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A bad day at the office

How was your working week? Was it a bit stressful? Photocopier out of paper, no sugar for coffee, flat battery in your mobile phone, secretary forgot your wife's birthday? Here are some stories about a day in the life of people who have the sorts of jobs that most of us don't.

One of the guests didn't make it to my grandfather's 88th birthday party. She was working in crisis intervention for the child welfare authorities and had to make an emergency visit on the way to the party. When she and her co-worker arrived at the house where the endangered child was they were held at gunpoint and told that they would be killed if they tried to remove the baby. Somehow they managed to call for assistance and the police came and rescued them. The people in the house had been calling also, and there was a lynch mob of their friends outside who were going to make sure the baby wasn't taken. The police had to draw weapons and force their car through the crowd to get away. They then drove the social workers home and advised them to leave their car wherever it was and collect it the next day. By the way, when the mother and boyfriend appeared in court over the incident she told the magistrate that she didn't care if anyone took the baby from her because she could easily make another one.

I had lunch one day with a senior officer in the Salvation Army. He had been in charge of the Army's welfare operations in Newcastle, the second-largest city in the state where I live, and one day his office had been approached by the wife of a prominent local crime figure with an appeal for help. She had run away from her husband and wanted some accommodation to disappear into. In typical Sally fashion they found her a place to live and promised to keep the address secret. A few days later the word was on the street that the woman's husband had put out a hit contract on the Army officer. Shortly afterwards the officer saw the husband at some civic function (gangsters are pillars of the community, too) and asked him about the truth of the contract story. He was told that it was nothing personal, just business. The woman had run away, she knew things that could hurt her husband and therefore she had to die, nobody knew where she was to kill her, somebody still had to die as an example, and the Army officer had been chosen because he had helped the wife. All very logical and businesslike.

I know someone who is a prison officer. He is currently on sick leave and receiving counselling. He was in the exercise yard of the maximum-security prison where he works when a group of prisoners approached him and told him that one of the prisoners was about to be murdered. He was told that if he tried to interfere or call for assistance he would be killed as well, although this would just be a business decision because they had no fight with him and the only person who had to die was the intended victim. They then murdered the prisoner in front of him, and then just went back to doing whatever it is that prisoners do all day.

Where's my lighter? Don't tell me I left it at home. Now my day is ruined!

This article was my contribution to the Oberon Writers' Group in March 2021
It originally appeared on The Millenium Project in 2003.

Copyright © 1998- Peter Bowditch

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