You’re not killing yourself working – that’s germs doing it for you

Man with headache
It’s germs – you’re not imagining it

The career move was a quantum leap.

From obscurity to marketing director at a single bound. Top banana in one the biggest media companies around.

Next stop fame, fortune and a run at the top spot in perhaps five years.

As if.

The first week was all euphoria. Glad-handing and endless lunches. Not a lot of time in the office.

Week two was the real thing. Head down and getting stuck in.

Round about when the headaches started. And the nausea. A weird feeling of unease. Worst of all, out of nowhere, an overnight lack of confidence.

Where? How?

The condition vanished away from work.

Even the M25 felt better.

Weekends were great. Home with the family, everything went away.

Not so great on Mondays.

By the third week, going to work brought looming dread.

The headaches started in thirty minutes. And the unwanted sensations. Claustrophobia, feeling dirty, a loss of balance, and always impending nausea.

A trip to the Doc didn’t help. Everything fine, fit as a fiddle.

So why was the job so lousy?

It wasn’t the job, it was the building.

Because week four was out at one of the branches. Intensive stuff – crack of dawn start, all day hard at it, after midnight back at the hotel. An adrenalin high, riding the crest of the wave. Exulting in the stuff they got though.

Then back to doom and gloom.

It couldn’t go on. Either something gave, or it was a new job.

And then the report at the back of the filing cabinet. The one that got buried because of the expense. Sick building syndrome. Move somewhere else or pull the place down.

Not options, either of them. Cash flow wouldn’t permit. How else did anyone think the job happened in the first place? Not a whizz-kid from Oxford or LSE, just plain and simple 9-to-5 ordinary.

Except there was a quick-fix for sick building syndrome. Not permanent, but enough to make people feel better. Yes, there were others – and everyone hated the place. Hated the mould and the rising damp. Hated the bugs that they gave off. And the smell.

In marketing they had a whip-round. Bought a triple-whammy machine that sprayed hydrogen peroxide. Killed germs in the air, the blurb said. Sterilised the place so there was nothing there. Right about the time when the balance sheet kicked upwards. The first lift-off in three years.

Sales had a whip-round too – and offered to go halvies. The stuff misted up their office till you could hardly see. But the bugs went.

And the depression. And the feeling of hopelessness.

Best turnover figures in twenty years.

Management got the message after that.

New offices in a new building. Everybody motivated.

Something else seemed to have happened too.

They kept the machine. Bought another two like it.

Something to do with keeping everybody healthy. Nobody ever pulled sickies when the rooms were sprayed.

Amazing that, really. Never getting sick again.

Because this was London, England – where everybody got colds, and colly-wobbles, and goodness know what.

Except not any more.

No germs, no sickness. Not a dickie-bird.

Smiley faces all round.