Monday, June 13, 2011

un challenge - three bizarre jobs

Firstly, thanks to all of you that responded to my whining by reaching out and leaving a comment. It is calming to know that I am not talking to myself - well I am  - but there are others who are listening. And as Dreams and False Alarms rightly pointed out, the comments mostly go to the ones who really are in deep need of support, which would not be me. I am not in the trenches anymore. For some reason, which I am really unclear about, my blog traffic has shot up in the last few days - could it be that the word "whore" in the blog title  has blessedd me with more readers than I ever dreamed of?!  So thank you, thank you, my good and faithful blog readers, and to all the perverts out there who are reading, you probably won't see the word "whore" much after that last post.

Onto the challenge: I have actually not had many jobs in my life: I was an eternal student / out of work actor and aspiring playwright until around the age of 28, and did not start my first "real" job till I was about that age. I didn't have any after or before school jobs as a teenager,  as I went to boarding school from age 14-18 and it seemed to be difficult and impractical to get a job in the holidays only- as we were away at school most of the year. So I never delivered papers, or did a lot of regular babysitting. Although I did start a little babysitting business one summer, aged 17 with absolutely no experience whatsoever and with the goal of saving up money for contact lenses. It started off as a small white postcard in the post office window advertising  dog-walking and baby-sitting ( both of which I had never done and the former being a big stretch for me as I was deathly afraid of dog poop -see references to OCD in this earlier post- ). That white card brought me an obscene phone caller wanting to know what color knickers I was wearing and wanting to "f..." me,  a slew of desperate parents who were apparently unfazed by my inexperience and a brand new pair of hard  contact lenses, which along with braces on my bottom teeth and a fabulous home made wardrobe, catapulted me into the world of semi glamorous geek instead of completely hopeless geek. Although to be fair, we didn't have geeks - we had trends and plebs, and I was a pleb.

I have yet to find the perfect job, which is both rewarding, well paying and inspiring, and I am going to take a few liberties with the un challenge and tell you about my three most interesting jobs. One of which lasted two days, one a few months and another, a few months.

When I left university after finishing my drama degree, I wanted to stay in Aberystwyth, on the west coast of Wales, where I had studied, but I had no money left, the grant had run out and I needed to find a job. I don't remember where I saw the ad, but I found myself applying for a job as a "trolley dolly" ( I think the job title was train stewardess) which was a glorified ( or maybe unglorified would be more accurate) hostess traveling on British Rail with a heavy trolley of snacks and drinks and serving passengers up and down the aisles the length of the train journey. The glamor came in the form of a uniform that really did make me look like an air hostess. Navy skirt, blazer, white shirt, jaunty red scarf tucked into the shirt at the neck, and a lovely bowler type hat that poised jauntily on the top of my head. Panty hose ( or tights in English) were mandatory and  the kind of shoes were up to you. I had seen many trolley dollies in my time, and many of them wore high heels - often red to offset the scarf - and looked just smashingly fabulous. How they maneuvered those heavy trolleys on and off the trains with no help and a drop of about a foot between the platform and the train in high heels is really beyond me. (The conductors, all male, were not supposed to help us as we didn't work for British Rail, but for a franchise, and if we wanted their help we had to bat our eyelashes and look helpless or pray that they were charitable if our eyelashes were having an off day.)  In my sensible blue highly polished flats it was hard enough. I once had to miss half of my run because I cut my hands pulling the trolley off the train at Shrewsbury. To cut to the chase, it was not such a glamorous job after all, but it did improve my mental arithmetic ( there was no register or "till"), I was the disgusted recipient of at least three episodes of sexual harassment ( including one assault and one "give me a kiss or I won't let you out of my train drivers car, where I invited you for a cup of tea" ) and I learnt everything I needed to know about the job from a wiry Glaswegian who would stop in the corridors  between the train carriages and smoke pot whenever he was on a break. And sometimes when he was not on a break. Not my favorite job, but definitely good for stories and the name itself was worth quite  a lot.
Another job I did while trying to stay in Aberystwyth after graduating with a pretty useless but very rewarding drama degree was being a life model in the art department of the university and in some community centers. It was really pretty well paid  - maybe five pounds an hour in 1991-2, and very relaxing. I would sit on a chaise lounge in a large studio that was partitioned off into the life art class "boudoir" and if it was cold there was an electric bar fire that they would turn on so I wouldn't freeze. On more than one occasion I fell asleep I was so relaxed. Staying in one position for long periods of time is not comfortable at all and involves some skill. Of course no one taught me how to sit without my legs and arms going to sleep, but I gradually figured it out. On breaks, I would put on my fabulous burgundysilky dressing gown that was something like a men's smoking jacket, and go to the break room with the artists and smoke cigarettes. There was something about it that was all quite good for my ego. The problem arose when  I discovered that the caretaker ( janitor) was a habitual  peeping tom and after I complained about him, it became uncomfortable to model as I never felt I could relax, and no one seemed to want to do anything about it.
My last bizarre job was when I came to visit the States in the summer of 1995. And it was rather fun! My friend  L, who lived here, and who I had met in Wales while she was on probably the most miserable Junior Year Abroad anyone could suffer, was big into horses. Trakeners to be precise - can't really remember how to spell that. Anyway, she spent a lot of time engaged in Trakener business, including horse fairs and shows and she persuaded me to come with her to one by getting me a job as an announcer at a dressage show in Indiana. Having an English accent lent me a certain cache - especially in dressage. I had no clue about announcing at a horse show, but I was not alone, because one of the horse aficionado's husbands had also been roped in and we both sat in the announcing booth, being able to see nothing of the dressage, but keeping informed on our walkie talkies by the volunteers at each dressage ring. They would tell us over the air who was waiting to go into the ring, who was in the ring etc and we would announce it. My buddy was a baseball fan and his way of announcing if a horse and rider were waiting to go into the ring was to say that they were "on deck". I just followed his terminology and everyone was happy. I even announced the Queen Mother's birthday over the loudspeakers one day, which really tickled all the Anglophiles. I think I made $300 that weekend plus my accommodation was paid for.  That was probably the most money I had ever made i a weekend! I think my friend was just glad to have the company and she treated me to lots of Taco Bell and Dunkin Donuts as well as the B and B. From there we drove all night to get to my first ever Michigan Women's Music Festival and lesbian intrigue and drama. But that's another story.


Eb said...

Trolley Dolley! I LMAO! Oh I'm homesick for a bad prawn sandwich and a cuppa
Where are you going to in West Yorks?

Dreams and False Alarms said...

How about the story of how you came to live in the us?