I work in retail, retail of the video game variety to be precise. My job title is ‘sales assistant’, which basically means I assist with sales. No shit.
I got my first job when I turned twelve, delivering a local paper. Technically it was my sister’s job, but having reached the ripe age of fourteen, she had decided to move onto the brighter (and warmer) pastures of waitressing, leaving me with, what I thought was, a brilliant opportunity to buy more pick and mix and sillystring than I would ever need. Basically, this ‘job’ involved my far too generous mother spending two hours with me on Friday nights inserting at least ten different varieties of leaflets into countless newspapers, only to then endure a further two-to-three hour uphill treck, through all seasons, with two trollies and a bag each crammed with these papers to deliver door-to-door.
At the time, I could not think of a job more important. I used to gasp is horror at stories of paperboys being caught having dumped their ‘work’ in dustbins; how on earth would the people on their rounds learn about that cat being found tied to a school bus? What if a resident had been waiting months to find a used footspa, for there only to be someone advertising one in the issue they would never receive?
No, I was a real papergirl, I would give my people what they expected, come snow or rain. Much to my mum’s disappointment.
I followed my sister at the age of fourteen to go and work in a pub restaurant. I don’t know what my mum did on her first free Friday night in four years, I’d like to imagine it involved wine by a warm fire, created from shredded Advertisers. It wasn’t until I left my post as ‘papergirl’ that I realised how unimportant that job had been. I quickly learnt that my dad went out to the shop and actually paid for a newspaper every week, despite receiving the one I used to lovingly deliver. My paper was a mere freebie, something no one asked for, I could have easily dumped them in a bin and 90% of my round wouldn’t even notice it missing, and the other 10%’s pet dogs would have chewed them to shreds before they saw them anyway. I doubt this 10% even knew they were meant to receive a free paper.
Shockingly my new job actually paid less than the previous. At £3 an hour I knew I wouldn’t become a young female Alan Sugar equivalent, but pick ‘n’ mix and sillystring were still on the cards, so I was more than happy. At first the novelty of working inside was exciting, I could come home from a five hour shift dry as a bone, save for the odd splatter of chip grease and cranberry sauce. Having only previously worked with minimal communication, other than with my own mother, speaking to strangers in a customer service manner took some getting used to. I used to mumble reminders to myself as I walked from kitchen to restaurant floor; ‘Are you ready to order, would you care for a beverage, do you require any sauces.’ For the first couple of months these reminders didn’t help. Customers struggled to understand the mutterings of an apparently partially insane young teenager asking ‘Are you beveraging any sauces?’, whilst wondering whether they should leave a larger tip in the form of a charity donation.
After about a month of this gibberish, I talked two of my friends into working there too. I’m not sure how I managed this, I’m pretty certain my speech must have included a financial equation about sweets. This trend spread and in a matter of weeks a total of six of my friends were part of the tiny work force, in fact, I think me and my friends were the work force. After about a year, the magic of working inside wore off and I began to realise my sister was on almost double my wage at her new job. Repetitive complaining about sibling fairness must have lead my mum to phoning my boss one night. I waited excitedly as I heard phrases such as ‘shocking child labour’ and ‘abusing their age’ being used. Following the phone call, my mum sighed and said ‘Sorry Em, she’s only raising your wage to £3.50’. I couldn’t understand my mum’s sorrow, maybe she didn’t realise a 50p pay rise worked out at an extra 100g of sweets an hour, providing I bought them from Woolworths. It was the most exciting news I’d received since learning the Harry Potter books were being made into films. So the work continued.
At sixteen, I got my first ‘real’ job. By ‘real’ I mean, with payslips, holiday pay, a minimum wage and a stupid hat. Technically I have my older sister to thank again for this. Heading to University she left a vacancy at a local Supermarket Cafe. I jumped at the opportunity, I’d only heard about her pay packet, but if what had been said was true, well, life would be good. Dreams of mountains of pick ‘n’ mix had quickly been replaced with the prospect of affording large quantities of Alcohol and trips to Alton Towers. My position was to stand on the till for five hours on a Saturday taking orders.
I have to say that, although I wouldn’t have ever admitted it at the time, I probably enjoyed chatting to the pensioners at 8am more than I did attempting to rival my friends drinking into oblivion whilst listening out for parents arriving home early. Dare I say it, but I’d even go as far as calling some of the oldies ‘friends’. I mean, if I was on their Christmas card list every year, that’s got to mean something. That was nearly four years ago now though, so there’s a high possibility they’re dead. Sad. Very Sad.
I’ve had various jobs since then, heading to where I am now. I spent a couple of years working in a hotel, here I learnt I would never work anywhere that was open twenty-four hours a day again. £2 tip for working Christmas eve and Christmas day, fair wages my arse. Following that I spent about 3 months working for an uptight lady who referred to herself in third-person, who ended up firing me when I got conjunctivitis and wasn’t able to work one saturday. Then there was the gypsy, who hired my for his pub at a random wage of £20, regardless of whether I worked two or four hours. This job was cut short when the brewery who held joint ownership of the pub realised he was more interested in drinking the stock than selling it, and took it away from him. He was a very interesting man, I’ve never been sure whether the tales he told me were true, but I pretend they are. He also promised me free fish and a whippet puppy if I ever wanted it. Not sure where he’s disappeared to. Losing this position lead me to pick up another job at a very popular chain bar. There was only so much sick sweeping and 6am finishings I could take. I lasted two shifts before quitting.
This leads me to my most recent job, the one that started this babbling mess, working in video game retail. I’m not going to bore you with more mundane details, other than it’s a fun job, it’s like revisiting my till at the Supermarket Cafe. If I ever leave I will, without a doubt, miss it. My pay checks aren’t big, and now I have ‘grown up’ things to spend my money on, but one day, I’ll just go out and buy pick ‘n’ mix and sillystring.