Work


I started to analyse the jobs I have done over the years. I have been an employer, a manager, a clerk, a waitress, a chef, a cleaner, a barmaid, a secretary (no idea how I conned my way into that one as I never learned to type properly), a programmer, a telephonist, a coder, a researcher, a writer, a graphic artist, a translator and various other weird and wonderful things in between.

Once I was a data entry temp, taking numbers from handwritten reports from engineers and entering them into a database system for analysis. It was a weeklong gig. It involved lots of words like ‘density’, ‘viscosity’, ‘screen size’, ‘volume’, and ‘liquid/solid content ratios’. I finally asked one of the bosses, ‘What exactly is this? What does this company do?’ Made him laugh when he realised that I had no idea what I was working on. ‘We make screens and filtering systems for sewage plants, you’re entering the records of sh*t we need to process.’ Which, come to think of it, pretty much sums up the last job I had – heh heh! See last paragraph of this article.

Another of my more stellar and typical ‘Carolyn at work’ moments happened when I was a barmaid at a nightclub. We used to get raided fairly regularly to check for underage drinkers, not really surprising as the police station was directly across the street. The same thing happened every time. The barstaff went upstairs (the club was in a basement) and waited, ‘guarded’ by a couple of policemen, while the rest of the police checked the punters’ I.D’s and removed any that were underage. On a Monday night that was about 95% of them but I digress. I am sure you are all familiar with the Great British Bobby’s uniform, it involves a funny shaped hat, goes up to a point and has been the subject of thousands of stand up comics’ jokes over the years. So I’m sitting there, bored witless – as will be very apparent as I relate what happened next – and as the police team came up to tell us that we could go back to work I looked at this very nice young police constable and said …. oh before I say what I said, have you ever heard words in your head and just know they are about to fly out of your mouth and even though your brain is screaming ‘STOP!’ they go anyway? – so I said to this lovely young thing ‘Can I hold your helmet? I have always wondered how much they weigh. ‘ He went bright red. His colleagues were in hysterics. He solemnly handed me his headgear, I took it, and then said ‘Thank you, it’s lighter than I expected.’ And handed it back. By which time the rest of the policemen were pretty much wetting themselves laughing. I still wonder if I destroyed his career and if he ever managed to live down the story that must have gone round the Essex Constabulary after that………..

The funny side of getting canned……

I have been downsized, canned, let go, made redundant numerous times over the course of my working life. It’s not unusual, most of us go through it every now and then. But my most recent ‘restructuring’ this is apparently the latest term for it – grin – was so surreal it was hilarious. As some of you know, I have been telecommuting since the mid 1990’s. I had worked for this particular company for quite a while. I had not had an annual review since the arrival of my latest supervisor about 3 years before but it was clear from day one that she did not really enjoy the concept of trusting telecommuters to actually show up for work. Which was pretty ironic for a web based company. In early 2008 she emailed and asked “Where is your nearest Starbucks?” I replied that there is one in the back of Chapters in Belleville. She said: ‘We will do your annual review in person this year, be there tomorrow at 11.00 a.m.’ Now I am not a rocket scientist – though I do know one, Hi Mischa! – but even I could read the writing on the cyber wall. Got there, saw no sign of anyone I knew, ordered my cup of tea. She appeared. Waited until I had paid and said ‘We’re round the corner here.’ I turned the corner and saw the HR person. Was told to sit down on the windowsill at the back of Chapters. There were members of the public less than 5 feet away looking at books. She then handed me an envelope and said ‘We are reorganising and you are terminated as of right now. This is your package.’ and then they left. I tried a sip of my tea but it was still to hot too drink and I realised that the book I had been kind of staring at in the middle distance was called Internet for Dummies and I started to laugh. A very nice man looking for books asked if I was OK because he had overheard the whole thing and I said sure, yes, I’m fine. He said he could not believe they had just done that in public. I could, oh could I ever! LOL. Apparently the concept of renting a conference room has not entered their twilight zone. So if you get walked out a building don’t let it bother you, at least it wasn’t in the back of a book shop sitting on a windowsill in full view of the book-buying public having paid for your own cup of tea :o)

So still on the subject of work and my history, back in the day I worked as a chambermaid. I am sure that the PC term these days is something like ‘household services operative’ but I was a chambermaid and not a very good one but hey, I was very young, still in school, it paid peanuts so there you go. But it was a lot of fun… or funny…. or maybe both. In one hotel I was on early shift for most of time, which meant in those days, wake up calls involving reading the list and knocking on doors ‘Good Morning! This is your wake up call!’ If they had ordered tea or coffee we waited for the reply ‘come in.’ and then delivered said beverage. Depending on what card game (see below) I had attended the night before my attention to detail was not always the best. One very, very polite and charming chap knocked on the door of the chambermaids’ room – actually a closet with a kettle, instant coffee, teapots and teabags and spare sheets and towels, and said ‘I’m awfully sorry but this tea is quite weak.’ I looked. I had forgotten to put a tea bag in the pot. And he was apologising to me! Bless his little cotton socks. I made him a proper pot of tea. He was a nice traveling salesman, they ratio out at about 1:100.

Another guy though, I knocked, he said ‘Come in.’ and there he was, on the bed, stark bollock naked with this ridiculous smile on his face. He asked ‘See anything you like?’ I replied politely ‘Not a damn thing.’ Put his coffee down on the bedside table and left. These days I would have accidentally tripped and sent the coffee elsewhere but back then I was still relatively polite and these days I am sure he would cover up and be disappointed that the chambermaid is a troll. But what a plonker.

Card games. Every hotel, and I do mean every hotel in the world, has a card game going on somewhere in the back. Even more so if the staff live in. When you work long hours, split shifts and unsociable hours (i.e. weekends, holidays, times when normal people have time off, when you cannot go to things like concerts, family holiday celebrations, weddings, etc.,) what you do is socialise with your ‘hotel family’ and others who work those kinds of shifts, mostly, oddly enough, police and medical people and then what you do is play cards, and drink a bit.

One evening a very persistent traveling salesman (or whatever the PC term is these days) kept asking ‘I can’t sleep, is there a card game in the hotel?’ He asked over and over again. So we let him in. We were playing brag, a type of poker. He obviously thought he had found a bunch of youngsters and was going to clean up. And don’t get me wrong, he was good. But this is the moral of the story: ‘Never, ever, try to infiltrate an hotel staff family and screw with them, and never, ever think that they will not close ranks to the outsider. Believe me all you business people/traveling sales-people, you are and always will be, outsiders. One of us was a lovely girl, her name was Sue. She was a receptionist. Very pretty, shoulder-length legs, boobs in the days before cheap implants that were all that and a bag of chips, delightful girl, but not the brightest, in fact the one ball-bearing brain cell probably only hit the little dip in the middle of the hand-held plastic maze completely at random every now and then but we were all very fond of her. Had her heart broken so many times but that’s another story. So anyway this d*ckhead started to gamble, and we let him win a few times to get the bets up. Then we nailed him by playing/betting/rigging the cards to let Sue win. Was he ever pissed off? It was hilarious.

I have had a lot of jobs in my life. No, not always because I got canned sorry, ‘downsized’ or in my most recent experience ‘restructured’, but rather because for years when my children were little I worked for temp agencies.

I got a gig at a factory that made heavy equipment. They were transferring their personnel records to a computer system and because the data covered everyone from the shop floor to senior management, they wanted someone outside of the company to set it up.

Monday morning: Enter Carolyn in a skirt, not a micro mini but definitely well above the knee. The place was huge, a vast cavernous space and the offices were located at the very far end, upstairs. To get there I had to climb a staircase and then walk along a gantry, a catwalk, you know those metal type things that have holes in them so that you can see down to the floor below. Guess what? It also means the people below can see up. It was a very long walk.

Having entertained the shop floor I was introduced to everyone in the office. One of the managers warned me that I would probably meet ‘Roger’ and told me to be really careful, as he was the Union Shop Steward. Apparently Roger wielded a lot of power. Sure enough he came along to see the girl that the guys downstairs were talking about.

‘What’s your name?’
‘Carolyn.’
‘Hello Caroline.’
‘It’s Carolyn but that’s OK.’
‘Ridiculous, how do you spell it?’
‘c a r o l y n’
‘You’re spelling it wrong’

And then he left. Aside: The reason I am called Carolyn is because three days before I was born my dad joined an American company and he wanted me to have an American name. In the UK back in those days the more usual spelling and pronunciation was Caroline.

Next morning Roger said ‘Hello Caroline‘.
I replied “Hello Robert.’
‘It’s Roger.’
‘Mmmmm.’

Day after that: ‘Hello Caroline.’
‘Morning Reg.’
‘It’s Roger.’
I just smiled.

This went on every day for almost two weeks; I actually had to look in baby name books to keep coming up with yet another male name beginning with R. It was quite an amusing game. Well I thought it was, meanwhile the people in the office were just keeping their heads down. Finally when I called him Rupert he said ‘It’s Roger!
‘How do you spell that?’
‘r o g e r!’
‘You’re spelling it wrong.’

You could hear a pin drop in the office. They he just grinned and said
‘I like you. Carolyn.’
‘Thank you Roger, I like you too.’

He was lovely to me for the rest of the contract, I wonder if he remembers…… I haven’t changed much, still haven’t learned to keep my big mouth shut – grin..

Read a story in the news the other day about some guy who was fired by a bank but they didn’t ask him to turn in his keys. He burgled the bank. Well duh!

Donkey’s years ago I worked for a bank, I was the most junior person in the branch. In the morning I sorted the cheques, back in those days we simply recognised signatures, didn’t check numbers or anything like that, can you imagine? In the middle of the day I manually processed the standing orders and direct debits and in the afternoon processed the ‘waste’ into the computer system – computer was a machine that looked like a navigation desk in a space TV show – rhymes with art wreck (in case you are wondering a show with a similar name is really picky about copyright) – and the waste was a balancing system that accounted for every penny transacted in the bank that day and sent the whole thing to head office. Everyone could go home as soon as I got it to balance and they would line up across the room glaring at me for every minute I took past the 3.30 p.m. closing time. One penny out and we had to start checking every transaction again to find it. Talk about pressure. I had never learned to type at school, did physics instead, but nothing improves your keyboarding skills like the foot tapping, disapproving sniffs of co-workers waiting to get to the pub.

BUT the point of this story is that the branch had two sets of keys, plus a duplicate of each set, to open the front door and also two keypad security codes to open the safe. Only one set of keys could open the door but both codes had to be entered to open the safe. We had a super security message system to make sure that no one was held at gunpoint and forced to use their keys. Before anyone else entered after the front door key holder he (and it was always a he back then) had to move a flowerpot along a windowsill. Seriously. OK even if a bad guy forced either the bank manager or assistant manager to open the door, he would only have one code so could not open the safe without the other one, and they never shared the codes with each other. Also the safe had this state of the art security system that was triggered by air movement, which sent a silent alarm to the local police station. Perfect!/

Or so you would think…. The bank also had this brilliant arrangement that each key holder could pass the duplicate keys down to the next in line if they were going on holiday, off sick, whatever, and also pass on the code to a subordinate and on and on down the line. Added to that, the air movement alarm was so sensitive that a fly could set it off. Which happened often. Often enough to really p*ss off the local police. So they used to turn it off.

Seven people worked in our branch. I was the bottom of the pile, a pile of people who liked to take time off. It was not at all uncommon for me to head out on a Friday evening holding both sets of copy keys and with two bits of paper with keypad codes on them, knowing also that in spite of what we told the world and head office, the alarm had been disabled.

You know what’s really sad? I never robbed the bank. I’m sure I wouldn’t even if I had that opportunity today but that’s for another blog entry. I am tragically handicapped in that regard. I also discovered at that job that I am allergic to money. I’m not kidding. I had a terrible time going into the safe. Money is pretty dirty; think how many wallets and pockets and sometimes socks it has been in. My eyes would just stream and I sneezed. Sneezed? It was incessant. So maybe it’s a good thing I never burgled the bank, they could have put out an all point bulletin: ‘Look for a guilty looking young woman with red eyes and snuffly nose gasping for breath.’

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