Since I graduated from university with a BA Degree in Broadcast and Print Journalism (with Honours), I have said yes to just about every single job offered to me. Every single job, that is, apart from the ones that have anything to do with my ‘career’.Lucky me, print died just as I was graduating. Firstly, I thought about pocket money, just to shuffle me along, transport in a big city and whatnot. Then those temp hours turned into entire weeks, and I found myself stuck gig after gig. I thought it was funny, being so intelligent and confident in my skills yet working such shitty, menial, or just flat out random jobs. I couldn’t wait to meet my friends for drinks and tell them the story of what happened that day at my job in a high-end cooking and homeware shop.
“I am so shit at wrapping salad bowls, its insane!” I’d giggle to my friends drunkenly, drops of wine splashing out of our glasses as they clinked. “Oh my God, you do NOT wear an apron!” a friend would shriek with literal tears of disbelief as I told them stories how humbling it was to wash windows outside the shop in Notting Hill first thing in the morning, then sweep away cigarette butts from pavement onto the road, the aftermath of the last-nights escapades of the revellers of the trendy sushi restaurant and cocktail bar next door.
I got paid £60 a day (cash) to sell ceramics, do a bit of window design and merchandising, and learn everything there is to know about different types of wood, the trees they come from, and how they transfer to certain types of cutting boards. (Did you know that you “feed” the wood by oiling them so they don’t dry up?!) This was my life now. It was now my job to tell the tales of the lovely little Welsh woman who loves hand-making her cute mugs out of only the finest bone china, adorned with little drawings on them with tongue in cheek imagery representing Brothers Grimm fables, or whatever they were. It was now my job to be on my hands and knees opening up giant crates, filled with boxes that weighed at least 40 kilos, covered in the stamps “FRAGILE” and “THIS WAY UP” only to find myself in a sea of bubble wrap, packing peanuts in my hair and an ‘arm party’ of tape rolls. Alice, the lovely manager would play her fabulous World Music (I love this label – it reminds me Starbucks music) while she instructed me on what to do next, and spoke on the phone to our disgustingly rich clientele, knowing no matter how convoluted the customer was, they were always right.
On a daily basis, my favourite customers were the cooler-than-thou Sienna Miller lookalikes, who wore painfully on-trend Isabel Marant parkas and combat boots with just the right amount or wear and tear. They might have had a Bug-A-Boo pram in tow, or a really small adorable scruffy dog that looked older than she did. These women would not make eye contact with me but catch up with the store owner, Lindy, as if she was a fucking rockstar (she was kind of a legend in the area, she had had her shop for over two decades) and act incredibly down to Earth and mellow as they described their weekend in the country or the upcoming dinner they’re hosting. It was my job to wrap up their kitchenware, massive colourful pots and bowls, gifted candles (£40 each), intricate artisan wooden spoons and their eclectic choice of colours of linen place mats. Oh, how could I forget the napkins and napkin-charms – those were “essential”.
“Your total is £846.40”, Alice would chime with a smile as I wrapped up these ridiculous place settings in earthy-brown construction-paper like sheets, finished off with the ribbon colour of their choice. Most chose yellow, some chose blue. Alice would write the receipt herself, for some reason I suspect she did not trust me to work out the pricing for the list of expensive goods in long-hand non-electronic receipt format…At least I can wrap a mean gift now…
It was jobs like this that made me appreciate life. Seriously, appreciate that life gets so much better and I would need to work my ass off to never work in a job like this again. Looking back, I ask myself, why would I waste my time playing shop girl when I should be following my dreams? I was making good money, but spending it right away. What was wrong with me?
Knowing I could never be able to walk into a shop like the one I worked in and purchase a bowl for £30 made me ask myself… why the hell not? Why shouldn’t I be able to afford any of these stupid things that clutter up a kitchen? Why can’t I work a real job and just hang up my apron and follow my dreams?
Good fucking question…