Endgame: Time is money
Laurie Taylor keeps his meter running
I met a man the other day who earns £455,000 a year. We had what might be described as a civilised conversation. We both regretted England’s early exit from the World Cup, found a few words of praise for the political coalition, and expressed some general gratitude for the clement weather.
But although I did my best to pretend that this was a conversation like any other, I knew with a terrible certainty during every moment of its course that nothing my companion might say could ever be sufficiently momentous to distract my attention from the awesome size of his emolument, the unbridled grandiosity of his package, the stupendousness of his stipend.
Even before we met I’d begun my calculations. That £455,000 a year worked out at just under £38,000 a month, or £8,750 a week or about £1,250 a day, or (assuming a waking day of 15 hours) about £83 an hour or just slightly under £1.39 a minute.
So, during the brief 20 minutes of our conversation, my companion had earned £27.76, a figure, I reflected, that was remarkably close to the £27.50 I’d paid, very grudgingly, at Gap the Saturday before for my three mixed-colour holiday T-shirts. Yes, here was a man who could earn half a holiday outfit in roughly the time it took me to find my house keys on a Monday morning or complete a Moderate Sudoku in the Guardian.
After our little chat had ended and my companion had wandered off to earn more money elsewhere in the room, I found myself wondering if he also found himself constantly reflecting on the huge lump of money that cascaded into his bank account every month. Did he, for example, ever enjoy a large solitary dinner at an expensive restaurant, look at the final £150 bill and work out that even at that price he was still quids up on the evening. All the asparagus and tender steak and profiteroles and crisp white wine that he’d consumed had not impinged upon his hourly earnings by a single cent. In fact he would be going home a whole £10 better off than when he’d first taken his seat in the restaurant.
And after the meal did he take a taxi home and reflect as the meter raced round that it would need to travel at nearly 20 times its normal speed in order to match the amount of money he was earning by merely slumping in the back seat?
During the somewhat dull last years of my teaching at university, I used to place my watch on the desk before me so that I could calculate the precise amount of money I was earning every minute and allow myself to imagine that this sum in the form of half-crowns and florins was being regularly dropped into a tin bucket outside the door of my tutorial room. At £12 an hour this amounted to a grand total of 96 half-crowns for a single seminar. More than one every minute. “Let us begin today’s seminar with a very slow reading of the register. Is everybody ready? Good. Abbott. Bentinck. Cooper. Evans.” Clang. Clang.
But imagine the size of the receptacle that would be needed to accommodate the minute-by-minute earnings of my companion. A half-crown would have to clang into his specially-designed enormous bucket every five seconds. A Las Vegas jackpot every five minutes.
A couple of days after we’d met I glanced up at the digital readout on my radio and realised that my companion was being interviewed about some aspect of his work. I watched as his name and the title of programme repeatedly scrolled before me. I knew what I was hoping for. I was hoping that the DAB text would append one extra detail, would follow his name with a solid pair of brackets within which was inscribed that critical extra piece of data: £455,000 a year.
It’s a development that, if universally adopted by the media, would surely do much to increase national equality. How could anyone tolerate a presenter bullying a striker about holding the country to ransom when a subtitle on the screen told us the presenter enjoyed a salary of £200,000 compared to the £27,214 earned by the striker? How could we allow ourselves to go on laughing at a comedian on a panel show when the subtitle so clearly showed that each of his awful gags was netting him nearly 500 quid a time?
After thinking about it for some time I’ve decided not to include the name of my well-loaded companion in this piece. He enjoys a position of authority over me. It would, in other words, only take him the best part of half an hour to organise my dismissal. Thirty minutes in which he’d have earned, just a minute now, ah yes, a little over 40 quid.