And Alex Said: Bullshit

7 February 2003

Column 14: Bullshit, 7th February 2003

You’ll have to leave university one day – and if, like me, you’ve done bugger all work all year, that day may come sooner than you think. That’s a pain in the arse – you’ll have to sacrifice your life of kebabs, disco cheese and low hygiene and go and find a job.

Unless you’re going to use your detailed scientific knowledge to try for a career as a trapeze artist or as a model for Y-fronts, or your father is in charge of a nuclear weapons company or the Government, you’ll have to go through the tedious process of job interviews.

So, you turn up for your interview at GlaxoBarclaysUBSWaitroseTSB or whatever, armed with your gleaming CV and a stack of the usual clichéd bullshit answers. “I can work on my own, but I can also work in a team!!!” “My job stacking shelves at Tesco’s not only taught me the value of basic items such as cheese and bread, but also the value of teamwork in a fast-paced retail environment!”

You’re prepared for the obvious questions, then – but what about the downright weird ones? My last interview was full of them:

  • If you were an animal what would you be?

I don’t suppose it matters – animals don’t go to job interviews, so anything would be preferable to being a human in this case. Presumably answers such as sloth, dung-beetle and skunk wouldn’t have got me very far. I suppose I’d be a dog – I could lie around at home all day and wouldn’t have to make my own dinner. Admittedly that dinner would be dog food, but there’s always leftovers. You also get to sniff people’s groins, and nobody really minds.

  • Give me an example of a time you coped in a crisis.

Is this a good time to tell the interviewer about the time when, after downing half a bottle of vodka, I shat in a paper bag and threw it at a gang of football hooligans?

  • What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever done?

Well, I had to run pretty quickly from those Manchester United supporters. Am I supposed to have sailed solo around the world on a home-made balsa wood raft with one hand tied behind my back, while proving the Goldbach conjecture or something?

  • What are your greatest weaknesses?

Even though I’m fat, talk a lot of crap and I’m about as tidy as the scene of an unfortunate mincing machine accident, I suppose I’m supposed to say how I’m a perfectionist and work too hard. However, my real weakness must be answering questions like this without vomiting all over the interviewer.

  • Lark or owl?

I’ll have the owl please, and a side order of chips.

I have to wonder, though, how well they assessed my aptitude for that job with an interview like this. They turned me down, but not once did they ask to see how well I could use a dustpan and brush.

And Alex Said: Yawn

31 January 2003

Column 13: Yawn, 31st January 2003

I was finding it increasingly difficult to stay awake. My eyelids were heavy. The clock ticked slower and slower. No matter how hard I tried to hint that I was being bored rigid, the professor continued to blabber monotonically on and on and on.

I yawned loudly. I started to fidget. I clicked the lead out of my automatic pencil, then I put it back and did it again. I had a noughts and crosses tournament with myself. I carved my name into the desk with my biro. I drew a picture of a cock. I went off to get a coffee, a packet of crisps and a warm, squidgy Yorkie bar and from the barely-functioning vending machines, and came back five minutes later to find him still wittering on.

I put my feet up and read the newspaper. I read it all – all the boring business news, the weather in Albania, the results of the International Midget Racing Championships, and even all the classifieds and personal ads (I now have two Mini Metros and a cottage in Derbyshire, and I’m meeting someone called Big Sue on Tuesday who is looking for fun and frolics). I attempted to open the molten Yorkie bar and splattered chocolate everywhere. Then, after thirty minutes of this torture, I decided to quietly sneak out. I picked up my bag and made for the door.

Then I wondered – was I being rude? After all, I was the only person present at the tutorial, and I’d made rather a mess of the professor’s office. I turned back and saw my tutor fighting back the tears.

He asked me something, but I couldn’t hear what it was because his voice was so boring that I fell asleep mid-question. He hit me in the face with a large textbook and I tried my hardest to listen. “Please help me. Everybody either sneaks out, skives off or disembowels themselves with a ruler while I’m talking. Students think I’m a laughing stock. My one friend died when he was consumed by lava from an erupting volcano.”

Probably just an accident, I suggested

“But he sought out the volcano especially. He told me if he was encased in rock, he wouldn’t be able to hear my voice”. He sighed. “What can I do to make myself, or at least my tutorials, more interesting?” he asked.

I suggested that next week, perhaps instead of talking crap about Physics he could stage a concert featuring Massive Attack, Radiohead and Orbital, and penguins could parachute in from a passing Zeppelin to perform an acrobatic display. Then a chorus of dolphins would sing Kum By Yah while the planets aligned to drag Earth closer to the Sun to turn London into a tropical paradise. All the while I’d be fellated by mermaids and King Henry VIII would serve me pina coladas from the hollowed-out horn of a unicorn while recounting his favourite sexual positions he had adopted with each of his six wives. Now that would be more interesting.

And Alex Said: Arse

24 January 2003

Column 12: Arse, 24th January 2003

We meet in a poorly lit office, more like a cupboard, in a floor of the Biology department I never knew existed. Professor Dachshund von Anus is dressed in a fraying grey jumper, jeans which are covered in suspicious white stains, and he smells of whisky. Much like any other academic I’ve ever met, in fact.

He has been conducting research which is potentially of huge importance to humanity – he is compiling a comprehensive encyclopaedia of bottoms.

For the past four years, I’ve been staring at all kinds of bums, rumps, backsides, butts, arses, cheeks, posteriors, buttocks, seats… behinds… er… les derrières!”

“Rectums?” I suggest.

“Absolutely not!” he shouts, causing the bottles of disinfectant on the shelf to rattle. He takes a well-thumbed magazine out of his top drawer. It’s certainly more colourful than most academic journals – as far as I know, Physical Review Letters has no Readers’ Wives section – but I guess it makes it more fun to read.

This one here is a wonderful example of bottomus pertus – one of my favourites. Great to touch, and simply wonderful to admire from a distance – at home, I often peer through my curtains with a pair of binoculars, pondering the lovelies at the bus stop. Would a fart ever rumble those cheeks? I would think not, but if one ever did, it would smell of strawberries.”

I ask him whether this would be indicative of any disorder of the digestive system, but he ignores me.

“Now look here – this is the classic anus hilarious. Is there a tale sadder than that of the bottom that would be perfect, if only it were 50% smaller? It’s the kind of bottom that makes me want to cry and makes schoolboys giggle. In the laboratory, I’m often tempted to burst any anus hilarious with a pin, but I would hate to see the bottom explode rather than simply deflate nicely. And I’d probably be arrested.”

He turns the page. “Oh my god!” he shrieks. “That, if you can bear to look, is a horrifying example of rumpus hippopotamus. Every week I see a rather unfortunate specimen at the Post Office when I’m queuing for my dole mon…, er, stamps. Quite disgusting, especially when it releases wind.”

I ask if he has done any research specifically into farting. “Yes – farting is vital. Imagine what life would be like if, instead a bottom with a hole in it, all you had was an exceptionally large piece of fat hanging from your lower back. Where would exhaust gases escape? The whole lower abdomen would inflate and people would explode without warning, anywhere – on the bus, on a plane, in the shoe shop, at the lap-dancing club. Can you imagine if your big-breasted beauty suddenly blew up in your face, splattering bits of kidney in your drink and flinging liver at the other customers? It would ruin the whole atmosphere!”

The professor’s Arse Encyclopaedia will be published this autumn. He is currently working on The Ultimate Guide to Breasts.

And Alex Said: Sick

17 January 2003

Column 11: Sick, 17th January 2003

As I got on the bus, for some reason I was filled with a feeling of dread. Was it the sudden, violent coughing fit suffered by the young man in the elderly priority seats? Was it the old woman spewing blood over a discarded Evening Standard? Was it the girl with the oozing buboes? Was it the middle-aged man having a massive diarrhoea attack, gushing litres of brown liquid onto the floor? Was it the pus splattered all over the windows? Or was it the decomposing horse taking up four seats?

Using my copy of Felix as a fan, I was able to see through the pestilent fog long enough to find myself a seat. Behind me, among the groans, the sighs and the retching, I could hear the bus conductor asking for fares, so I got my pound ready. When his shrivelled head landed in my lap, releasing a cloud of disease-ridden spores, I was relieved – I could save that quid and use it to buy some paracetamol. I was developing a slight headache.

The next day I woke up feeling somewhat under the weather. Strange – I didn’t know there was a bug going round. When I say under the weather, I mean my skin had turned purple and my head had swelled to four times its usual size.

Lemsip seemed to have no effect, so I decided to go and see my doctor. I opened my mouth to say good morning to him, and he immediately collapsed and died. So I went to see another doctor. He asked me what the problem was. I said it was rather obvious, wasn’t it? My head had got wedged in the door on the way in, and a small crowd of children had gathered, and were asking whether it would be possible to make Ribena out of me. He said it looked like only a cosmetic problem, so I’d have to go private. He showed me several brochures and said we could get the liposuction and breast reduction done at the same time. Then he coughed and spluttered, then he groaned and wheezed, then he collapsed and died as well.

So much for conventional medicine. I thought it was time to check out some alternative remedies, so I popped down to my friendly local acupuncturist, who was a rather lovely young lady. I was somewhat apprehensive though, and my fears about having needles stuck into me proved well-founded when my abdomen burst open, covering her with thick, yellow pus. I thought I’d rather ruined my chances of a shag there, so I pinned myself back together and went down the road to see the aromatherapist.

The aromatherapist smelt a bit funny, so I went to see a homoeopathist instead, but all he did was give me a glass of water. Somebody offered me a herbal remedy, but that only made everybody else turn purple as well.

I think I’ll go to sleep now. Maybe it will be better in the morning.

And Alex Said: 2003

10 January 2003

Column 10: 2003, 10th January 2003

It’s that time of year – the beginning of it – when people make all sorts of stupid new year’s resolutions. It’s a new dawn, a new beginning, a time to reflect upon ourselves, and all because the earth has completed another revolution of the sun from some arbitrary point, which means we’ve changed the digit we put at the end of the sequence of numbers we use to distinguish the days from each other.

New year’s resolutions are great for those of us who decide to do something about our character faults during the autumn. I took a look in the mirror and realised what a fat, sarcastic, lazy bastard I was – but why start to correct all of that on the 15th of November? No, continue depositing that blubber, putting off work and pissing off people for another six weeks, and then it’s all change on the 1st of January. Yes sir!

So, this year I made a few resolutions: Eat less, go to the gym, do more studying, get up before 2pm, drink less, stop wasting money, read more, watch TV less, consider a career, think of more original subjects to write columns about, change my underpants.

Oh, and turn myself into somebody as happy as Barney the dinosaur and as loveable as Handy Andy is to a group of silly old grannies. However, I really did not want to end up like Graham Norton, and anyway, changing your personality is difficult. It’s hard not to be a miserable bastard in London, surely – it’s such a grumpy city.

Whether you’re paying a fiver for 330ml of Foster’s, sitting in your dingy bedroom while your landlord is charging you eighty quid a week for the privilege, or just sprinting across the road to avoid being mowed down by some nutter in a Mercedes, it’s hard to raise a smile, whatever you’re doing.

Even if, by some chance, I was as cheery as Postman Pat, how could I spread the joy? Of course, you can’t look at anybody on the Tube – they might be some kind of psychopath. They’ll roll up their copy of Metro, insert it into one of my orifices and then set fire to me. Look at the soaring crime figures – I’m scared to even talk to old ladies on the bus, because they’ll put me in a headlock, rape me and jump off at the next stop with my wallet.

It’s not like this anywhere else. In Newcastle the beer flows freely, everybody grins constantly and they’re always inviting fellow bus passengers to parties. But in London, I think I’ll stay as I am, thanks – nice and miserable.

It looks like my “New Year, New Alex Warren” mission failed. Not only have I failed to be full of happiness, but when I wasn’t a thin, healthy, spotlessly clean workaholic on New Year’s Day, I thought it would be silly to begin on January the 2nd, so I’ve put it all off until 2004. It will be a whole new me.

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