Friday, 12 October 2007

Just a few jobs I've had....


I have had my fair share of jobs. I got my first taste of the employment when I was fourteen.

I spent a week with a friend at her Aunt's house in a rural town near a popular seaside haunt. Her Aunt and Uncle lived in a little house out the back of a corner deli, which they owned and operated.

As part of our keep, my friend and I were to help Uncle and Auntie here and there...it was not stringently enforced and my friend attempted to weasel out of the commitment whenever she sighted an open avenue for escape.

It was a fun week...I had a ball. We even went to the old pre-dawn fruit and veg market on Rundle Street in Adelaide (known as East End) - that really was a great experience - to witness such a frenzy of confusion, energy and activity - the market smells, the haggling, the forklifts gliding from pallet to truck and back again, the frosty morning air, the orange glow of poor lighting, the accents ...it seemed that the world was there, and all this, while the majority slept; unaware of the energies that had gone into ensuring one had fresh bananas in store, ready for breakfast.

That first good work experience lead me to seek out similar work a couple months later, in the local roadhouse/truckstop. I enjoyed working there, but I was a junior to many senior women, who would have preferred to have been anywhere other than that place. These women worked because they had to, and so I, like most of the young part timers there, became the target of their resentment, and was treated with about as much respect and consideration as the rat shit under the shelves in the store room.

My next taste of employment came in the weeks after finishing year 12. Ashley and I took a job in an apricot orchard as fruit cutters and pickers. It was an incredibly sexist environment. Women and kids were paid to cut the fruit, and ONLY the men were allowed to pick it. "So...who cares?", I hear you say. Well, back then, the men were paid $10 per hour to pick fruit, but the cutters were paid $1 per tray of cut apricots. Now I tried the apricot cutting by hand. It was not easy, especially if one wanted to make decent money, and lets face it, why would anyone be there otherwise?

I would cut as fast as I could all day and only manage a rate of $4 per hour. Yep, it took me 15 minutes to complete one tray, and that was working at top speed while cutting my hands to ribbons in the meantime....what a complete waste of time.

I did have a win in that establishment though. I complained to the boss that I was very slow at the hand cutting and the boss' wife started me up working the cutting machine - this task paid $10 per hour.

Ashley left me in the middle of the season to start his apprenticeship, but I battled on and pestered the boss to let me pick the fruit with the men (anything but the hand cutting). He always promised to "think about it", but with each day came disappointment. On what was to be the final day of the season, I had yet another win....I was asked to come out and pick fruit. I felt triumphant in my quest to have once again avoided the drudgery that was hand cutting.

The team was made up of a dozen or so men ranging from their early twenties to late sixties. It was a bit of a farce really. They basically stuffed around the entire time, smoked cigarettes, took turns sitting on their bums while telling lewd jokes in order to embarrass me; all the while I slaved to prove my worth. I was proud of myself when the boss told me I was a fine worker and how he would be happy to have me back again next year - he concluded his note of approval by telling me I was "just as good as any one of the blokes"....what a bloody insult!

After that job, I moved out of home and into the city. It was the 90's recession and jobs were scarce, but I managed to get a job in a cafe. It was unchallenging, but the boss was nice, so it was enjoyable enough until the business was sold. I don't know why my new boss agreed to keep me on. He seemed to resent my being in his employ, and on my nineteenth birthday I was unceremoniously sacked for being too old - I was no longer a junior you see...best birthday present ever - in hindsight of course - I was free to find something better.

The best job I have had - to date - was found in a seaside tourist town where my parents lived; it was in the local video shop. You might think that sounds like a bludgers deal, but this was a HUGE video shop with over 6,000 titles. It was also the local recorded music shop, and later a photo processing shop as well- I was so busy I barely knew what to do first. It was great. The best bit was that I often worked in the place by myself, especially during the dead of winter. I treated that place like it were my own, and my bosses, a married couple, placed their full trust and confidence in me, which was a great feeling. Of course I endeavored to never let them down. They were an interesting pair. The wife was so lovely. She treated me like a friend rather than an employee. The husband was frequently hilarious - though he was quite oblivious to this fact. I remember one time the local pharmacist barged in accusing me of mishandling his "standing order of football tickets" - (we were also a ticketing agency for various events, and football tickets were a hot item that year; often selling out within minutes of them coming on sale). The pharmacist suggested that I was deliberately not processing his ticket order, because his "friend" had bought them recently and had said there were many remaining. In my defense, my boss simply and unapologetically informed the pharmacist "ya mate's pullin' his pud" - which, to the untrained ear, is Australian for - I am sorry Sir, but you are sadly mistaken, and your male friend appears to be a masturbator - I could barely contain my hysterics, while the stuffy old pharmacist quickly retreated from the premises in a humbled dither.

I think the worst job I ever had was the sales clerk job for a jeweler. Sounds glamorous, but most of the time was spent pacing the seldom frequented shop floor, stalking and casing the joint to become the first to snare anyone who dared venture even halfway into the front door. The rest of the time was spent cleaning all finger prints and face marks off the glass, both inside and outside of the shop.

In order to meet your monthly sales target you had to sell big time, and when times were lean, you really didn't care if it was the ugliest piece of crap you had ever set eyes on and had previously shuddered at the very thought of any fool trying it on, let alone buying the odious object - but when under pressure, suddenly everything "looks STUNNING on you, darl". Having to lower myself to such cheap and deceitful tactics was perhaps the most degrading aspect of the job, and I have never let myself forget that. I quit when I was accepted into University and although I was asked to return for the Christmas sales period, but I declined...I still felt dirty.

I have never set the world alight on the career front, but I wouldn't change any one of these experiences - for they all have truly coloured my world.

For more job expereinces check out this weeks Sunday Scribblings.

9 comments:

paisley said...

you did a great job on this every job came thru loud and clear... loved it...

gautami tripathy said...

What diverse jobs you have had over the years!

I enjoyed reading this especially the bit about fruit cutting!

tumblewords said...

Enjoyed reading your post! Amazing that we all survived the early throes of career search!

sister AE said...

Your descriptions of past jobs is very entertaining - I imagine they are even more so now that they are in the past.

Kathleen said...

Really enjoyed this post. You did a great job of sharing each job experience with us. I always enjoy your writings when you "delve into the past." Good job!

Patois said...

Ah, yes, what we'll say when we're under pressure. Sad, but true. I love your detail on the apricot outfit.

Catherine said...

I've noticed that agricultural jobs, in general, never pan out well for women. And yet, generally, they work ten times harder. I pulled onions in an onion field one day... ONE DAY... and I absolutely couldn't keep up with the other women. The men worked more at my pace and I'm more than sure they were getting paid more, too. This was my long-winded way of saying, "I totally empathize with your fruit-cutting experience!" :)

Pendullum said...

I think after reading this post, I will never look at an apricot and not think of you...

Brissiemum2 said...

Wow! What a lot of jobs. I was tired just reading about them. Lol! I would have loved to work in a video store, too. Hope you got to view lots of latest releases for free! I have only ever had a few jobs....the one I have now and a couple of jobs in take away chicken shops while I was at college. They were the worst...messy, tiring and hot in the middle of summer! Yuck!