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Grinding gears

March 25, 2015

My friend is a nurse. After working a sixteen hour shift with no breaks the other night, she went to the canteen and asked for steak and chips, and was told that, due to the time of night, she could only get a sandwich. So she said ok, thanks very much, I’ll have a sandwich.

Not very newsworthy, is it? A bit dull. Wouldn’t sell many papers. And it probably happens thousands of times every day – a hardworking person, on a low wage, is forced to eat something insubstantial and on the hoof, before falling into an uncomfortable bed, and waking up to do it all over again.

I expect nurses the world over feel sorry for Jeremy Clarkson. After a hard day’s filming (probably involving some difficult auto-cue reading, a test drive in an expensive sports car, and some casual racism), he was then forced to endure the prospect of some cold meats and salad, rather than the steak and chips he was obviously so hungry for.

Poor bloke. Lucky then that he was provided with a ‘junior member of staff’ who he could shout at for 20 minutes, before punching in the face. Every star needs a punch bag, and if Oisin Tymon didn’t realise what he was getting himself into when he signed up for the role of Producer at the BBC, he evidently didn’t read the small print.

But possibly we’re not hearing the full story. It takes more than one person to have a 20 minute argument, even if that person is Jeremy Clarkson, and the time spent fruitlessly arguing over a steak could have more profitably been spent ordering a takeaway. Maybe the producer had been winding Clarkson up all day, suggesting he redo the take because it simply wasn’t funny, or asking just how much longer the Top Gear team could stretch the same tired old format out for. JC is getting on a bit now. Perhaps he stalled the car, messed up a turn, forgot which gear he should be in (top) or had to redo an entire segment of the programme because he accidentally caused a diplomatic incident. We’ll never know.

What I do know, however, is that if my friend/brother/dad/husband had gone to work one day and come back with a punch in the face from his boss, I’d be pretty incensed. I’d want to know what the company was going to do about it. I’m not sure I’d describe it as a ‘fracas’. I think I’d call it assault. At the least, bullying with violence. Gross misconduct.

And so it has been proven, and Clarkson has been sacked, potentially facing criminal proceedings. It doesn’t matter how good he is at his job. There are rules in the workplace – rules in life, actually – that state that you don’t punch someone in the face over steak and chips. No matter who you are, or what you’ve been doing all day. Even if a million people, the PM and the white Power Ranger still think you’re God’s gift. You’re an idiot.

And on that bombshell…

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