It's 9.23, and Andrew Edgar Wiseman the Third (not his real name) is freaking out.
He's had seven cups of coffee, on account of the regular coffee drinking competitions we undertake to break up the boredom of working at a place where even the lifts sleep half the day. As a statistics wrangler, our job, ironically, is not to wrangle statistics (they leave that to people with degrees in that area) but rather, to ring up people who haven't given us their statistics, and say, 'When do you think you can give us your statistics?' before they hang up on us, and we say, 'Ah, well.'
At other times they tell us that their cat has died or is getting married, or they used the form as a door jamb. For our part, we occasionally adopt accents, choose phrases to insert into the conversation, and have coffee drinking competitions with each other, what with Wiseman and I having long been seen as 'some last-minute hires who work as statistics wranglers, and may if they're lucky, get their six-months contracts renewed.'
So we get to work at 9.00, make eight calls each, and, because the bureau seems to operate in some Matrix-style time warp, it's now somehow 8.47. Wiseman has had his seven coffees, around a coffee a call, because he loves a challenge. He has two more, really just for shits and giggles, and then, at 9.23, it all gets too much.
I decide, having done my regular half hour's work, that it's time to play my other game, where I visit the toilets on levels 11 to 16 and grade them against each other. I don't know why I do this, as level 11 always wins, they're like the Hawthorn toilet club, for Christ's sake. But I'm on my way to do the right thing in case level 14 has been refurbished, or level 12 has dropped the ball, and then, as if sensing someone's taken the red pill, I look left, to a man with his head in his hands, vigorously shimmying his head as though he's more than ready to blame it on the boogie.
'Wiseman,' I say. 'You OK?'
'It's the EEH survey,' he says.
'Employee earnings and hours?' I helpfully reply. 'What about it?'
'I'm not sure, in a national sense, why we're tracking this data, or how it continues to shape our nation's fiscal strategy. Can you tell me?'
And I can't... because if there's one thing I've never been good at, it's working out what the hell we even do.
I know on Fridays we drink beer in a small room with a big pool table and then travel en-masse to a theme-pub in Northbridge, let's call it Dumbo goes to Bunnings (not its real name) because we've had precisely the right amount of Carlton Draught to make Love me Who sound even remotely like The Beatles. I know on Mondays we host coffee drinking competitions (I haven't the heart to tell Wiseman I've drunk decaf the whole time), and that on Wednesdays, we do actual work because statistics aren't just going to wrangle themselves, and what if one goes wild, heads to Hay Street and is a strong indicator of growth in the hospitality sector?
'You don't know what the EEH measures?'
He shakes his head.
'What about the AWE?'
'Me neither,' I say, a friendly hand on his shoulder. 'But they're important, I think. I've heard. Maybe.'
Because it's likely that they are. Perhaps, like Masters Iced Coffee, Delta Goodrem, and dim sims, these stats are a vital part of Australian culture.
But I won't tell Wiseman, not just yet. I'm not sure he can cope with it today.