As my long-suffering wife Deirdre will freely point out, I am a creature of numerous long-held habits and predilections.
Black coffee at 8am. Day, month and year at the top right-hand corner of the page. Eggs on Sunday morning, 60 Minutes on Sunday evening. I’ve been using the same barber since 1993, and I still spend most evenings relaxing in the same ratty armchair that has accumulated as many stains as it has smells over the last 26 years of service.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid fan of technology and enjoy trying new things. My phone is mobile, and this past weekend I ate a popular pseudo-vegetable called an ‘avocado’. But I enjoy using things I can rely on, and will gladly bestow loyalty upon goods and services that prove they do the job.
No matter, says our venerable chief executive. The office needs to change. Clients need to feel comfortable when they visit, I’m told, and our traditional outfit needs to be enhanced to provide a ‘sensory experience’.
Well, far be it from me to stand in the way of anyone deriving the same kind of sensory experience I do from my Nick Scali classic recliner.
The project’s first victims were desks and chairs, replaced by small ankle-height tables and an assortment of low-slung sofas.
Mood lighting has been installed; the old fluorescent tubes are out and muted bulbs are in. The environment is no longer ‘clinical’ but I can’t really see anything.
We’ve been asked to avoid wearing cologne. The psychotherapists say that my Old Spice affects cognitive function, perception, mood, health and sexual behaviour – all of which I’ve suspected for years. Instead, we have air fresheners jutting out from the electricity sockets behind the new sofa, so it seems the walls wear the perfume now. Our walls are quite asexual, so this may be for the best.
The consultant has also tackled texture. Our new rugs are plush and ruffled, and the office brochures have been redone in a soft matte finish. Even the pillows on our sofa are covered with a silky cotton of unknown origins. I fear the quest for a less clinical environment has led us into bordello territory.
There has been a revamp of the ‘environmental accessories’ as well. The fake ornamental plants have been replaced with an assortment of living, breathing flora: orchids on the windowsill, some kind of succulent on the main table and one of those ubiquitous fiddle leaf fig plants in the foyer.
Clients find plants soothing, I’m told, and they represent renewed life and growth. They do look nice, but I suspect in a few months they may come to represent neglect and office dust.
I moaned about the modifications, naturally. They’re not so bad individually but wholesale change like this makes me nervous.
I’m on the wrong side of 50, squidgy around the edges and old-fashioned in predictable ways. My hair is more salt than pepper, I only know how to use the smiley face emoji and I’m starting to grow fond of beige pants.
If old things start getting thrown out, there is a danger I could become one of them.
I’m sure Deirdre could do better and I suspect some of my younger clients have been eyeing off those advice firms gunning for Millennial clients. Even our trusty beagle is more inclined to play with the kids in the yard than amble around the block with the old man.
Well, I won’t take it lying down.
There’s still some light left in this blinking, fluorescent tube.
This morning, I came in early with a plastic ficus and swapped it out with one of the organic beauties on the windowsill. In six months, when the enthusiasm for fresh flora has waned, it will be the best looking plant in the office.
The rear-guard action is under way.