Friday, March 5, 2010

An Internet Resumé

I have had a bunch of jobs over the years, mainly in the wonderful hospitality industry. I have said many times that working in hospitality is enough to make anyone lose their faith in humanity. If you have worked in a busy restaurant or café, you will know what I'm talking about already. If not, just check out Not Always Right and you will understand.

Without a doubt, the best job I ever had was at the specialty tea and coffee house where Meattrain, Vegatrain and I all used to work together. At the time it was owned by Vegatrain's parents and therefore was quite a casual set up. We got to play our own music (although the mix cd I made ended up being thrown across the shop by Meattrain for including a twee pop cover of George Michael's 'Faith'). There was a uniform, but we didn't always wear it. I remember being told that I was the first person to stand behind that counter wearing metallic silver boots. I took that as a great honour. The only shirt that ever caused problems for me was a threadless number that featured a cartoon policeman holding hands with a cup of coffee and a donut. I thought it was quite appropriate, considering most of our clientele were policemen from the big station across the road. The boss thought it was quite inappropriate for that exact same reason.

And yes, we used to defend ourselves with our barbed-wire wit and use the specials board for jokes. I remember we once got a work experience kid who was a fan of Questionable Content and he nearly wet himself. He got me to recommend him some excellent bands (which I was more than happy to do. I am all for educating the next generation.) and then basically begged us to give him a job. Unfortunately for everyone, the shop ended up being taken over by a bunch of morons who didn't think they needed to have a clue what they were doing in order to run a café. It is heartbreaking to see how badly they are ruining that place.

But even in the best case scenarios of hospitality there is still a very high douchebag quotient. I always liked Meattrain's method of sussing out a customer's character. If they were paying with a card he would say "Just put in your PIN number. Oops, pardon my tautology!" and see how they would respond.

I always used to love the people who would come in and order a cup of tea. Just a cup of tea. When we would inform them that we had over 100 varieties (v... varie-teas? Ok, I'll let myself out) of tea, they would get frustrated and insist that they JUST WANTED TEA. Here's a hint, genius: you are in a specialty tea store*. If you wanted a teabag, maybe you should have stayed at home. And I am going to resist the urge to make that dirty joke. If you feel it's necessary, feel free to insert it in your heads... now.

I could go on for hours about how much I hate customers in any capacity but I thought I'd detail some other places I have worked. This being my "online resumé" after all.

The place I used to work in Newcastle was a large degree of fucked. It was one of the biggest companies there, which makes sense considering most of its profit came from drinking and gambling, the city's two official pastimes. I worked in catering, hopping from section to section. And I actually found it vaguely tolerable most of the time, even though the customers there were the rudest people in the entire world. And I say that with all certainty, having also worked a brief stint in telemarketing.

I can recall one incident where I was serving a young man at the bistro. He decided that the best thing to do was to make fun of me for working at a bistro. I could have said something about how I was actually only doing this to support myself while I was at uni, but before I had the chance the man next to him asked him what he did for a living.

"Oh... I'm unemployed," was the response. After that I didn't even think I needed to say anything.

There was a slew of regular customers, all of varying weirdness. The meals were cheap, so a lot of people would eat there every night. The problem was that a lot of them were also putting a significant portion of their hard earned welfare dollars through the pokies. As a result they had this attitude that they had already paid for their meal in some way and should be getting something for nothing. Here's a hint: that is not how gambling works. Also, the meal is actually already subsidised. If you are paying $6 for a full plate of curried sausages and vegetables, maybe don't start whinging when I can't give you extra potatoes for free?

I have a lot, and I mean a lot of stories about that place. The staff were often just as bad as the customers, but I am actively trying to be less angry at the moment so I am going to try and tell a happy story. Even with that last one I just found myself going back over to edit out the shouting. Deep breaths, Smackie, deep breaths.

There was a girl who worked there that I quite liked. Her name featured in one of my favourite songs by The National, and I would occasionally serenade her with it. Now, she worked there for a few months before her sister decided to join the ranks. Not that unusual but for the fact that they were identical twins. I don't think I was ever more excited to work there than I was on that day. I had so many ideas. I demanded that we put one on the serving end of the bistro and the other on the till. I even suggested we give them both the same name tag and start insinuating that due to staff shortages we began a dodgy human cloning operation in the back sheds.

Of course, no-one listened to me as a general rule. But that didn't mean I couldn't have my own fun. I started by telling one of them of them, casually, that she was my favourite of the sisters. The next time I worked with the other one, I told her the same thing. I built this up until I was saying it every time I saw either of them, regardless of which one it was. Of course, they never let it get to them. I guess they must be the type of family who actually discusses things. I can imagine them heading home from work:

B1: So did Sarah tell you that you're her favourite again today?
B2: Yeah. You?
B1: Yeah. She's weird, hey.
B2: Yeah.

But at least I amused myself. It was probably what stopped me from going crazy and killing every last one of my coworkers. Although that is not to say I didn't come very close some days.

-Smackie Onassis

*I was actually talking to an old friend of mine about tea the other day. He was always a loose leaf aficionado so I started telling him about the wonderful pot of Nilgiri I had recently consumed. He responded by saying "Never heard of it. Jesus Christ, you're so indie that even the tea you like is obscure."

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