Maeve Higgins’s ideal . . . colleague


I was in my room the other day, reading my book nicely. It was a long, difficult work, a much talked of piece of literature, so I was determined to get it.

I didn’t enjoy it, but I struggled on until I felt I could say I got it. Then I realised nobody could see how good I was at getting it, and became angry. Angry at the wasted time, angry at the solitary nature of reading, angry at Stephanie Meyer for writing such a complex masterpiece.

To calm myself, I stopped reading and began instead to imagine the ideal colleague.

What do I do for work? Oh, little girl, what don’t I do? At various times in my life I’ve been a judge, a model, a therapist, a prison guard and a sailor – and that’s only in my head!

Currently, I am a writer specialising in animal similes, known for lines like “Philip was as hungry as a horse”.

My colleagues are a desk and a computer. Those guys can make work nights out quite tricky. The desk can’t get in anywhere and the computer is terribly quiet, downright awkward. I can’t just introduce him to someone “Shirley enjoys surfing too!” and leave it at that – he’ll flounder and blush toward an inevitable crash.

What I’m interested in, therefore, are human colleagues. To coin a phrase – there is no me in team. A good colleague will do things you can’t or won’t do.

Say I’m an asthmatic fireman, well built, but with a phobia of heights. My ideal colleague should have a fondness for ladders and no respiratory conditions. My strong points, like my square brown hands made for untangling hose pipes and putting just the right amount of milk into tea, would make up for it.

Another of my little sayings is relevant here too – not that many people are perfect. When you’re working in close proximity to people, you must forgive their shortcomings. Weave their bad breath and poor timekeeping into your workday. Let it all slide until 6pm, then rush to a boxercise class and box-exorcise that halitosis right out of your head.

Colleagues should be pleasant, but I draw the line at fun. No dentist wants to sit in his chair only to find it’s been whipped away by a mischievous dental nurse.

My dream colleague is as busy as a bee and as cheerful as a lark. I need a someone who is not quite as proud as a peacock, and certainly not as sly as a fox, but one as transparent as a jellyfish and as strong as an ox. Absolutely never as sick as a dog. They can’t be as timid as a rabbit, but by the same token they must not be as playful as a kitten. I long for a workmate as wise as an owl and as cute as a monkey.

I just know when I find them, I’ll be as happy as a clam.

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