When We Were Almost Like Men explores the world of the modern courier industry, the working lives of the men and women caught inside the machinery of the modern city. From controllers to couriers, telephonists to mechanics, supervisors to sales reps, Martin Hayes is a guide to a kind of hell that is simultaneously fascinating, depressing, hopeless and hilarious, exploring what it means to hold down a job when all the odds seem to be stacked against you. This is Premium Rush directed by Fritz Lang, The Inferno scripted by David Brent and Charles Bukowski.
two months before Christmas the telephonists attended a meeting chaired by the MD in which he told them that he wanted them to be more motivated and feel like an integral part of the company rather than automatons that come in and just go through the motions. a week before Christmas the telephonists were sent a memo from the MD telling them that they wouldn’t be needed after December 24th until January 5th adding also that they wouldn’t be paid because, ‘the economic environment was tough at the moment.’ when they came back on January 5th three of their representatives asked their supervisor if they could have a meeting with the MD to ask him what he had meant by wanting them to be motivated and feel like an integral part of the company rather than automatons who come in and just go through the motions. they were told by their supervisor that they could have the meeting but would have to wait four weeks until the MD came back from holidaying in the Cook Islands.
the self-employed cycle couriers said that this was the most freedom that they’d ever had while holding down a full-time job as they didn’t have to bow, jump or lick the arse of some suited-up boss the self-employed motorcycle couriers said that this was the most freedom that they’d ever had while holding down a full-time job as they didn’t have to bow, jump or lick the arse of some suited-up boss the self-employed van drivers said that this was the most freedom that they’d ever had while holding down a full-time job as they didn’t have to bow, jump or lick the arse of some suited-up boss and I think they all believed this as they raced through the streets at ridiculous speeds dodging trucks, busses, pedestrians, evading death by millimetres at least ten times a day, so that the parcels they were carrying for that same suited-up boss that they were glad not to work for arrived on time
Susan the little buxom 40-year-old Jewish Princess from sales would come into the control room every now and then wiggling her arse and tell us about all the problems she was having with her client base, with her children with her Lexus-driving husband and her Porsche-driving lover she’d stand in front of you with only the space to slip a five-pound-note in between you and her tits and as she spoke she’d watch your eyes as you tried mammothly to keep them on hers then when she finished she’d swing her wigging everything around walk out of the control room and back up to sales it was a shit job we all agreed but it was great going home after all them hours having something to actually think about
there was no way we were going to inject any change while the son of the MD was learning the ropes as office manager he came straight from the London School of Economics to supervise us our controllers’ meetings were suddenly filled with graphs and charts that he told us gave a truer insight on how we had been performing Dermot didn’t tell him that it was his Dad’s tight-fistedness that had helped create his stress related bowel cancer and Alex didn’t tell him that it was his Dad’s insistence that he worked three Saturdays per month that had helped make his Tina decide to split with him and Corey didn’t tell him that it was his Dad’s managers and their chaotic shift-pattern they’d assigned him that had caused his slow debilitating dive into insomnia and the rest of us didn’t tell him that it was his Dad who’d helped create this drink and drug problem we all seemed to have developed since we had begun working for him we didn’t tell him because there’s no chart for that
‘Martin Hayes is the English Fred Voss. His poems are all about fighting the nullifying effects of having a bloody awful job. They’re about finding a way of coming to terms with it by never coming to terms with it.’
Alan Dent, Penniless Press
‘Martin Hayes' poems rev through the pages like the literary equivalent of a white-knuckle ride – they are original, unapologetic, clever and quite unforgettable.’
‘this is poetry like virtually no-one el’se in Britain is writing. It is funny, wise, sad, tragic and thoroughly memorable.’
Mistress Quickly’s Bed
‘A nose-pressed-up-against-the window helplessness works best when it’s allowed to sneak up on you and, like Voss before him, Hayes is only making you laugh when he’s not making you sad. He’s good at penetrating the surface of real events, exposing layers of meaning... It’s as deep as you want it to be, and it’s often funny.’