Putrid Modern Hell #24

by HST UK on January 20, 2012

“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”
– Aristotle

I think I am possibly being driven insane. Work has become a Beckett play, a farce, a joyless stint of five ten hour parts. Then again perhaps it is supposed to be this way. There are a lucky few who either through hard work or luck end up in dream jobs. The rest of us stumble into an occupation that we can just about manage to tolerate, yet nethertheless a job that seriously grinds us down due to the mind numbing dullness of it all. At the end of the month, I suppose at least we can take solace in the fact we are getting paid for our time.

See, I know the perils of unemployment. My stint of signing-on fortnightly at the Job Centre was a brief period in my life that saw me tottering on the mortality tightrope. It was an especially dark period of soul searching when I was on the dole. I brooded aloud – should I pop down to the chemists, then to the supermarket and then to a high street pharmacist, stock up on pills, come home, stick on some poignant and depressing music, pour myself a pint of tap water, and one by one swallow each pill, and wait for the inevitable?

Nah, I’ve been there before, and realized that suicide isn’t as appealing as enduring misery. Something about not letting the bastards win, and all that.

Perhaps I’m over valuing myself as an asset, a potential candidate for a dynamic forward thinking company. One look at my curriculum vitae would suggest that I am a man that has promised much but delivered little, a man who has gotten by through doing the absolute minimum; never venturing outside a fragile, paper thin comfort zone.

Gosh, I look at my satisfactory grades I achieved back in another lifetime when I was an adolescent full of deluded hopes; enough to get me into a semi-decent University, albeit one that was on my doorstep because I was afraid of becoming homesick. Unlike many of my contemporaries who ventured away from Norfolk’s green and pleasant land, I stayed and stagnated.

Work started aged sixteen, after my first term at Sixth Form College. I got a job at a discount store. Each weekend I would turn up, they would assign me on rug duty. I would clamber on top of this raised plinth and fold up these fake Persian rugs. It took me about an hour. By then end of my rug folding my black trousers would be covered in white fur. After that I literally had to take out the trash, wheeling out several trolleys of recycled waste that had to be thrown into a trash compactor. When I returned, smelling plasticy, I would haul crates of stock around in the warehouse. Then I had lunch. For the remainder of the day I worked the till, drowsily scanning through goods for hundreds of bargain hunting shoppers.

I have two memories of that first job. Number one was a brief anecdote that came from a guy I worked with who was around my age called Paul, a tall waif like figure with spiky ginger hair. He fancied himself as somewhat of a ladies man; however he had one disturbing character fault. He was a risk taking masturbator. One morning he proudly told me how he snuck into the manager’s office, our manager Samantha was apparently out of the store at the time, and he jerked one out into her desk drawer. Why he boasted about this I had no idea.

The second memory concerned a trainee manager called Marky, a man who always sweated profusely under the arms of his charcoal grey shirts. Marky was hung-over most weekends, but since he was the trainee he drew the short straw and had to work most of them. We young part timers liked Marky because he ruled with a velvet glove; he’d often allow us extra breaks, tolerate us larking about and was often the instigator of juvenile pranks. One morning he came into work looking pale, and withdrawn. He was unusually quiet, and something was obviously wrong. Before we were about to take the trolleys of garbage down to the trash compactor Mark stopped us. He told us that the day before when he was emptying the trash bags and cardboard boxes into the compactor he had encountered a problem – After filling the compactor Marky pressed the green button to get the machine working, after the machine rumbled into life he heard what appeared to be a loud groaning noise. The groan became a fading scream. Marky panicked, and hit the stop button. The machine stopped, Marky opened the safety lid and peered inside. Most of the trash was gone, though he saw in the bottom of the compactor a squashed brown shoe. Marky is convinced that a homeless person had slept inside the compactor overnight and had met his demise when Marky started the machine. Marky believed he was a murderer.

That was my first job. Thinking back, it was a rotten role. I can’t imagine how anyone could’ve done that full time, but people did. I think that my first foray into the world of employment actually gave me a taster of the futility of low skilled labour; preparing me for the job that I am currently doing. Back then I was a cocksure student who believed I would eclipse the mundane thanks to the power of the University degree. I never had a back-up plan for the possibility that my degree would become useless, because naively I didn’t think I would need one.

Due to the professional nature of my current job, and because I am a so called mature adult I can no longer lark about, I have to take what I am doing seriously. Though, this is at odds with my boundless pursuit of fun. I miss the old days, when I’d not worry about the future because the future seemed a lifetime away. I never envisaged that working at the discount store would have any other meaning for me then as a cash cow that financed the purchase of my first car, a nineteen ninety one Ford Fiesta, custom painted baby blue. However it did, I learned that where you start is often the place that you’ll eventually end up.

Low skilled, weak willed, my current employment status might not mean much, but at least it pays the bills.


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