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The Nature of Job Satisfaction

March 31, 2013

When I was lawyering in London, back in the mists of time, a favourite pastime amongst my colleagues (as we met for yet another supper in the canteen with the prospect of a post-midnight finish) was “If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?” and we would dream of lives free from charging time and data rooms. I remember one particularly poor patch when I was working 100 hour weeks.  I  was buying breakfast in the local Tesco Metro, anticipating another day of stress and deadlines when I felt a deep, abiding jealousy of the lady at the checkout.  I longed to take her place and spend a day in the oblivion of scanning goods through the till.  Ever since then I’ve envied people who seem to have the holy grail of a job they absolutely love.

 There’s such a man, here in Islamabad.  He works at the new mall which has opened to much fanfare.  The mall itself is fairly run of the mill (think Queensgate, Peterborough for those who’ve been there.  If you haven’t, don’t make the trip especially – just head to your own local shopping centre and imagine that you’re in Pakistan. That’s just what’s it’s like, particularly if your shopping centre has glass lifts) but this man is wonderful.  He works in the parking lot and has a very sharply pressed blue uniform with shiny boots, a natty cap and a big shaggy beard you could hide a bag of potatoes in if you so wished.  His job is to make sure that every car entering the parking area is parked, not only within the white lines delineating the space, but also a uniform distance from each of said lines.   To aid him he has a winning smile, 2 cones which he moves seemingly at random, and a pink, plastic whistle.  Not many grown men could pull off the look of steely, yet friendly, officiousness with a pink, plastic whistle, but our friend managed it beautifully.  I drove into the space, turned off the engine and then looked up to see that our friend wasn’t totally happy that I was far enough forward.  He was so keen that I move, I turned the engine back on and crawled forward the 2 inches he required. I think there are aeroplanes on aircraft carriers which have been parked in a more slipshod fashion. I was promptly rewarded with a huge beaming smile and many nods of approval, which made both A and I feel a corresponding sense of deep contentment.  Who knew that job satisfaction could be so contagious?

 As we strolled around the mall, A and I were trying to pinpoint just what it is about Islamabad that has made us feel so settled and happy in such a short time.  We were still basking in the glow of our parking experience and then discovered that the new supermarket in the new mall stocks virtually everything you could ever wish for (although there’s a bizarre lack of plain flour – nothing fancy, just plain.  Maybe I missed that aisle).  We filled our trolley and stood there at the checkout still musing as one chap unpacked our trolley, another scanned the goods, a third packed our bags and a fourth stood ready to carry the bags to the car. (This isn’t unusual – it happens in all the shops here, and makes shopping a positively pleasant experience.)  All 4 gentlemen were very pleasant and helpful.  Perhaps the sense of wellbeing isn’t such a mystery…

 Yesterday we went up to the top of the Margalla Hills.  Gosh, it’s steep.  I was very glad we had a big car with a jolly big engine as I negotiated our 20th hairpin bend on what must have been an incline of 1:3.  Halfway up there was a chap standing next to his bicycle and looking really rather poorly.  I’m pleased to say that we saw him again on the way back down looking slightly better.  I’m not sure he’ll be doing that again though.   There’s a restaurant at the top with views over Islamabad and its neighbouring city of Rawalpindi.  A took H to the bathroom whilst I started to feed J, when an elderly gentleman came over. He only spoke Urdu and I don’t speak any but we communicated in the universal language of smiling, nodding and waving arms around.  He kept pointing to James’s bright blue eyes and pinching his cheeks, but J took it in his stride and kept chomping at his rice cake.  Either he’s a born diplomat or he’s just not going to be distracted from food for anything.  Given the size of our little son 2 I think it’s more likely to be the latter.  The elderly gentleman finished pinching J’s cheeks (there’s a lot to pinch) and left, but not before he’d pressed 10 Rupees into my hand.  I tried to give it back but he insisted, and so I thanked him, smiling.  When A and H came back I regaled them with details of our new friend and the fact that he’d very kindly given us some money for J.  “So you’ve sold our son for about 7p?” A said.  I laughed, but then realized that I hadn’t got a clue what was said amongst all the eye pointing and cheek pinching.  Could be there was some form of contract concluded. We’ll have to see if anyone turns up stating a claim for a tubby 7 month-old. 

Happy Easter to one and all.  I’m pleased to report that our Easter Sunday roast went well, and the gravy was very fine (even if I do say so myself).  This is definitely progress. 





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