Friday, June 29, 2012

my first 5 jobs

The Dove and I had a discussion in the Baltics about some of the worst jobs we had ever had. Her boyfriend once worked at Bump! nightclub (yes, that's with the exclamation mark at the end,) as a bouncer. And he's definitely not the bouncer type.

I've been lucky enough to experience, within the fullness of time, some pretty horrendous and wonderfully enriching jobs. 'Enriching' is a word I use for purposes of storytelling - as all I got from them was one thing. A great story.

Here are five jobs I have had that aren't on my CV. They are instead on my blog. They gave me experience in experience, not necessarily skill.

The supermarket
This job was more funny than shitty; and  I knew it wouldn't be forever. When I was a student, I did one of those Ski America working holiday things in Colorado. I lived in the small resort of Crested Butte for three months, located about 20 miles from Aspen. While it was definitely one of the best times of my life; I did do a night shift in a supermarket.

I worked two jobs. Most of my friends there had one. My day job involved skiing down a mountain to work in on-slope cafe. The night shift was at the local supermarket, thrice a week.

Night shift in a supermarket, wearing a blue pinny with a name tag, well let's just say that most of the customers I served at the till were either retarded or mental. The people I worked with also had some interesting foibles. One guy had Taurettes and would tell jokes over the speakerphones, another was called Kelly and had a moustache and worked in the deli. Kelly from the Deli. Then there was Bubba from the bakery, who was a right wing Republican who praised the Lord.
The perks of the job included free fountain soda and the manager turning a blind eye when I took tubs of Ben & Jerry's home.

I got paid $7 an hour. $12 overtime. More than my first three years as working as a qualified journalist. And I can say that I've actually worked in a grocery store.

Data capturing for a cement manufacturer
 It was unforgiving. A French cement manufacturer, in a business park in Kya Sands. Jesus it was awful.
Desperate for money after graduating, I took a temp job.
The job involved one mind-numbing task: match the numerical figures in Row 1 to Row 2 in an endless ream of Excel spreadsheets.
I lasted one week.

The graveyard shift in media snippetry
After the cement data capturing disaster, I was determined to get some sort of work inclined towards words not figures. Even if it meant I'd have to wake up at 3am every morning.

The shift involved reading various sections of every newspaper in the country, and then writing a summary of the news to send out to people and companies before 5am.
My sections were Motoring and Crime.

Once I wrote something about a car manufacturer (I won't give names, but it was Nissan), and thinking nobody would notice, they did. I got into lots of trouble. And that was before the sun even rose.

The engineering magazine
My first real all-day job. I was a reporter for a trade publication that specialised in combine harvesters, mining pumps and  sewage processes. I got paid enough to buy food, but it wouldn't really cover the rent.
I wrote  for the news desk, so luckily I didn't have to do features like my other colleagues, involving pages of technical detail on how legislation is preventing mining props from performing their various functions, and the latest in combine harvestry.

I was there for a year. The place had a high turnover of staff. I considered it my 'internship,' and I suffered through it.
The job introduced me to things like press conferences, writing copy late into the evening, and having articles hacked into unrecognisable format with a red pen. I also met Third World Ant, my great friend and subsequent flatmate there, so all was not wasted.

Run beauty pageants in Joburg South
I've saved the worst for last. So keen was I to jump ship from the world of gold bullion prices and effluent engineering, that in my impulsive haste I jumped straight into the fiery depths of Hell.
I got a job at a start-up "magazine" that specialised in beauty, reviews, interviews with various local celebrities and music. I thought I'd hit the jackpot.
A"start-up magazine" is something - especially now in a dying print age - is something you should only do if you are into charity work, but that wasn't the worst of it.

My responsibilities were to write all the articles (that part was great; at the time I wrote most of the magazine), but not limited to, as I discovered very quickly: 1) organising beauty pageants for tiny children and teenagers; 2) being the PA; 3) a logistics manager; 4) photo shoot coordinator on weekends; 5) and most significantly, just generally being the office punchbag.

The office was set in the home of the family that owned the rights to do beauty pageants/run a magazine. I'd sooner sell my soul to Satan before knowingly stepping foot in the pageantry world. Jesus, come on.

I used to go to bed crying every night for four months. Not because I didn't work hard and do what I was told anyway, but because my boss featured on the cover of all the magazine issues, would ignore me for days on end, scream at me down the telephone if I'd forgotten something for the pageant, say, on a Saturday morning. She treated me like her slave and hated me at the same time.

Even that could be mildly justified if I was paid, say, a nice salary for all my sleepless nights and endless efforts. I was paid. Twice. R4000 a month, the times I was.

The job taught me some valuable lessons. I left after 4 painful months, and my self-esteem was so low I thought I'd failed miserably. The moment I left, I knew how toxic it all was (I can't emphasise how awful the pageantry vibe was, in all contexts), and found a wonderful job as a copywriter in a lovely company.

A year later, when it was time to do my tax returns, she refused to hand me an IRP-5 form for the tax guy. The SA revenue service did an investigation on the company and saw that while they had been deducting tax from my measly salary, they hadn't handed it over. So they were mean and corrupt.

They still run pageants. I'm not quite sure how, but I'll leverage a guess.

Looking back, these jobs founded my base and my love for what I do, and I certainly put in the work. They also make me eternally grateful for where I am now. For the last 4 years I have been at a company that's primarily known for being one of the best in the world to work for. So all I can say to the others is: thank you! (And good night.)


po said...

It was really fun to read all your crazy first jobs Peas, they should be on your CV :)

When I came to the UK I picked and packed apples, coated cheese with wax, worked in a flower factory assembling those bunches you buy at Tesco, was a steward at the Chelsea Flower show... these were not always much fun but I reckon they were character building at least!

Peas on Toast said...

Thank you Po! I'm glad someone enjoyed them :)

Sounds like yours were WAY more varied and exciting than mine - especially flower arranging. That's seriously useful! x