Sometimes I think I work in a madhouse. For anyone who had managed to miss this, I work at an upcoming (smallish) finance magazine as an editor. Actually the only editor. My boss is the big guy.

Anyway, when I joined my team seemed like a bunch of normal friendly people. However, over the months, it has appeared they are not as they originally seemed. Here is the cast of characters:

1) The Hermit: Once referred to as Sweet Office Slug (SOS), and that name still holds good too but I often don’t remember to use it. He is tiny bald man who comes in the earliest and leaves the latest. It is a complete shock if there is something about finance he does not know – nevertheless, he is apparently scared of boss and exhibits a scuttly timidish behaviour about him which I find mystifying considering in my opinion, if he left, everything would collapse.

I used to love The Hermit but sometimes his deferrence drives me crazy. Such as when he quivers with fear and says ‘But He says…” ‘He’ being our boss. I am always rolling my eyes in my mind and going “so what?”

2) Planet R: R is not a person but a phenemenon. He does not seem to live in the real world, but as E says, on Planet R. This is a place characterized by delusions of grandeur – where he can make believe that he is a great journalist while all the while secretly wanting to be a banker. This makes for an odd combination. His desire to be a banker makes R put on a reverential tone when speaking of bankers and referring to them by their first name and the bank by some kind of shortened name that indicates intimacy. For example, if someone says “At Merrill Lynch blah blah…” he will says, “Where Merrill?” You cannot imagine how irritating this is. On the other hand, because he fancies himself a journalist, he asks really controversial questions during interviews without any tact whatsoever – to the tune of “But isn’t HSBC doing better” repeated at least thrice to a banker from a rival bank – with the result that he is not a liked entity. And he senses this. So the result is that he is more vicious in his interviews but still gets miffed if E and I make fun of the banking industry (because he is smart enough to realise that this in some way diminishes all those involved in it – namely him). It’s a love-hate thing.

It plays out schizophrenically in his writing where the first paragraph will be glowingly positive – peppered with words such as ‘considerable’ ‘truly’ and ‘robust’ – and the next one horribly negative, followed by positive and so on.

But the thing that irritates me the most about R is that he is physically unable to submit a copy on time. I can see him writing it so I know he’s not fobbing off but he just cannot LET GO. The result is that I cannot rely on anything by him to actually come. In the most famous incident, we have a special report planned and he is writing up a story for this and it is already way past the deadline and he goes of to Singapore without turning it in. With much glee I just drop the story and the Mr R comes back from Singapore after the mag has gone to press and says “Hey sorry about that, I’ll definitely send you the copy tonight, actually believing that I would have NOT called him shouting blue murder but actually held the mag for him. When he realized I had dropped it, he was speechlesss. A very special day indeed.

The most surprising thing about R is that he can be vicious. He is horrible to E because she is doing the job he used to and he is scared she is doing it better, desptie being a newbie. He was nasty to the previous guy as well.

We are convinced he is gay, which would explain a lot of things, but not excuse bad behaviour.

3) May: is Chinese of the kind that cannot speak English confidently despite an English Lit major. To compensate, she tries to catch me and E out wherever possible and look surprised that we don’t know something. But becuase she is always giggly, you find it hard to believe that she is being evil. I bonded with May a bit and am still latently fond of her, but of late she has been getting on my nerves. Mainly because of inability to write quickly and insubordination which she thinks I do not notice: such as going to pointless press cons just because she wants to when a story is due and thinking that I will consider it work, promising to write something over the weekend (because she has not finished in the week) and then not doing it and not saying why she didn’t do it etc. Gah!

4) E: is the only person in HK that I truly identify with but the thing is that she is slightly insane. I mean really. She admits she is on prozac. Which means that she talks really loudly and has an upbeat attitude that will not really sense rejection or refuse to be rejected. And her life is strangely in flux all time – she is always moving and running out of money. It’s sad because this means that I can only be this close to E because I never know when she will land up on my doorstep asking to be taken in.

She is also unable to walk into office before eleven and that would be fine if she managed to submit stuff on time. Which she doesn’t. Gah again.

(Ok I’ve realised that with the above three people my main problem is that they don’t submit on time)

5) Delusional D: D is the Big Boss. I used to be a bit afraid of him as one is supposed to be of their bosses but I can’t be bothered now. The good thing is that he’s a great editor – I really love the way he writes, he makes all the finance stuff sound interesting and he comes out with great headlines. The bad thing is that he really cannot tell ugly from not and so we end up with disastrous covers. And he really believes in what he’s doing (fair enough – since he started the mag from scratch) but he tries to get everyone to believe in it too. So he’ll sometimes give me a PR spiel on some project which I know is crap the thing actually is as if he expects me to actually believe it. Weird.

6) Idiosyncratic Indian: And there’s me. Can I be faulted for thinking that despite the occasional red capris, I actually am the only sane one here?