in the house was still asleep!

    Is it ok to ask what you’re writing? Editing?

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      I’m researching and writing 80,000 words on cosmetic surgery. It couldn’t be further from cycle courierering.

      Fortunately so far it’s making me very glad I’m the person I am. I was worried I’d start to notice all sorts of things ‘wrong’ with my body.

      • Cudzoziemiec Says:

        “I’m researching and writing 80,000 words on cosmetic surgery. It couldn’t be further from cycle courierering.

        Fortunately so far it’s making me very glad I’m the person I am. I was worried I’d start to notice all sorts of things ‘wrong’ with my body.”

        (I can’t work out how to quote on this blog.)
        I was at uni with a woman who became a journalist – she now writes for the Telegraph occasionally. Or perhaps it’s the Times, I can’t remember. Anyway, her first published piece was about having her lips botoxed – fair made me shudder! (As, TBH, did she in real life!)

        Anyway, I hope it goes well, and stay away from those knives!

  8. 27tom Says:

    I went from the road to being in the office part time/ still riding for that company at the time.. I could cope with that, but I did still put on a little weight. When I moved to a different company and the office full time… I really got the full eddy mercx effect!

    Guess the best thing is to slowly get the diet/ food intake under control and get another sport on the go as well as cycling. But then again since you’ve only got a month off… I guess you don’t have to worry?

  9. thatmessengerchick Says:

    I’m not so worried about the weight issue – and my appetite has actually gone down. I just notice the hunger more because there aren’t so many distractions. But I no longer need to neck a packet of biscuits every couple of hours like I do on circuit. It’s actually quite nice to eat normal amounts for once. And way cheaper.

    The worst thing is that my mind seems to have partially closed down. I feel half-asleep, and yesterday evening, when I forced myself out to go and ride up and down hills, I felt like I was floating along in a dream. Then I remembered how, when I first started cycling into work, I suddenly felt incredibly alive, and awake and full of energy, and used to annoy all my colleagues by being incessantly chirpy and going on and on and on about my bike. This must be the reverse of that process.

    How strange, to realize that most people are going through their lives half-asleep!

  10. Tim Says:

    I nearly fell asleep on the bike yesterday! Got empty at half eight in N5 after 13 hours on the road. Found a clean stretch of road on the way home, let go of the bars, leaned back and the momentum of the bike just took me and I had this urge to just close my eyes (and I think I may have done for a moment) and let my bike take me home. It was a pleasant feeling of exhaustion.

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