Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage


This article was written on 02 Dec 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Adventures in the job market

Hello. I am a dancing monkey. I have here a shabby red jacket with gold braid on and a small pillbox hat. When the organ grinder, erm, grinds his organ, I do a small dance, shot through with the optimism that can only expect disappointment, and then, when the music stops, I hold out my little hat while indifferent passers-by walk somewhere else. I’ve done my little dance over and over again in many different places for many different people and, by heavens, I’m bored of it.

This is, of course, a metaphor. I’m not a monkey, but something equally drenched in pathos, which is to say a porky, out of work forty something copywriter, and the dance I refer to is the search for work, which started out all perky and optimistic, but which is now hackneyed and sad. I don’t expect that the people I talk to will say ‘yes,’ but I feel that I’m compelled to go through with the performance anyway, just on the offchance that I stand some faint, thin chance next to all the people who are hipper and younger than I am. And of course, I don’t.

In recent months, I’ve applied for copywriting jobs in England and in continental Europe, given up and then started applying again, applied to be a check-in assistant with Menzies Aviation (rejected), applied to be cabin crew with EasyJet (I never heard), applied to be an ambulance dispatcher (rejected) as well as being a pizza maker for a middle class pizza van (they decided they didn’t have a job after all), a LEGO teacher (I was sacked for calling someone a twit) and sent off numerous other applications too various to mention. They all came to nothing, but for two: stewarding and life modelling, into which I have thrown myself with undivided gusto.

When I wrote to my local football club asking if they wanted stewards, they replied about ten minutes later and said ‘yes’ instantly. I was stewarding my next game about three days later. It’s the same with life modelling. I breezily expressed an interest and then about two weeks later I was stood in front of a decidedly mixed bunch who were there to draw my balls. And the rest of me, of course, but it was mainly my balls that I was thinking about. And some other bloke seemed to be thinking about them as well, because he came and sat awfully close to me when the class had finished, but maybe I’m putting an unfair spin on things.

I love working at the football club for reasons I’ll enumerate shortly and, in the trenchant criticisms that follow, they’re excepted from that. All they’ve shown my is kindness and my respect for them is so immense it could be chiselled out of marble. But there are comments about the other job or, more precisely, my reaction to them, which deserve to be heard.

Much as I hate the idea that I’ve gone on a journey of any kind and have to grit my teeth when anyone suggests that I have, there have been some things I’ve learned and am still learning while I’m here, miles outside my comfort zone. When you apply for anything that pays the minimum wage, you need to get used to the people who already have the jobs and who you’re begging to employ you behaving as though you are either stupid or have suffered recent brain damage. They’ll generally, and I’m thinking about the fat gonk who spoke to me at the interview day, Menzies Aviation, try and stick their enhanced status in your face at every given opportunity and smirk when you’re obliged to scurry around obeying their witless requests. You’d imagine that having done a similar job in the past might make them more sympathetic, but not a bit of it. They have a tiny bit of power, and they want to use it.

On the bright side, the jobs you’ll be applying for tend to involve an inordinate amount of standing around doing bugger all. There used to be a saying in the Eastern bloc that ‘we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us,’ which is wholly correct. For the derisory amount of just over seven quid, you’ll be doing nothing for large expanses of time and then, periodically, telling someone not to do something or to go somewhere else. Then you’ll go back to standing around.

Kudos should additionally go to the person who had me apply for a writing job and, once I’d got through, supposedly, to the ‘next stage’ had the candidates competitively bid against each other for the privilege of doing the work. I should have told him to shove the job up his fat, purple arse, but I didn’t because I was desperate. However, I did stick to my price, which was probably too high as he was almost certainly being aggressively courted by people who were twenty and living with their parents and therefore able to do it for very little. He sent me an email telling me that and, while I should have sent him a GIF of a walking chimp or a baboon having a shit, I didn’t.

The economy floats on a sea of these jobs, in which you do just enough to justify the existence of the job in the first place, but have to recognise that doing more is never going to be recognised with the award of extra pay. You can’t go to TSB and say that your line manager thanked you for hard work and that it probably translates into an extra tenner in your pay packet, or that you stopped a child from running out on the road so you should have a free day off. These things don’t have any currency in the wider world. You’re stuck there, doing what you do, day in, day out and living with the monotonous boredom that comes with it. Were you ever promoted, you’d be expected to shaft people just like the piggy eyed little fuck at Menzies Aviation wanted to see us shafted for her delectation. Not fun.

However. Amongst the people who are applying for these jobs, I’ve seen more decency than I ever thought existed in the world. Bearing in mind that sometimes we’ve all been competing against each other, people are kind, friendly, warm and funny. They look out for each other, and you. The people at my stewarding job are uniformly lovely and it’s a place that I either look forward to working or am glad I’m working at within ten minutes of arriving. There’s an easy familiarity which my life would be infinitely poorer without and the camaraderie of the other stewards, indeed of anyone at the repellent ‘interview days’ stands as a quiet riposte to the shareholders and other cretins who want jobseekers to eat each other.

Next week, I’m going for an interview in mainland Europe for a copywriting job, which is pretty much what I’m supposed to do for a living. The city that the interview is in must be my favourite of all the cities I’ve ever visited and it’s somewhere I’d like to live so much that I can almost taste it. And yes, there is a ‘but’ coming here. There are numerous other people going for the same job and, here’s the kicker, they’d need to pay me a king’s ransom so that I could keep my house in Sussex and a flat in the European city I want to live in. This, as we can see, isn’t going to happen. My partner is paying for me to fly out cheaply and it’s the first time I’ve left the country I’m ages, so bugger it. I’m going. Me and my threadbare red velour jacket, dancing up and down on this here organ like my life depends on it.

So if you have a small amount of power and you’re employing someone to do a menial job, and they laugh slightly too readily at your shit jokes and has hungry, needy eyes, then it’s probably me or someone like me. All there’s a need for here is some sense of human dignity and a vague sense of hope that this isn’t what there is, but capitalism, jolly old capitalism, wants to strip that from you and have you compete with others for the honour of wearing a tabard and working in a sub-ALDI supermarket where almost all of your will to live will crawl inside itself and die, leaving behind a small, pouchy purple haemorrhoid that is all that remains of you. I’m glad that I’ve seen this economic system for what it is, just as I’m glad that I’ve found a sort of comradeship in amongst all this, because it’s all that’s left to us.

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