Here’s what it is, in a peanutshell:
So there you go: three jobs I ran away from. Now I want to hear from Scavella, Rob and Julie – tell everyone which jobs you ran away from. Your prize for revealing all on your blogs will be to nominate three other lucky people to play this fun game.
Gee, thanks, Rik. Whoop-ti-do.
Three Jobs I Ran Away From
- I always wanted to be a writer. The best (read most practical) way to do that, I figured, back when I was figuring these things out, was to go work for a newspaper. It so happened, way back when, that my uncle was the publisher of the morning paper (and a cousin of ours was the editor/publisher of the evening paper). I worked at the morning paper for a summer, learning from an expert editor how to write feature stories. I loved it. It was the summer in the middle of a two-year International Baccalaureate programme, and I was 17. I wrote about hurricanes, mostly. I had a ball.So naturally, the next year, I returned to the job. Things had happened in the meantime. My uncle had died — suddenly and too soon, as turned out to be common in my father’s family. The paper was Under New Management. And two days after I started work on the job — which was intended then to be my full-time, just-outta-school job at least for as long as it took me to return to university (I wasn’t intending then to do so; I’d had enough of school. Specifically enough of exams.) the New Management let some idiotic number like 15 people go. Reporters. Veterans. People who cost money. And the people who remained went on strike.
I found myself alone in the newsroom, facing the investigative reporter from the Other Paper, who asked eighteen-year-old me why I was there when nobody else was. I said I had no idea what was going on (it was true, but it was also evidence that I would’ve been a disaster then as a newspaper reporter; news tended to bore me, truth be told). And then I went to lunch and never went back.
- So I’m out of school and without a job, and I stayed that way all summer. It was a horrible summer, too. People were in mourning and my mother was finishing her PhD and my father was not coping as well as he might’ve hoped with losing his brother and taking care of two teenagers, one of whom (me) was Difficult and the other of whom (my brother) was Experimenting. And the city’s electrical supply, which was turning oh, eighty or so, failed so that we had an island-wide power cut that lasted for a whole week in the middle of July and August. And tempers were frayed. Lucky for my dad he had family who could save his sanity and mine, and I spent enough time with my grandmother and my aunt to make life worth living. My aunt was writing poetry, which was a good thing. My grandmother was just doing what she did — enjoying life, for which she had a gift. And what my father did was find me another job.This one was a cashier in a hotel. Front desk cashier, if you please. At what was then a four-star, European-style hotel on the Cable Beach Strip. (Check out Trust House Forte for more info.) Me, who wanted to be a writer and who had never excelled in Maths (forget the fact that I got an A in O-level Maths. That was a fluke, and anyway it was New Maths, which had more to do with shapes and concepts than number-crunching.) Shifts were 7-3, 8-4, 12-8, 3-11, and 4-12. Our supervisor, who made up the schedule, was a very nice woman, but congenitally disorganized. That meant that she made up the schedule one week at a time, and didn’t believe in giving people the same shift all week long, until they had their day off and they could adjust their sleeping/social schedule. And because I was the newbie, I got the worst combinations. Like 4-12, followed by 7-3, back to back.
It was a great job in some ways. I loved my fellow-workers. The cashiers were a renegade bunch. We checked people out, and we took their money. This meant that, unlike the Front Desk Clerks, who checked people in and gave them advice and information, we got to smile in people’s faces and laugh at them behind their backs because they invariably asked the cashiers the stupidest questions. Like: “It’s raining. My travel agent told me it doesn’t rain in The Bahamas.” Or, (on receiving Bahamian money for their Traveller’s Cheque): “Can I spend this here?” Or, “Who do you belong to?” (I never quite got over that one. I always wanted to say something like “Massa Forte” or something similar, but I was too young to actually deliver the line.) Or, “I didn’t buy all these drinks!!!”
In other ways, though, it was hell. One of the hellish things about it was I had to manage cash and I had to balance my float when I was finished with it. The worst shift for me was the 7-3 shift, which was the primary cashier and the shift that did all the check-outs, which meant it got the biggest take and needed the most balancing. Those days I invariably left work around 6 p.m., having had to count and recount my money again and again. Today I have no doubt I’d be a whiz at it; I learned skills on that job that have stayed with me forever. But at that time, all I could think was I was Bad At Maths.
The other hellish thing was that it was a brain-dead job. It was nice to deal with customers and so on, but I knew pretty quickly that if I had to hold a job like that for the rest of my life said life would end very quickly, from some self-inflicted injury. My mind was made up when I worked Christmas Day and Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and Easter. If there was anything that got me to go back to school, it was that job. I worked there for nine months, and then announced I was leaving. I left in May, which meant that maybe I got the post-Easter holidays — Whit Monday, and Labour Day, and Independence, and Emancipation. And so back to Canada I went.
- The third job I ran away from was perhaps the most fun of all. Once again, my father got it for me (he was my employment agent, bless him). It happened like this. I’m out of school, having just got my BA, and just recovering from what I’d discover later, when it recurred, far worse, a bout of mononucleosis (glandular fever to the Brits). I was feeling the pinch of not having an income, and was waiting for two jobs to kick in — a part-time position at the College of The Bahamas (teaching English) and a long-term job with the Bahamas Government (the first time, when I didn’t learn my lesson well enough). My father’s best friend phoned him and asked whether I could help them out — his law firm was having a mini-crisis in finding an appropriate receptionist. I took the job, and worked surrounded by lunatics who posed as lawyers. Well, they were lawyers, and damn good ones as well, but that didn’t stop them from being the most entertaining and eccentric bunch of people in one respectable profession that you can imagine. And then there were the two large, larger-than-life women who worked with me (I’m not large) — Frankie the office manager, and Jill the head receptionist. Jill dealt with major things, like the Switchboard and the Fax (which was a brand-new invention at that time). I dealt with the extension phone and the Telex. And Frankie told us what to do, and got roundly cussed-out by Jill, who had the foulest mouth on any woman I’ve run into.For a dead-end job, there were many things to amuse. Think Savannah and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and you’ll get an approximation of the kinds of characters who worked in this law firm. There was the running commentary from Jill, who peppered everything she said with “fuck” and “cunt” (which word I blocked out) and who operated the fax machine by cursing at it. There was the fact that the lawyers walked into the office past the receptionists without even noticing us — I wondered sometimes if they even knew we were there. And then there were the senior partners, who were six of the most eccentric men I’ve ever worked for in one place. Partner No. 1 was invisible; for the six weeks I worked there I think I saw him twice. Partner No. 2 was silent — a lovely man, a lay preacher, terrified of Manhattan (which he believed was going to sink into the sea from the weight of the buildings). Partner No. 3 was my father’s best friend, who’d got me the job — office manager, obsessive compulsive, a former headmaster who had never lost his schoolteacher ways, chain-smoker, coffee-swigger, brilliant in law and in writing and acting (which was what he did in his spare time). Partner No. 4 was the big-case man, who was far too important to be disturbed for anything. Partner No. 5 was the man who had nothing — NOTHING — on his desk, not even the phone. The desk was bigger than the reception area, and was polished to a shine, but he put nothing on it, ever. Partner No. 6 was the rogue. He would make his appearance, riding up in the elevator from the ground floor with a cigar in his mouth and a wicked grin on his face, and would step out like Satan from the lift in a cloud of smoke.
I left that job when I got the government one. I was and wasn’t sorry. I remember that one fondly, but I did run away from it. It was far too much fun to be real.
So there, Rik.