Diary of a Baltic exile - Work reeks

  • 2004-07-15
The other morning I went into Drogas, the popular chain of drug stores, to buy some deodorant and Colgate herbal (as if), and I was struck by the almost unbearable stench of the place.

The smell is the piquant combination of thousands, if not tens of thousands of chemicals, that go into everything from washing powder to shampoo to washing-up liquid to shoe polish. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the staff working there. Do they realize how dangerous it is to breathe in those noxious fumes all day long? Has anyone bothered to check the EU statute books on such a thing? I doubt the directors of Drogas have given it a second thought. They probably spent hours excitedly discussing what sort of uniform their sales staff should wear (bright orange), but not a second on the health risk of working day in day out in an enclosed space with toxic odors.
It seems to me that people still have to grasp the fact that they have a whole range of rights enshrined in law to protect them. The workplace in Latvia too often resembles the school playground in the way it's so hierarchical. People are frightened of speaking out against managers for fear of being sacked or sidelined.
The workplace lumps people together and then demands that they get along since they are forced to spend so much time in each other's company. We all know what it is like to work alongside a neurotic pedant who hides their inadequacies behind their "position." Or somebody who stinks so badly that they violate your human right for breathable air. Or people who are so mind-numbingly uninteresting that you want to duck beneath your desk whenever you see them coming.
But that's what fascinating about it - seeing what you can do with the human flotsam that comes your way.
I am a firm believer that the workplace must be well protected by law. Too many idiots bring their complexes along to the office for it not to be. Too many idiots believe in the importance of what they do, failing to see that the vast majority of all paid employment could quite easily be done by anyone else. But while we're at it, aren't those Drogas uniforms delightfully orange? A real treat for the eye.