Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Benefacto, Benefactee, Benefactum

The Company Benefactor came to the workplace today, his gradual approach from more northern climes being heralded for the past couple of days by a flurry of epistles over our mechanical mail system. Group heads dashed off stern perorations to their staff on the importance of Workplace Cleanliness and manners; name tags were handed out to anybody who felt like they might be lacking a name and a good deal of other people to boot; and the law was laid down. 'Be careful how you address the Benefactor,' instructed the memos, (causing myself to wonder why anybody but his mother should be addressing him in the first place.) 'He is to be called MISTER BENEFACTOR' (Mister to his friends, Benefactor to everyone else, I thought?)

Finally, the great day dawned, as great days have a habit of doing, and on the crack of ten (two hours before the crack of noon, except when it is daylight savings) the great Benefactor appeared in the offices clutching a walking stick, being helped from a little palanquin in which he had been carried by several secretaries. Somewhere in the distance, I'm sure I could hear the angelic chorus of a host of cherubic office accountants carolling his arrival. (The Company gelds accountancy babies at birth for such occasions).

Over the next hour, the Benefactor, wizened and shrivelled of appearance, crept nimbly around the office, bestowing his advice and pithy aphorisms upon all who cared to hear. 'When do you turn eighteen?' he jested with L., the red-head sitting opposite me. Turning his attentions to me eventually, he queried whether I was interested in AFL, and on learning that I was not, proceeded to deliver an anecdote on the relative merits and demerits of mail and email. He wished me luck before turning and hobbling to an obscure corner of the office to talk about stocks and bonds and strategies and what-not with the local contacts for another hour.

It was perhaps noon when he prepared to leave: before he did, a great hush fell over the masses of the poor, the starving, the sickly, the oppressed, the meek, the huddled, and all the other people who happen to labour for the Company in order to earn the meagre pittance which we are promised. We swivelled in our chairs towards the Benefactor.

"Something something something something," he said. "But! Something something something something something! Something something? Something!"

There was a brief, pregnant silence during which I heard, in the distance, a fellow bond-slave weeping quietly over the photocopier. Then, as one, we cheered. Hooroar! Hooroar for the dear old Benefactor! Hooroar for the Company! Our white and wond'ring eyes were upturned heavenward, and we waved our arms joyously in the air!*
The Benefactor cast his cheerful eyes over us all, and winked in that way he had. (I later learned that 'That way he had' was a facial spasm he had acquired as a gift from his ne'er-do-well son on his eightieth birthday). He raised his cane to bestow a final blessing upon us all, and slowly but surely began to tip over. If it had not been for the secretaries, watching and waiting to help the cheerful old fellow into the waiting palanquin, I shudder to think of what might have happened.

I heard murmurings late this afternoon that the accountants are restless and planning a revolution: they are disappointed that only some of them have been selected for gelding, and not all. But I don't know if we should be so hasty to overturn the structure of things. If there's anything the Benefactor has taught me, it's that things should be left as they are, especially when they aren't.

*Poets' licence: for the purposes of dramatic effect, I may occasionally engage in hyperbole, metaphor, or lying.


Karen said...

Now that is a capital review!

You reminded me of that horrible ad on TV at the moment- I think it's for a bank- the one with the baby giving its dummy to the other baby in the cot and then the baby is a grown man working for X (St George?) bank, bestowing his servile grin on all and sundry. The most disturbing thing is that they obviously think there are people to whom the ad would appeal.

TimT said...

I took an immediate liking to the Benefactor. He was so old that he could get away with jokes like 'when is your 18th birthday', versions of which he bestowed on all and sundry. Everyone in the office must be at least twenty years younger than him. I think the old chap must have sold shares in a Zambesian copper mine or something and bought majority ownership of our current company as the Going Concern in his old age. (I haven't seen that ad, but it sounds like something S J Perelman would have been able to get about twenty paragraphs of humour out of. Oh, Sydney Perelman! Thou shouldst be living at this time!)

Karen said...

Did he call all the women "darling" and get away with that too?

I haven't read any Perelman. You do mention him an awful lot, so it is having a subconscious effect. I expect I will surrender, should I come across any Perelman in a bookshop.

God, it's a terrible ad! The idea of this man being raised from the cradle for no other end than to serve- it sends shivers down my spine. Another ad that makes me cranky- the 4WD ad with one of Jimmy Barnes' sons slaughtering "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall". And there's another one (which I haven't seen but my sister told me about it) which is for a car that is a "masterpiece" and it puts the car next to other things which are "masterpieces"- a Picasso and a Hemingway (this would amuse me greatly if I saw it, for I -controversially, I've been told- hate Hemingway).

I meant to say this yesterday- you do look familiar in the last photo in the piece about the snow in New York- vaguely, not greatly. So I think I would at least have seen you around. Given how much you refer to him, I thought it might have been this special T. S. Eliot course in second year. Did you do that one?

TimT said...

Nah, I did do T S Eliot, but not in a special Eliot course - barely covered Prufrock and The Wasteland. Obviously nobody talked back at The Benefactor for fear of their jobs, but I didn't hear him say 'Darling', and I don't really think he would. For some reason he took it into his head to meet everyone in the office, no matter who they were, so he had a standard line to break the ice. And thank heavens for that! If he'd called me Darling, I think I would have gone mad and started tearing chunks out of a thesaurus with my teeth!

Karen said...

Hmmm, no cigar then. I pride myself on having a good memory, you see, so it bothers me when I can't remember something.

He sounds like a very nice, well-meaning benefactor.

If he'd called me Darling, I think I would have gone mad and started tearing chunks out of a thesaurus with my teeth!

Such a spectacle would no doubt provide extra incentive to call you "darling"! A woman in a shop last week called me "darling", which grated, but then I heard her call a co-worker "gorgeous girl" and realised it could be worse.

Steve said...

This reminded me of one of the 70's or early 80's British sitcoms...maybe Are You Being Served?...were a frail old company head would visit the staff occasionally. It's probably being repeated on Channel 7 on Saturday nights (they really, really don't care what they show on that night after 8.30pm, do they.)

TimT said...

Karen, imagine me with the hat off - and yes, I'm ashamed to admit it - with a beard, which I cultivated for a few years out of sheer laziness.

TimT said...

Steve, hadn't heard of that, though it would be interesting to see a sit-com set in the modern Australian workplace. (And no, I am NOT thinking of a certain recent episode of McLeod's Daughters...!)

Karen said...

I'm very embarrassed to know this, but Steve is indeed thinking of one Mr Grace in Are you Being Served?. I would like to state for the record that I do not enjoy the program or watch it on a regular basis.

A beard, Tim? Surely that would simply complete the Amish effect upon which one of your readers so astutely remarked. Hats are always a bit of a concern- one wonders if they conceal little tuffs of hair so unwashed it's in the process of forming itself into miniature dreadlocks.
The Amish effect is the obvious one, but I think you're channelling that eighteenth-century gentleman of letters again, with a dollop of Australiana thrown in for good measure. You do look awfully tall too.

TimT said...

I prefer to describe myself as 'Not Confined To The Normal Verticular Paradigm'.

Karen said...

My sister's flatmate, who is very striking, is "not confined to the normal verticular paradigm" either. Sometimes she finds it a problem- they were in the supermarket and a man came around the corner and blurted out "God, you're tall!". It apparently happens all the time.

I always wanted to be over 6 ft, but never got there, so I assure you I am deeply envious.

Caz said...

Oh, Tim, we must meet up some day, along with Princess Darlene, of course.

You could tuck me under one armpit, and Darlene under the other (I'm assuming Darlene is vertically challenged, as am I, but I might be horribly wrong about Darlene, and cause great offence in my assumption).

TimT said...

Why would I do that? Were you planning on drinking and had me in mind as the, um, "designated carrier"?

TimT said...

And you never know, I could be even madder in person than I am on this blog...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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