CURRICULUM WORSTAE #10: QUITTING

Congratuwatchout!

There are some thoughts that you can only reach when walking through freezing, mist-filled streets at 4am, when a crazy man is screaming monotonously in the distance, when drunk nightclub people are still waiting for taxis to get home. My thought was this: I have made some mistakes. My thought was: Some people are experiencing worst things than this, like leg amputation and pregnancy and medically not being able to eat cheese. My subsequent thought: Those people are not me right now, this is still awful.

As I waited for the first train of the morning to lumber into the station like a long hippo with a stinky moist inside that we all sat in, my final thought was: I am quitting my job this month.

Probably the only thing I truly admire about myself is that once I have made a decision I will pursue it with the tenacity of a brain-damaged terrier chasing a seagull. That day at work, buzzed on the thousand coffees I drank secretly in a toilet stall, I made lists. Lists of potential things I could do, ranked and cross-referenced with pros and cons lists. Lists of all the lists I would make. Colour-coded lists. Secret lists.

A week later, I was enrolled in an Honours degree at university. The problem with my dum-dum dog tenacity is that sometimes it means the ideas I pursue aren’t GOOD ideas, but the fact that I then dropped out of that degree about two weeks in is another story for another time.

If you’ve never had the experience of quitting a job you truly detest, I thoroughly recommend you do so. It’s like walking down a shadowy alley and seeing all the muggers surround you, but unknown to them – you are a ninja robot killing machine. Inside you are only more indestructible steel.

On the day I discovered I’d been accepted into the degree and its subsequent Centrelink payment (which I never received, FYI) I stomped my metallic legs into my boss’s office and told her I was quitting. It’s not so much that I disliked my boss, it’s that I thought she was a terrible person and really bad at her job. Also, I disliked her. Fun things that we’d been through together: the time she threatened to fire me after a customer spat at me, the time she tried to deny me a day off for a funeral, the time she changed all my shifts to the 5am starts.

In my head, I dreamt our showdown would be full of snark and wit. I wanted to be like ‘say goodbye to all of this, you monster, good luck replacing my particular brand of apathy and incompetence’. Instead, I found myself being overly polite and telling her how much I’d enjoyed working in the place that had probably given me a minor drinking problem.
I told her I’d be happy to stay for another two weeks and help train my replacement, and also subtly sabotage things around me and really wallow in my leaving. I wondered if I could somehow take her down with me. But, being my diabolical arch-nemesis, she was like ‘Actually, this can be your last day. Please write a formal letter of resignation and… we can leave it at that.’ She tapped her sharp nails on the table as a dismissal, and I left the office, feeling cheated. This was supposed to be my amazing, drawn out and dramatic leaving, showing that i’d won. Somehow, she’d reversed everything and made me feel dismissed.

I spent the next few hours trying to work out a way to one-up her. I plotted stealing things, or leaving fruit somewhere. I schemed leaving a series of cryptic notes hidden around the store to mess with her mind and maybe even drive her insane. And then, when it was my lunch break, I realised… I could just leave. I could just walk out of there, and let all the anger and spite leak from the back of my head like baby drool.

So I gathered my stuff, said goodbye surreptitiously to the people I liked, left my resignation note on my bench and strode into the future, an uncontrollable smile pasted across my smarmy face.

But also because I am in no way above absurd spiteful gestures, my letter of resignation was a penguin holding a sign that says ‘I quit.’

 

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This was the LAST in my #curriculumworstae series. Thanks so much for coming along on the ride. I’ll be starting a new series on Facebook soon, which will also be published on this blog. The support for these stupid stories was amazing! YOU GUYS ROCK SO MUCH.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #9: BEAN DOWN SO GODDAMN LONG

Robots

‘Err, umm, God bless?’ I muttered as I handed over my resume to the angry looking woman behind the counter. She immediately and visibly brightened.
‘And God bless you too!’
It had been rumoured for a long time that Gloria Jeans was owned by the Hillsong Church and was staffed entirely by brainwashed evangelists. I’d been wandering the streets forweeks by that point, desperate for any sort of casual wage so I could pay the rent. I felt that passing myself off as a believer was a small price to pay
She took a cursory look at my one page CV and winked at me. ‘We’ll give you a call.’

A week later I stood behind the counter at Gloria Jeans for a trial shift. The place smelt like coffee in pain. They taught me various ways to torture the beans – the crushing device, the milk burner, the thing where you put the ingredients and steam goes in it? In seemingly no time at all, I knew all the basics of how to utterly mutilate a cup of coffee.
‘Here you go, have a cup of the coffee you made!’ said my excited sixteen-year-old manager.
‘Please no’ I whispered. She looked at me like a puppy meeting a sassy tropical bird.
‘I’m lactose intolerant’ I told her.

My Bible-fearing, milk-hating web of lies collapsed by the third day, when my carefully contrived persona was shattered when one of the ‘baristas’ handed me a boiling hot metal thing that you packed full of beans and then shot boiling water through. The boiling hot coffee thing. He handed it to me, potentially to clean the beans out, but not being able to read his mind or identify the contraption, simply grabbed it in my hand.
‘JESUS CRAPPING ON A DOG’ I screamed, as the super heated metal burnt my hand skin.
‘God fucking mother shit’ I continued, running it under water. All the teen management looked at me scandalised. The customers, people who willingly put our boiling bean-swill in their mouths, couldn’t care less, obviously being either incredibly tough or devoid of feelings and taste. Later that day someone asked which church I attended. My breezy answer of ‘the one around the corner, you know, Saint MUrmbls’ didn’t seem to cut it. I was caught by a manager sitting at a REAL coffee shop on my break, desperately inhaling un-poisoned caffeine into my face.

When I was let go at the end of the week, in an exit-interview held by two High School dropouts, who were concerned that in the end, I might find somewhere else which would make me happier to work (re: literally anywhere else), I took my trial shift money and realised that sometimes, no matter how desperate you are, you have to draw the line. Look what I’d become – a creature of lies and malice, literally burned in the course of trying to make a buck. It was time to take a stand, and never again would I blasphemy like that – from now on, I would never impugn the holy name of coffee. Because if there’s one thing I believe in, in this crazy, mixed up world, it’s coffee.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #8: KNIFE FIGHT

Mosquitoes

Hey, think you’re pretty tough working at the LAVA FACTORY or in the SWORD FIGHTING PIT, I bet you do. Oh, you save kittens from fires, do you? Oh, you climb tall mountains to study goats, that’s pretty dangerous, I suppose. If you’re, like, I dunno, a giant wuss?

Me? No, I don’t working in the danger-field anymore, I got out of that racket, you can bet on it, whoo-boy. Yeah, I worked at Boyles Hotel in Sutherland. Yeah – that Boyles. The Boyles on the ass of the Shire. They say bikies used to frequent the joint in the eighties, and start fights and do other things that bikies do. Like sing ‘Leader of the Pack’ and turn into werewolves. Yeah – bikie stuff. And you know, all the bikies who didn’t die from their violent lifestyle – they’re still there. Yeah, you can see them in the corner, on dialysis and shit. And let me tell you, they sure get mad if you don’t mix their Toohey’s Old and Toohey’s New in exactly the correct amounts. Real mad. Mad enough to cough a whole bunch and nearly die right in front of you.

And yeah – the bottleshop attached to Boyles was legit dangerous. Lots of undercover cops hoping to catch us selling to teenagers. And let me tell you – they were right to suspect us. Not because we made it a habit, but because I was so shit at maths, I would regularly fuck up calculating their age from their license. And once, and I swear I’m not even fucking with you at all, some guy came and threw a knife directly at my head. A knife! And then my supervisor, who now represents Australia in some form of martial arts, vaulted over the bar and chased him down and like, kicked him in the face. Apparently this guy was a serial repeat offender in the ‘throwing knives at us’ game.

Why did I leave? I guess you could say I got burnt out – staring danger in the face and not flinching takes it out of you. Or I guess I decided that maybe serving beers to the worst people in the world had lost its glamour. Or I guess, more truthfully, the managers were giant homophobes and took all my shifts away because “they don’t want to work with a fag” yeah, I guess that was probably it. And then one evening, I’m coming home on the train and one of the supervisors is high as a kite and he comes and tells me, ‘yeah, man, nobody would work with you because you were gay’ and for some reason the only thing I can think to say in response is ‘I’l show them gay’ and shake my fist a whole bunch, while this guy just chews and chews on his tongue. 

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #7: CRIME

The Dentist
I came in like a wrecking ball. Like a bad attitude in a bad suit. Like a minimum wage employee with minimum fucks to give. Casual employee – casual attitude. I’d worked at the airport for two years by this point, and took the news that I was transferring to a different store, over at the other end of the airport, with little-to-no interest. ‘A shitty leopard can’t change its shitty spots’ I probably said to myself, doing a wicked ‘grind’ on my ‘skateboard’ or something similarly indicative of rebellion in that show, Degrassi Junior High. I’ve never been on a skateboard, FYI.

On my first day in the new store, I discovered that Mega C (as the store was called) was actually an entirely different animal to Mega B. If Mega B was a shitty leopard, then Mega C was a gormless elderly cow who liked to lick electric fences and was scared of big flowers. Everyone was super friendly in Mega C. They made me feel welcome and inquired about my well-being. The manager invited me into her office to ‘get to know me’, rather than to yell at me for telling lies to businessmen. Our lunch breaks were sprawling hour and a half affairs. It was a weird utopia, which I gradually relaxed into, like someone who didn’t expect to be in a spa-bath, relaxes into their surprise spa-bath.

But it wasn’t to last: the entire reason I’d been transferred in the first place was as a vanguard for Mega B. Like an aggressive tumour, or a burst sewage pipe, Mega B was going to expand all the way around the airport until it had reached Mega C, swallowing it up and incorporating it into one super evil hybrid leopard-cow. The staff in Mega C were worried that things would change, and when they asked me what it was like in the other store, I would just stare into the distance, trembling.

And while that did actually come to pass, a freeway being built right through a sleepy farming community, Mega C was broken well before then – and it was because of me. Chatting one day in the tech department, I told the guys that I’d recently bought a Nintendo DS, and was looking forward to playing Pokemon on it. One of the guys was like ‘Oh, you know, I can put like, 200 games on one card for you, it will just cost you $50 for the card’. And I was like, ‘that’s great value!’

The next week, I walked into the store and wandered over and gave the dude the money, and wondered why he looked so uncomfortable. It was only when he was fired the next day for conducting illegal business transactions on the store floor, that I realised that what we were doing wasn’t actually a legal thing. The police got involved, and several more people were fired, as a black-market ring was apparently flourishing in several sections. The store was riven apart by suspicion and doubt. There were grim rumours of a ‘narc’ who had dobbed in all these people – these employees who nearly all supported large families and came from lower socio-economic backgrounds. But it wasn’t a narc, it was me. I was the gormless cow, gormlessly wandering in the crime pastures, sleepily ruining everything for everyone else. 

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #6: SPRUIKER

doritos

I’d been rostered to work on the opening night of one of my plays even though I’d put in for leave months earlier, and I had to kick up a fuss. It’s not just because I wanted to see my play and sit in the audience with fear sweat running down my back, it’s probably because we were so low budget that I was also fulfilling the role of being a human strut for the stage or I had to stand there shining my phone as a stage light, something like that.

Anyway, because of the fuss I kicked, it somehow got around the airport that I was an actor, because the idea of a playwright was too difficult for them to get their heads around, which is actually pretty fair, because playwrights are pretty ridiculous things, like Puffins or overly ornate hats.

A new manager with fire in his breath and misplaced enthusiasm in his shiny shoes came up to me one day and said ‘Hey, you’re an actor, how do you feel about walking around the store with a microphone and spruiking our special deals?’
I said I didn’t feel like doing that at all, because I was currently involved in a very elaborate daydream about zombie-elfs. He then rephrased and said ‘Here take take this microphone because you have to do this.’

I tried my best to tell him that while I am a confident speaker, I have no control over what comes out of my mouth, that my brain was well lubricated slip-and-slide, where the thoughts would go barreling down with absolutely no concern about what lay at the end, whether soft paddling pool or misplaced family grandmother. But he ignored my warnings, because I think he didn’t know what a slip-and-slide was.

‘Hi, look at our booze’ I mumbled, desperately trying not to make eye contact with the hordes of customers I walked through. My voice echoed all through the store, clashing with announcements of late flights and boarding gates. ‘Umm, you’re flying in a plane, right? That’s pretty… terrifying. Why don’t you buy two bottles of Tanqueray for $42? That might help.’

‘Hey you, what are you buying? Bundaberg Rum? Why? Do you want a memory card? What about this… I don’t know what it is.’

‘Hey, look this is two litres of vodka, if you drank that all at once you’d probably die! I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure you’d die.’ My manager looked at me across the store and shook his head violently.

‘I mean, maybe you wouldn’t, but you’d probably have to go to hospital. I went to hospital with alcohol poisoning once, ha ha ha I was drinking Johnny Walker Black in an army barracks can you believe it, and an ambulance man slapped me! Right in the face! Johnny Walker, ladies and gentlemen, which by the way, totally has 20% off, so that’s cool.’

After that I didn’t have to spruik because I’d actually broken the law by talking about unsafe drinking practices, but it was a pretty fun day.

Rebecca Black

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #5: BOMBAY SAPPHIRE

At the airport I ate lunch with about twenty middle aged ladies – perfume sprayers, booze pushers and jaded checkout assistants with fingernails that could probably cut glass. Every conversation ended with ‘You don’t have to stand for that, you need to make a scene’. One lady would grab my hand and in a thick accent say ‘You go to the union and you say, I have had enough! They will try to take your very blood here’. She was later caught stealing and was fired, and when the police took her away she tossed her magnificent head of rock-solid, hairsprayed hair and spat on the ground.

My favourite game was to take fun customers over to the Bombay Sapphire representatives, who would make cocktails in plastic cups and talk about the aromatics and flirt with the middle aged men or relate really heavily with the women about where they were staying in Fiji or Bali ‘Oh, that sounds beautiful, I would give my lift tit to go with you.’

One day I’d been late to work, as Bridget and I were really sad and drank way too much wine every night, and I really needed coffee but had no way of getting it, so in desperation I drank a bottle of V. I’d never had an energy drink before, and because I was doing it sneakily, I drank it all in one quick go, and suddenly I had the briefest moment of pure euphoria, where all the fluro lights turned into sparkling rays of diamond, where the future was laid out in front of me with easily accomplished goals, where I smiled dreamily at my jittering hands sticking out of my ill-fitting suit cuffs.

This passed, and I was immediately nauseous and confused, and tried to hold on to that feeling of confidence and destiny that I’d briefly held, and while I scrabbled vainly for that I watched one of the Bombay women drop a bottle of gin onto the tiles, and a shard of glass punctured her eye and everyone was screaming except for her.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #4: JARED PADALECKI

The Heat

 

When I am old, handsome old, like George Clooney or a big majestic tree, that one story I’ll tell to my grandchildren and old war buddies over and over again will be the time I met Jared Padalecki. ‘BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS?’ my grandchildren will scream ‘WE HAVE EVOLVED INTO BEINGS OF PURE THOUGHT AND NOW RIDE ON MOONBEAMS, WE CARE NOT FOR YOUR ANTIQUATED ACTORS’. And I’ll chuckle, and start peeling a mango with only my blunt thumb nails.

You see, I was working in the specialty wine store at the airport when it happened. I thought that the lights overhead had failed perhaps, but it was actually because someone immensely tall was standing over me. I am 6’2 myself, so the sensation of being loomed over is a really strange one, but there it was. I immediately recognised Jared Padalecki, or as I thought of him ‘Dean’ from Gilmore Girls. He was smiling politely, and his shoulders were enormous, as wide as I am tall. I wanted a piggy back from him, a sexy, sexy piggy back.

He explained that he wanted to bring wine as gifts for his family, and he wanted something ‘Australian’ but not touristy. I managed to help him in what I believe was an adequate manner, also managing to keep a surprising degree of calm. I probably came across as fairly humourless, focused on not blurting something ridiculous like ‘NICE SEX PANTS, BIG FACE.’

I even acknowledged his celebrity status, casually asking if he’d been filming here in Aus, only to learn they were using the Australian desert for some episodes in Supernatural, which I didn’t watch.

Finally, at the counter as I packed all his wine for him, listening to him speak fondly of spending Christmas with his parents, he went to leave, thanking me for helping him. I almost left it at that, almost let him walk away, before I softly said ‘You were my favourite.’

‘Sorry?’ he asked.

‘You were my favourite of Rory’s boyfriends’ I stated, before blushing furiously. He nodded and thanked me vaguely and walked off, and I realised that I was blushing because I’d lied. At that point, Logan had been my favourite Rory boyfriend. But now Dean is. Shoulders as wide as I am tall.

Friendifer Medway

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #3: Moondance

Friendifer Medway

When I worked in the loading dock of Target, I had two options: going to a mud wrestling night with my co-workers and get inducted into the semi-official crime ring they operated, or not doing that. I didn’t do that, so I was relegated to crushing cardboard boxes in the cardboard-box crushing machine. I liked this job, because I didn’t have to talk to the homophobes that I worked with, and because it was simple and repetitive.

One of the more difficult aspects of the job was the music piped down from the main store blared directly into my face. There were only twelve songs that looped all day. To this day, I will hear a song and somehow know every word in it, and only later realise that it was a Target song. This happened recently when I watched High School Musical, and somehow joined in on the singing, despite never having seen it before. It was like I was in a musical, or that someone had been playing it under my pillow each night.

One day the CD or playlist glitched, and ‘Moondance’ by Van Morrison played on repeat. I was working for eight hours that day, which meant that I listened to the song about a thousand times. I can’t do the maths, but I’m probably right. The day after this happened, I went overseas for a fortnight. It was a marvellous night for a moondance on the plane, floating down the fake canals of Dubai, a fantabulous night for a romance as I skied inside a shopping mall.

When I came back from overseas, I went into Target wearing my reflective vest and stompy boots and the manager who had hired me had left, and everyone down at the dock pretended not to know who I was, and even though I realised I could probably press the issue and get someone to look my name up on a computer and confirm that I did actually work there, and wasn’t some kind of maniac like the confused lady at the payroll desk thought, I realised that I’d be essentially fighting to work at Target and nothing is worth that, and I left and never came back, meaning that night was truly a marvellous night for a moon dance, but I didn’t moon dance, because I don’t even think a moon dance is a thing, I just drank gin and played Zelda.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #2: FLO RIDA

Coffee

At one point when I worked at the airport we had a new manager. The airport seemed to go through a thousand managers a week, who would come in with big ideas, big dreams and big shoes and throw them out there like glitter, only to watch them sink beneath the pond-like indifference of the staff they managed. This new manager was no different – energetic, firm, qualified. She lasted about a month. But on this day she took me away from my weird collection desk, where I did a weird, semi-unexplainable job, and told me to fill in at the perfumes register. I told her I didn’t know anything about perfume, and she told me patiently that I was just going to be processing sales.

Within a few minutes of taking my place behind the fragrant cash register, a weird hush swept through the store. People were giving furtive looks to a group of people walking slowly through check in, girls running back and forth, customers openly staring. I didn’t really notice any of this, because as per usual, I was deep in thought about elven languages and magical gems.

I was interrupted by a really, really enormous person in a suit, who said to me ‘Yo, wheres your Chanel at?’

I told him I would show him, and only when I reached the stand, did I realise that there was another similarly large gentleman, and a person with baggy pants, who I thought looked like a rapper, which may have been an example of racial profiling, except that in my defence, it was true, it was the rapper Flo Rida.

Flo Rida picked a bottle of Chanel No.5, and then pointed to a bottle of the Homme Sport.
‘Can I try this on?’ he asked me.
‘Yeah sure’ I said, before walking away.

Later on the Chanel assistant told everyone how cool I’d acted when serving Flo Rida, but then I told her that I didn’t know who Flo Rida was, which meant that I was the opposite of cool. I didn’t know I was serving someone famous. I am just a really bad salesperson.

I told this story many years later, and it was only at that moment that I realised his name was spelled like the US state ‘Florida’. To this day, I don’t know any of his songs. I often think fondly of Flo Rida.

Curriculum Worstae #1 – The Biggest Loser

Oh hey, so The Spontaneity Review has a Facebook page, and it’s a good place to go, because I don’t write super regularly here, but I am writing a little series called Curriculum Worstae for my Facebook followers. You too could be one of them.

Here’s an example of everything you’re missing out on.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #1 – The Biggest Loser

I’m going to put up some of the little anecdotes from my time working in stupid jobs that probably won’t make it into my book because they don’t fit into the narrative flow or whatever.

When I worked at the airport in Duty Free, I was taking Roaccutane to make my skin beautiful, but the side effects were awful and I was the opposite of beautiful, I was adried out weeping sore in an ill-fitting suit and a stained yellow tie with a barcode motif printed on it. All my mucous membranes were paper-thin and parched, prone to cracking open and bleeding at the slightest change in temperature. This was also an adequate analogy for my emotions, which were also affected by the skin drugs. The subsequent depression is actually why I ended up quitting Roaccutane, but that’s another story for another day.

One day at the airport I was standing behind my little desk, and I was sad. I was the saddest boy that chemicals could make me. I was a one-legged puppy sad, a dying grandmother sad, a suddenly realising you don’t remember your childhood dreams sad, and all for no valid reason beyond harsh pharmaceuticals. A customer came up to me and was standard mean, like regular retail workplace mean, and I realised I couldn’t handle this day any longer. I went to my evil boss and told her I was unwell, and coughed fakely, because depression isn’t taken seriously, even though it is actually more debilitating than a head cold but whatever. She listened with barely concealed contempt and told me to go back to work.

At my desk again I felt a crushing sense of hopelessness, like I didn’t have the strength to get through anything ever again. At that moment, that Shannon Gnoll song ‘Lift’ came on, which was popular because of the television show ‘The Biggest Loser’ which is about inspiring fat people to get less fat. While I was listening to that song, the American hosts of The Biggest Loser, Bob and Jillian walked through immigration and directly towards me. It seemed like time slowed down and that I was actually living the opening credits to The Biggest Loser. I stared at them, and laughed maniacally, and they looked at me, at first kind of scared, but then Jillian recognised the song playing and they laughed a bit too. Bob winked at me as they passed. When he winked, I suddenly felt flushed with confidence. It was that confidence that lead me back into my evil boss’s office.

‘I have to go home’ I stated, confident, Bob’s wink echoing through my skull like a ping-pong ball of self-esteem.

She shook her head in exasperation.

I then took my nose in my hand, and tweaked it gently, feeling fragile things inside tear. Blood streamed down my face in a hot torrent, and I repeated myself.

‘I really think I have to go home, the doctor’s warned me of this… I thought I had longer.’ She looked horrified, and told me to go home. And I did. Thanks, The Biggest Loser.