Andrew's profile

The Fibreglass Fat Man-A Work Placement

Written by Andrew Walter on Saturday the 6th of February 2010
After six months or so in the world of security (Oh, but what a world it is) I became uncomfortably aware that many of my colleagues were decidedly sedentary.  Even those of an intelligent disposition became listless and cynical at an extremely rapid pace as the week wore on.  Slack minded, eyes glazed, the twelve hours passes by.  News and sport websites are scanned, occasionally providing the impetus for a conversation of sorts, which then, inevitably, collapses-a husk. 

Panic struck me one sluggish afternoon.  I dimly remembered taking on the position for the opportunity for self improvement, and for the free time it offered me.  Fretting, I groped back through the mists of mental time-space, and retrieved a spark.  I must look for an apprenticeship, a work placement, charity work, anything to furnish me with a few precious skills, just like people believed from the adverts.  Turning my back to a colleague who was consuming fluffy white sandwiches in a manner that could  have been described as bovine had the contents not been Hellmans and reconstituted ham, I browsed the mailing lists.

 Amongst the weeks of unchecked opportunity, I soon found something that might suffice- twelve hours work placement per week at a fibreglass moulding studio, constructing street furniture, bespoke jewellery and theatre props.  I jumped at the chance.  Here was a whole new vocation I could expand into.  I could probably take the placement and still keep my security job.  Visions of a future where I owned a business swam into focus, me, shiny with honest sweat from the days achievements, constructing and designing seaside amusements, park novelties, perhaps even fairground rides.  Brimming with a positivity alien to my normally dour nature, I dialled the number, not even letting the fact that the gentleman had neglected to capitalise his own name put me off.

A genial voice with touches of Cockney answered, and banter was exchanged, even a joke, albeit a poor one I had heard countless times before (Securityguardareyouwellstealoneformemate.) An informal interview was arranged for five days hence, I was to bring things from my portfolio along, arrangements would be made.

The day soon arrived.  Trekking to the north of , I struggled with originals in bubble wrap, foolishly painted on back-breakingly heavy tiles.  My instructions were to call when I was outside the orange door, and after enquiring of some clueless locals about the aperture in question I found myself in place.  A pair of plastic cowboy boots hung threatening and gauche above the orange rectangle, and a flicker of doubt passed through me.

Some days previous I had browsed the personal website of the gentleman, and was struck by how with it and hip other people might describe it as.  An awful animation of the designer bedecked in a white suit, striding over a rotating globe confronted me, tapping around the planet with a zany, red and presumably fibreglass cane.  I learned that this man was the genius behind not only those cheap looking pod chairs that scatter careers guidance centre floors and budget hotels across the globe, but also those horrible chrome champagne buckets in the shape of upturned headgear.  I was somewhat comforted to note, though, that he had been working in situ for over a decade.  The worm of unease coiled tighter in my gut as I perused his personal photographs and saw him smiling charmingly while wearing a funny trendy hat, lolling backwards on a backdrop of his own enormously inflated sketches while wearing a funny trendy hat, and posing on a fibreglass motorbike with an acoustic guitar and artfully ripped denim, this time his allowing his elegantly coiffure locks to cascade over bare shoulders.

 I remember thinking even at this early stage that it was unusual for a designer and professional craftsman to have so many photographs of himself on show, and that it seemed to point to someone with a raging ego complex, a man unpractical and unblessed with the gift of pedagogy.  Someone that would be given to self obsession, preening, and vacuous socialising.  Unreliable and softly flaky.

My suspicions were soon to be confirmed, albeit in a small way.  Outside that shockingly hued door on  a grey January afternoon, he answered my phone call with a brusque Hello?.  There were voices in the background.

Hello Denn, its Andrew, Ive come for the interview.  You asked me to call when I was outside your door. There was no reply, just the crowd in the background.   Then-

Oh...yeah.  Andrew, right?


 Yeah I was Paris in over the weekend and I really hurt my...hurt my neck.  Ive just come out of the osteopath and I wont be able to make it to the studio today. 

Consumed by irritation, my back and neck aching terribly, I waited for an apology, a plausible excuse, anything.  I received silence, the sullen nature of which made it clear it was my fault, my problem Id travelled out here for no reason.

What did you do to it? I enquired.

 Ahhhhhh, yknow, bleeeeeah. was the limp nonsense that followed.

 Briskly, I asked about rescheduling for next week, determined not to become truly annoyed, and reminding myself of the nature of artists and their folly.  Another meeting in one weeks time was arranged, but surely this pointed to sheer incompetence?  Did I really care to work for a man of such haphazard organisational standards?  Or perhaps it was something deeper, a contempt for the other.  I tried to put the thought aside, but the spectre of this mans possibly enormous ego tittered in my ear.

Wouldve called and let you know, but didnt have your number. was the patent lie that ended our conversation.  The fact it was a lie is borne out by the e-mail I had sent him containing that exact information, and the multiple telephone calls I had made from my handset to his.  All of this occurred, of course, after I had already agreed to reschedule.  Ah, hindsight.

Give me a call in the morning next time before hand, I mean...I will be there! he had yipped in alarming fashion during that aggravating discourse, so when that same request was granted in the following week, I was surprised to have my query dashed with an indignant splutter, as he informed me that of course he would be there- it was almost as if he had forgotten entirely.

When those orange planks did finally swing back, I was shocked.  Angry piggy eyes stared out from under an ironic pork pie hat, which was immaculately clean, as if it had been placed atop the fellows head seconds before.  Pink fleshly jowls hung down around all the features, crested with gingery fuzz.  This wasnt the prick from the photographs; this was another prick, with an extra 80lb hanging off of him, stooped and haggard.  Either the website had been unchanged for a decade, or the wild ravages of the public fibreglass sculpture sector parties had hit particularly hard.  He twitched, peering down at my artwork, protected from the crass stupidity in his eyes by bubble wrap.  It crinkled, as if nervous.

 Is it a Van Gogh? he quipped.

I didnt know what to say, so I simply followed as he turned away, noting that the disposable one piece workmans overalls he wore did nothing to conceal his gut.  It was spattered with debris from the workshop, in stark contrast to his hat.  I followed his heavy back.

Crossing the yard, a beautiful Japanese girl in blue overalls was sanding down part of an indeterminate amorphous piece of sculpture.

MiMi!! bellowed the man explosively, jabbing his finger at her in what I suppose was meant to be amiable fashion.  She giggled.

I was taken on a whistle-stop tour of the workshop and yard.  Within seconds I knew something was utterly wrong with the man.  Plodding heavily, then skipping the next, he exhibited all the signs of a distressed mental condition, I supposed from extensive use of stimulants at fibreglass parties over the last decade.

 We touched on various topics.  When I mentioned that I found my present  employment rather mind-numbing, the corners of his mouth drew down in a clownish grimace, and his eyes rolled spasmodically back into his head.

OH YEAH?? he hooted.  The pork pie hat nearly somersaulted. N-n-n-n-n-nnnnnnnumbing yer brain are ya?? I know that one!!  He seemed totally incapable of talking at a normal volume.

 As he popped and jerked around, he was given to horrible little acts of pantomime.  Once, when I was explaining to him when I would and would not be able to work for him due to the shifting nature of my employment, he told me to give me a call when I was Feelin good, and performed a small body popping routine in the middle of my sentence.  Mimi, who was asking him if he would like a cup of tea, began giggling uncontrollably.  He didnt appear to be listening to anything I said at all, as I had to repeat myself a number of times.

He suddenly became very solemn, not far from threatening.  He seemed to loom within the clutter of the studio.  Alarmed at the shift in tone, I nearly took as step back.

You can only come in one day every other week then? he asked in eerie, brittle tones.

No-no I can almost always do two days a week, but there would be a couple where Id have to conf-

 People come in here, you know, they think they can learn resin in a week.  Not gonna happen., he rapped.  His horrible eyes seemed to be looking at my forehead.

 Youre serious about this, arent you?  You want to do this?

 It was a supreme effort not to lose my temper. 

Of course I am, I replied. The advert said twelve hours a week, six hours a day.  I wouldnt have contacted you if I wasnt serious about this would I?  Im not fair-weather about this type of thing.

 Cool! he shouted, becoming breezy again.  Greatly perturbed by his behaviour, I followed him to another room in the studio.

 His actions remained erratic.  We talked about his various projects.  He still appeared to be conducting a conversation with himself, or at least somebody other than me.

Were building a giant skateboard!! he screamed.

Over there theres a massive shoe!! he hollered.

 A fake horse! he bellowed, though I couldnt see one.

At one point, while casting a flickering, uncomprehending eye over the work I had brought with me, he started using words like tufty-pufty and nonsensical terms like printdrawing.

 We found ourselves in a room stuffed with rubbish, disgustingly tasteless pod chairs daubed in paint and glitter.  Sweeping an arm around he intoned that he wasnt just a designer, he was an artist too, picking out some pieces of MDF and driftwood crammed with gaudy neon childrens ray-guns, plastic dinosaurs and racing cars adhering to the boards with Epoxy.  I was treated to a second disturbing pantomime act whilst he expounded on the struggles  he  had experienced in his to rise to acceptance by a local gallery.  He explained how it was

 Like-  and began grotesquely humming a sort of quasi-gospel tune something like Na-na-na-nah-ha-ha-haa praise the Lord while half cupping his left hand, palm upward, and wafting his right rhythmically in the region of his engorged navel.  Perhaps it was meant to represent a ukulele, but all I knew was that it was a highly upsetting action. 

Embarrassed and bewildered, I searched in earnest for something to say.  I selected an old ladder plated with dominoes for compliment, partly at a loss for any real topic, but also because its monochromatic palette qualified it by far as being the least offensive object in the claustrophobically tasteless room.

Yeah its NICE isnt it!? he leered at me, the expression giving way to a look of gentle innocence as we re-entered the pallid afternoon sun.

 After arranging that I should call the following day to finalise the dates I was available for his disposal (something which I opined was wholly unnecessary if he had actually listened to a single word Id said during the unsettling caper), he abruptly ignored me, not even acknowledging my proffered Good-bye. I kept this short, unable to shake the impression he would have sunk teeth into a handshake.  He simply blithered into his mobile phone, should turned toward me, his apparent interviewee.

  Mimi seemed to know she was to get the keys and let me out-perhaps due to practice.  While she looked for them I noticed in the dim evening glow a number of mounted pictures around the fat man in the white onesie.   Some were indulgent stoner doodles, framed, exonerated, displaying no great measure of talent.  Others were what he would probably have referred to as brainstorms.  The most affecting, though, were what seemed to be his publicity photographs.  Slim, beaming, and sitting in yet another of those odious pod chairs ( I had noticed during the tour they were outsourced, manufactured in ), he adorned a number of very old local publication front pages and articles.   On one, dated around seven years ago, he was man of year in the borough.  If it werent for the subtle air of bullying, smug menace and outright violent insanity that permeated the premises, I may have felt a little sorry for him; a jabbering bitter grotesque amidst past accolades.  Mimi had found the keys.

As we left I asked her what it was like working there.  To my alarm she described as laid back, and actually indicated her artists residency within the confines.  I didnt press to discover if she meant that she actually lived with the man, and I am ashamed to say that I wondered for an instant what she had been threatened with if her response had been fucking terrifying.

My penultimate phone call to this man really congealed the loose idea I had of him as being totally unstable.  Petulant and sighing, he once again began to repeatedly miss the point about when I was available.  It was incomprehensible to me that he still wasnt listening.  Finally, when he was accepted into the sweet bosom of understanding, he became clipped and bitter, despite my assurances that twelve hours was what he has specified in his advert.  Dim recollections of his un-capitalised name arose as I wondered about a Venn diagram of stupidity and madness. 

His actual words to me were;

Well, if thats the best you can offer me I have no real choice but to take it, do I?

 Unbelievably he seemed to think I had decided to screw him around.  The tone he was using was so sepulchral, so resentful and wearied that for a moment I experienced the unpleasant sensation that I was the maniac and that he was totally level headed.  Already I could see he had shunned reality altogether, viewing me as a disappointing, unreliable lackey before I had completed a minutes work in his bizarre studio of the unsound.  I took umbrage, and after an afternoons deliberation decided to withdraw  my request for the placement.  I put the call in later, to find the last of my suspicions validated.

 It began with me asking if he had ten spare minutes, and the response was a curt No., cutting me off.

What? I replied, feeling the atrophied threads of our professional relationship being still further shredded.

Two.  Two minutes mate.  Thats what Ive got. he answered, and he sounded so warped I am still unsure if this was a joke or not.  It sounded as though he were conducting important fibreglass deal-perhaps the other shoe.  I deduced there was a third party.

 I just dont think you seem too happy with our arrangement, so Ive decided its probably best if you re-post the advert, hire somebody else. I said.

 Suddenly he affected a jolly, distracted tone; No, no mate, if thats what you can do, thats what you can do, and you should take it.  Do it.

 No.  Your tone just sounded like you werent okay with the whole thing.  Re-post it.  Thanks anyway.

All joviality froze in an instant, yet he still sounded frighteningly convivial.  He seemed to put the other speaker on hold and his voice increased in volume as his gingery drug wattles approached the mouthpiece.

What are you saying to me?

Your tone-

 Whoa whoa whoa w-w-whoa are you bottling out??

 It was at this point, incidentally, that I realised he really was socially insane.  Already there was a genuine cold hatred in his voice, which I thought was sad, in the true sense of the word, given that I had made his acquaintance only twenty-four hours earlier.  Bear in mind, reader, that this was a twelve hour work placement were discussing, and that no-bodies pride had been bruised, no blows had been exchanged, and certainly no pact of any kind entered into.  Nonetheless, he was talking to me like I was the worst kind of oath breaker.  Never mind an oath, there was little chance of me even signing a provisional contract with anyone who let his applicants wander around looking for his studio while he was supposedly getting his neck seen to.  I was nettled by his confrontational tone, I admit, so, perhaps a little too calmly I retorted:

 Im not bottling out, I just dont appreciate being talked to like a dickhead.

The fibreglass fat man erupted.  This seemed to have been boiling up ever since we met.  Even louder than usual, he roared;

Yeah, WELL you ARE a dickhead!!

 It was enough. I matched him in tone and severity and started screaming into my hand in the middle of the West End, demanding again and again just why I was a dickhead.  I was making a total fool out of myself, but I didnt care.  One could argue after all that he had already taken care of that for me, wasting my time while I uncomfortably tolerated his cretinous flabby antics.

Because I gave you this great placement and you took it away from me, he bellowed nonsensically at me.  I imagined Mimi giggling next to his psychotic, glacial rage.  The infantile aspect in his voice was contemptible.


You have no idea how to communicate with normal human beings do you, you clueless fuck!? What kind of idiot are you? I cried, insulting one of the top fibreglass designers in the country, thereby neatly annihilating any chance I will ever have of working in the industry.

BLA BLAH YAH YAH YAH FUCK OFF!! he raved, illustrating my point with brevity I would never have managed.  With that, he was gone.

I was quaking with rage, but I restrained myself from commuting to his studio and attempting to kick in his door.  Had I taken a more Gombrowiczian view, I might have decided that I took an unreasonable initial assessment of his character, coupled with a corresponding overreaction.  I may have observed further that I was touched by his fiery business zeal and turbulent lust for life.  As it is, however, I just think he is a halfhead cokehead moron.  His remarks had been incredibly juvenile for a man who at least looked like he was pushing forty.  Mine too, were fairly childish, but at the end of the whole affair my only regret is that I didnt use more of that precious final phone call to make cheap jibes about his weight.