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You know how it goes. There you are, flipping through the pages of the office stationery catalogue wondering whether the administrative budget will stretch to a six-pack of Pilot V5 Hi-Tecpoint Rollerball (extra fine), when your mind is violently distracted by a strange and curious temptation towards the back of the book: the Habisphere Lifestyle Desktop Terrarium.

这一幕想必各位都很熟悉。你拿起一本办公用品目录飞快地翻看,盘算着行政预算还够不够凑一盒6支装的百乐(Pilot)牌V5 Hi-Tecpoint中性笔(要特细的)。莫名一阵强烈的好奇感涌上心头,你直接跳到了目录的背面:一台办公桌玻璃生态缸。

Never mind the feint-ruled yellow notebooks and lever-arch files. You require a more potent symbol to accessorise your office. Something that reflects your appetite for the battle — your fearsomeness in the face of adversity, your quiet stealth. What you need, is this very terrarium and a lethally poisonous arachnid to house within it . . .


Or something like that.


One can only imagine the internal dialogue that persuaded the former chief whip — now defence minister — Gavin Williamson to raise a tarantula while tending to the ministries of government. Presumably he thought it would act as an appropriate and possibly humorous metaphor. Or at least keep people away. After all, few things say “I’m a colossal weirdo” like a colleague who keeps a pet spider named after the Greek god Cronos, the all-devouring King of the Titans, next to his computer mouse.

至于英国国防大臣、前保守党党鞭加文•威廉姆森(Gavin Williamson)的内心究竟发生过何种斗争,会让他带着一只狼蛛服务于政府各个部门,大家就不得而知了。也许,他认为这看起来像一个贴切、可能还很幽默的隐喻,至少能让人保持距离。毕竟,如果有个同事在鼠标旁边养上一只宠物蜘蛛,还给它起名为希腊神话中的诸界吞噬泰坦神——克罗诺斯(Cronos),还有比这更能显示“我是一个超级怪人”的吗。

Williamson’s decision to share his workspace with a creature poised to asphyxiate its enemies with a lethal venom might act as a handy shorthand for a don’t-mess-with-me attitude. But his acquisition of such a bald accoutrement of power seems a bit Dr No in its ambition, far too flamboyant to be genuinely representative of real authority. While possession of an office pet does usually signify an elevated status, there are subtler ways in which to signal one’s superiority.

威廉姆森决定在办公室饲养这种会发射致命毒液,可让对手中毒窒息的狼蛛,或许是想隐晦地传递出一种“别惹我”的态度。但他选择这样一种张牙舞爪的生物,看上去反倒有点像野心勃勃的诺博士(Dr No),过于浮夸,反而不能真正体现实际权威。尽管在办公室里养宠物通常确实会彰显自己高人一等,但有很多更加巧妙的办法来体现地位的尊贵。

To convey power with one’s desk space is a fine and nuanced art — especially in the modern office, where open-plan desk spaces are the norm, and the spectre of hot-desking is becoming a daily reality. My desk, for example, may currently showcase a bottle of dog shampoo, petrifying ball of rubber bands, expired orchid plant and 25 plastic Pret A Manger spoons, but look behind the perfume bottles and you’ll see a tasty black and white postcard print of myself and the Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière, a customised thank-you note from Dolce & Gabbana and a card from Tom Ford. (Who sent the orchid.)

通过办公桌来展露权力是一门高雅精细的艺术——尤其是在现代办公室,一般都是开放式办公桌,人们都开始担心会发展到轮用办公桌了。就拿我的桌子来说吧。你在上面可以找到一瓶小狗用的洗发水,一团乱如麻的橡皮筋,一盆枯萎的兰花,还有25把Pret A Manger家的塑料勺。但越过那堆香水瓶,你可以看到一张格调高雅、印有我与路易威登(Louis Vuitton)设计师尼古拉•盖斯基埃(Nicolas Ghesquière)合影的黑白明信片,一张杜嘉班纳(Dolce & Gabbana)专门写给我的致谢函,还有一张来自Tom Ford的贺卡(正是他送我的兰花)。

Communicating one’s impressiveness should be whittled down to a few talismanic details. Obviously, any self-respecting leader must first acquire an ergonomically designed lumbar-supporting chair. The chair should be larger and wider than anyone else’s, cost several thousand pounds, and be positioned in such a way that anyone else who sits in it will find it unbearably uncomfortable.


Desktop accessories, meanwhile, should be displayed as artlessly as possible. To make a lasting impact, one’s authority should be slowly insinuated rather than thrust in others’ faces. Save the silver-plated snapshots of yourself negotiating world peace with the leaders of the free world for your bathroom, and litter the desk instead with cryptic souvenirs: a loveworn softball signed by a much admired statesman should roll aimlessly about the table top. That note reminding you to return David Attenborough’s phone call should be casually tacked to the phone. A stack of handwritten notes from the leaders of your industry thanking you for your “kind words” and shared wisdoms should be collecting in a clearly visible yet insouciant pile.

此外,桌上物品的摆放应尽可能地自然。应慢慢地、一步步展露权威,而不是一股脑都亮出来,这样才能有持久效应。那些你与自由世界领导人商讨世界和平的镶银框照片还是留到卫生间挂吧。桌子上应该随意散放一些令人不明所以的纪念品:一个把玩得有些泛旧的垒球,上面有某位备受爱戴的政治家的签名,就那么无目的地在桌上乱滚。提醒你别忘回电戴维•阿滕伯勒(David Attenborough,著名BBC纪录片导演——译者注)的便签就那么随意粘在电话上。还要在显眼的地方,漫不经心地摞上一沓你所在行业领袖的手写信,感谢你的“溢美之词”和分享的经验。

Obviously, a few copies of your latest book should be loitering about the place. Only a few, though. You mustn’t give the impression of having written a book that no one wants to buy. You should also make sure to furnish yourself with a copy of whatever is currently stimulating an entirely different field of industry than your own — to demonstrate your breadth of interest and towering intellect.


Fleeting insights into your former glories should also be conspicuous. A yellowing press cutting detailing an early-life triumph, like your success as a rowing blue or world Sudoku champion, are all excellent materials for display. Ideally this information should be accompanied by an image of you looking excruciatingly geeky. You may have achieved the highest placing in the world’s 400m hurdles championship, but you’re not vain.


Women, especially, will do much to convince others of their unassailable magnificence with a crude illustration or birthday message from a small dependent. Screensavers of your family safari holiday to Botswana are unacceptable — too showy. Ideally the note should be small and say something like “Mummy, you work an 80-hour week and we’re so proud of you”. If this is not forthcoming, then you should at least be rendered in a superhero’s cape.


But the absolute masters and mistresses of the workplace are those who reveal much by revealing almost nothing at all. By far the most impressive and influential colleague I worked with was also one of the most stubbornly inscrutable. As such, he acquired an intriguing mythology among us. Who was he really? Where did he go each night? Was he actually a foreign spy?


Tucked away in the corner of his desk he kept a blurry snapshot in a tiny frame. One day, when he went on one of his daily wanders to who knows where, we snuck over for closer inspection only to discover it was a picture of him — wrestling a bear. Take that, incey wincey.


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