As a directionless uni student a mere six months away from finishing her degree, the prospect of “growing up” and “getting a real job” genuinely terrifies me. Since I was 16, I have worked in every entry-level, low-income position that hospitality, retail and services industries have to offer. My jobs have varied from the banally boring to psychologically traumatizing, and every emotional state in between.
Despite my sometimes horrifying track record with casual employment, if I had my time again I wouldn’t change anything. Every experience has left me a stronger, meaner, wittier and a generally more well-balanced person. So before I descend into the world of 9-5 responsibility, I’ve decided to reflect on the ghosts of my part-time job’s past.
At 12 years of age I landed my first “gig” babysitting for the lady across the street. Her children were quiet, weird and just really boring. So it was easy money. Before I knew it I was being pimped out among the mothers of my younger sibling’s friends, and I was making some serious ca$h. We’re talking, $30. A night. Unfortunately though, kids who live in the western suburbs and go to private primary schools are fucking shit heads. I had to get out of that game before I killed one of them.
“Funky” discount women’s clothing store
My first ever “real job” was a Christmas holiday position at my local shopping centre. I had trudged up and down the three levels, submitting my resume anywhere that would accept it. I received one job offer. It was definitely not in my top 10 preferences, but being in Year 11 I had a social life that my $20 a week pocket money just wasn’t covering anymore. So I took the job. The employment only lasted around six months, before the company declared bankruptcy and let the staff find out through the media. Professional. During my employment, I was subjected to the same 30 songs from the early 2000s on repeat for every eight hour shift, a supervisor who was a major over-sharer (telling a 16 year old about your impending abortion is a touch inappropriate) and forced to wear the garish clothes. Think white-wash bootleg jeans, diamante-encrusted singlets, tacky emblazoned shirts and cheap unflattering lycra and you’ve got an insight to my daily attire.
Function centre with very questionable business practices
This was my second job and first foray into the world of hospitality. Throughout my four years I was subjected to systematic bullying from one of my supervisors, which went on without intervention despite my many complaints. I was discriminated against based on my gender and age by a sexist, misogynist asshole. I was verbally abused by the head chef, but as anyone who has worked in hospitality will tell you, that’s pretty standard. I was hit on by countless old drunk men and gave my number to a fair few groomsmen. I cleaned up vomit in the bathrooms, pot plants, under the tables and on the balcony. Every now and then however, something truly amazing would happen, and make the hell worthwhile, like walking in on a boss fucking his secretary at the Christmas party while his wife sat at the table with Brian from payroll, completely clueless.
Generic discount shoe store
I hate working in retail. I don’t know why I thought getting a supplementary income over the Christmas holiday period one year would be a good idea. It was not. Christmas music. Self important high school kids. Wearing the stock. Up-selling. I get chills just thinking about it.
Local Italian restaurant with stereotype-confirming owner
There’s not really much to say about this place except that the owner was a cunt and I think I stopped turning up to shifts after two weeks. My family was pissed off because I never even got one free pizza for my trouble.
Boutique office space with solely female employees
I still work here once a week, and it’s the main reason the idea of a 9-5 job terrifies me to my very core. I’m responsible for exhilarating tasks such as stuffing 1000 envelopes, signing the dangerous goods declaration on postage bags and assembling lanyards. Mostly I spend my days explaining the same common-sense shit over and over to the bat-shit-crazy, menopausal, technologically retarded women who work there. What’s more, I have to request a key from the receptionist when I need to pee. What is this, fucking primary school?
Upscale catering company
This is by far my most enjoyable job. I love the people I work with and I have a superb boss. But the clients are – for the most part – total wankers. Due to the price point of the organisation the more regular clients are generally from the upper-crust of Brisbane social circles. They’re condescending, rude and smug, and I often find myself turning to alcohol to make it through functions. I find it hard to identify with people who are willing to spend $4000 on a christening party, only for the little girl to spend the whole time crying and looking extremely uncomfortable in her expensive and pretty, but movement-restricting dress. Also one time I had to serve Campbell Newman coffee and scones, AND smile AND be polite. That in itself was almost reason enough to quit.
Upon reflection and with the knowledge gained from my current internship I can safely say that I’m not yet emotionally or mentally equipped for a real job. So despite my grievances, the fact that I can turn up to work still drunk from the night before without anyone batting an eyelid is a freedom I’m not yet ready to sacrifice.
Written by Katrina Shimmin-Clarke. Photo by Zack Huggins