June 2nd, 2005

And now for something completely different…

Based on a true story…

Siobhan was the latest in a long line of blonde receptionists who sat on the front desk, answered phones and generally looked decorative. Either someone in HR had read a management magazine that said blonde receptionists looked professional, or someone in HR had a serious thing for blondes.

She was better than Nikki-with-two-ks, who’d only lasted three weeks and could barely spell anyone else’s name (though she was loudly insistent on the spelling of her own), let alone work a switchboard. Nikki-with-two-ks was small, with long straight hair and an unfortunate fondness for orange. Siobhan was taller, skinnier, and her hair didn’t reach her shoulders. She looked like she had a little bit more going on upstairs (not that that was difficult) and she could, at least, work the switchboard. Her hair was actually pink the first week she started, the remnants of a red dye. It reverted to blonde the week after.


‘I’m going tannin’ tonight.’ Siobhan told me cheerfully one Monday. ‘No more white skin for me!’
‘Tanning? Why?’ I said, looking at her in case she’d been bleached of all her colour overnight. She was light pink. A bit more colour on her cheeks. Normal. She had more colour then me, but then so did magnolia paint.
‘Because I’m all pale and boring. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, being pale,’ she said, looking at me. ‘But like, it doesn’t suit me.’
‘I like pale.’
‘Well, yeah, but it suits you. I look all pasty.’ She looked fine, but I’d learnt from my sisters that there was no talking to people. They seemed to lose all reason where bombarding themselves with UV rays was concerned.
‘Well…have fun, I suppose.’
‘Oh, I will’ she said brightly. ‘I’m going with Selene from upstairs.’
I nodded and left her to it.


She was on the desk the next morning, looking – as far as I could tell – exactly the same as she had the night before.
‘Have fun at tanning?’ I asked, and she made a face like I’d made a bad joke.
‘Ha. Tanning.’
‘Don’t talk to me about tanning.’
‘Yeah. Right. Um, sorry, were you going tanning last night or did I make that up?’
‘Well, I went to the tanning shop, right, and we were reading the leaflet, and it was all d’you burn easily, have you got fair skin, all that stuff, and Selene was talking about Big Brother, and then I couldn’t read the leaflet, and then I couldn’t hear Selene, and then I came round and it was five minutes later and I was on the floor.’
‘You fainted?’
‘In the tanning shop?’
‘Yeah. It was too hot. I faint in the heat. I fainted on the train like three times last year. Selene said I just went down like bam!!’ she punctuated the sentence with a loud clap. ‘And after that they wouldn’t let me tan. So no UV rays for me -’
‘That’s probably a good thing.’ I felt obliged to point out.
‘ - So I’m going to have a spray tan instead.’
‘A spray tan?’
‘Yep.’ She looked exceptionally pleased with herself for coming up with this.
‘Um, Siobhan...’
‘Isn’t the spray tanning done in the same place as the sunbeds?’
‘So won’t you just faint from the heat again?’