What It’s Like Not To Work For A Tech Company

Most of you will never know.

A brand new day.

At 6:30 am, you wake up to a hum of static from your radio alarm clock. For five seconds, maybe ten, you’re content. Then you remember you don’t work for a tech company.

In the shower, you tackle the first chore of the day. Neither of you are into it, so it takes a while, but eventually it releases its pittance. Then you wash your body and hair with Lynx Apollo.

Wearing one of your several half-wool/half-polyester navy suits, you eat a bowl of Fruit n’ Fiber and wash it down with a glass of made-from-concentrate orange juice — you used to buy Tropicana, but then saw a documentary on how it didn’t contain more vitamins than the cheaper stuff. This was great, since you’d been searching for a way to save money.

Next door, a toddler is screaming. Not a cry of pain, just a high-pitched, pulsing yelp designed to test his parents’ limits. You hear them start to argue as you tie your shoelaces. As far as you know, neither of them work for a tech company. You met the man once, when you were both taking out the trash. His name was… Keith? He looked like he went to the gym. Your paths haven’t crossed again since.

You catch a bus, the kind of bus on which all the people who don’t work for tech companies are allowed. Many of them are crazy, and some are probably armed, so you avoid eye contact. The bus is jammed, forcing you to squeeze against a man who mumbles to himself. He grinds against you with each jerk of the bus, but that’s fine, so long as he doesn’t start talking to you. You turn up Drake on your Beats headphones. You bought his CD at the supermarket then ripped it on your HP laptop and transferred the songs to your Samsung Galaxy S6, which took a good part of Sunday afternoon. You’re not great with computers.

After the bus, you catch the underground. You emerge 30 minutes later near an industrial park. You power-walk against the shrieking traffic, limbs flailing, inhaling deep lungfuls of car fumes. Your face and hair are greasy with the afterbirth of public transport, and you’ve been sweating profusely in your half-wool/half-polyester navy suit.

You arrive at work, where for the next nine hours you do the kind of work done by people who don’t work for tech companies.

You don’t work there.

You have four coffees throughout the morning — one every hour — all from the machine in the kitchen hub. Rumor has it the bags of coffee beans provided by your employer cost nine pence per kilo.

Your meaningless pursuit for minimal wages is interrupted by your lunch break, during which you rush under the rain (it usually rains at lunchtime) to the closest food store (there’s no “food court” where you work). You return to your desk, cold and damp, and sit there with your Meal Deal: tuna sandwich, salt and vinegar crisps, Coke Zero. You spend 45 minutes eating while watching Epic Fail videos on YouTube. Your mind depletes, your gut expands; you’re not aware of the former and only vaguely aware of the latter.

By mid-afternoon, you’re fending off an attack of micro-sleep when Stephanie appears at your desk. You perk up instantly. You straighten your back and part your legs a little because of that article you read about how men spread to claim their territory. Stephanie is ten years younger than you and this is her first job after university but she’s already a manager. Also, she’s smart and beautiful and smells like apricots; her next job will definitely be at a tech company. She tells you something but you don’t listen, because you’re trying hard to raise yourself to her plane of existence, which does not come naturally. She stops talking and you realize it’s your turn, so you nod and string together a few random, job-related words. Stephanie smiles, because she’s kind, and you experience a moment of bliss, and then she leaves. You rush to the toilets. This time it takes you 10, 20 seconds tops.

At home in the evening, you eat a stir-fry. You overcook it, so it’s not the vibrant feast of oriental flavours you imagined, just a dense mass of noodles and wilted vegetables sitting in your Ken Hom wok like a small turtle. You watch four episodes of Two And A Half Men and allow yourself one more bottle of Stella than usual.

You climb into bed. Lying in the dark, you hear a distant siren, and you cry because you miss your ex-girlfriend. In retrospect, leaving her wasn’t a great move; you’re not entirely sure why you did it, but it had something to do with your ambition to be a musician.

When your tears have dried and your cheeks are crusted with salt, you browse Facebook on your Samsung Galaxy S6 and learn that your old flatmate has sold his website for a small fortune. You decide to teach yourself to code, tomorrow. It’s about time you did something! You fantasize about selling your own website and posting about it on Facebook. You picture the awed responses from your 79 friends. That would show them. But it’s a bitter fantasy, tainted by the certainty you’ll never be hip, smart or handsome enough to work for a tech company.

At night, you dream of riding a motorbike. It’s amazing. You’re free. You’ve never been happier.

In the morning, you wake up and can’t wait to ride your motorbike, but five seconds later you remember you don’t have a motorbike. Your radio alarm clock soothes you with a hum of static.

Not as depicted.

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