In his seminal role in the 1993 film Falling Down, Michael Douglas portrays William - A defence worker who, having reached breaking point with society's numerous flaws, finally snaps. 

My favourite scene, sadistically, and in unison, as I have also encountered such a first-world problem, is when he attempts to purchase a McDonald's breakfast at 10.31am, one minute past the brekkie cut-off time. 

Granted, he ventured a tad over the line by pulling out a firearm to force the McWorkers into satisfying his urge for a Bacon and Egg McMuffin, but I begrudgingly admire his force of feeling in challenging such job-worthiness.

Now, being a semi centurion I, of course, am adept at keeping my temper in check, although, if I and my fellow workforce are brutally honest, we do occasionally daydream about throwing our toys out the pram when faced with corporate nonsense such as that encountered by William.

We reach an age where no doubt we all have a story as to that one time when we did tread over the line and go all ‘falling down.’ 

Mine came in my early twenties when I temped at a very well-known utility company off Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. I lasted an impressive three days. 

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis admits to 'falling down' when he was youngerBrett Ellis admits to 'falling down' when he was younger

The boss, a middle-aged, gaunt, rat-faced specimen was a real piece of work, constantly demeaning others and making nasty comments:  he was universally despised. He was one of those people you took an instant dislike to as it saved time later. 

So, on day three, as I sat inputting data, which is as crushingly dull a job as I have ever endured, he had an unprovoked dig at me, followed by his pushing my button by doing the one thing I really despise - bullying, and making cry, a lovely young single mother on an adjacent desk. 

I stood up and, littered between expletives, offered to take him outside before throwing a hole punch at him and attempting to grab him to dangle the weasel out of the first-floor window. 

I decamped, unemployed, to the local pub. When work finished sometime later, most of the staff body came in and gave me a round of applause and I left at closing time having not put my hand in my pocket all night.

So fast forward to today. We are faced, outside of work, with inputting data on unworkable Government systems, of calling up insurers who attempt to justify trebling premiums after leaving us on hold for 40 minutes despite the recorded message stating they are doing ‘all they can’ to help us (bar employing more staff). 

So, although we should not hold Douglas on a pedestal, as there by the grace of God go we, hoping we can manage to keep a lid on it whilst we are aware that the problem is not only that of just William.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher.