Archive for August, 2005

I Am Trying to Avoid Referencing “Streetcar”

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

Today I’ve had the fortune of discovering Bitch PhD, and have been wishing I’d found her a lot sooner. Her writing makes me make little excited noises in the back of my throat, which is a nice reaction to have.

In particular, this entry touched me, to the point where I got a little bit teary, because underneath my sardonic, cellulite-ridden outer shell beats the heart of someone who just loves hearing stories about random acts of kindness. And now my cover is blown.

It reminded me of an experience of kindness I had last December. Late last year was a bad time for me, most notably because of my friend Bec’s death, but also because I was job hunting and house hunting and trying to deal with a bad bout of depression that had already been hanging around for a few months by then.

The job situation looked to be sorting itself out. I’d been offered a permanent part-time position at the shop where I now work, and was interviewing for a casual position with a major book retailer who shall remain nameless. I let Book Retailer know that I’d been offered another position that would require me to work Friday and Saturday, so they knew where I was coming from if they hired me. They were cool with this, and hired me anyway. I was elated.
Then they started trying to give me shifts on Fridays and Saturdays. Annoyed, but determined to not be a pain in the arse, and thinking that they probably needed to train me on those days for a reason, I rearranged shifts at my other new job, where I was still undergoing training, so I could appease Book Retailer.
Training came to an end, and they gave me my roster for the next month. It included at least one Friday or Saturday a week. I felt a bit worried at this point, as the woman I’d informed of my other employment status was my new manager. I brought up my other job again. She looked annoyed but agreed to swap my shifts over grudgingly. I’d made myself available for the other five days of the week, and had understood that they knew of my other employment commitments when they hired me, so I was feeling a little annoyed yet again by this point, but still trying to be helpful. Then she tried to guilt trip me out of taking a weekend away that had been planned and paid for months in advance – Stuart’s and my mostly-annual pilgrimage to the Meredith Music Festival. I thought about not going and staying home and working, but it had been planned for a long time, I didn’t want to disappoint Stu, and I realised that if I stayed, I wouldn’t be making enough money to cover the cost of my (non-refundable, as far as I knew) ticket anyway. I apologised profusely and assured her that I had no other upcoming commitments. The guilt trip was working.

Then came the news about Bec. As soon as I was able to function mentally again and knew the date of the funeral, I rang to talk to my manager because the funeral was on a Saturday and, you guessed it, it was yet another Saturday that they’d rostered me on (fortunately one that my other job didn’t need me for, in this case). I offered to work as many other shifts as they needed me for, in exchange for being able to attend my close friend’s funeral. The manager grudgingly agreed. “We need you to come in today or tomorrow,” she said, “there’s some paperwork you didn’t fill out properly.”

I went in the next day to fix up my paperwork, and to hear the lovely news that they had decided to fire me, because I was “unreliable”. Because giving them advance notice of my availability before they had even agreed to hire me, and daring to keep a commitment I’d made several months in advance are both obvious indicators that I don’t take employment seriously and don’t really want to work. Needing a day off to go to a funeral is pure self-indulgence, especially when the guy who started at the same time as me and knew the friend in question also doesn’t need the day off to go (I wish I was making that last part up, but the guy really did know Bec, but wasn’t going to her funeral, and the manager tried to use this against me, again to guilt trip me). Despite the fact that I’ve been praised for my diligence and hard work and good attitude in every other job I’ve ever held (with the possible exception of the babysitting gig where I used Barbie’s clothes and a Ken doll to educate my charges about transvestism), Book Retailer obviously had the real, true perspective of what I really was: a no-good bludger who wouldn’t know how to be grateful for a job being thrown her way in a million years.

Yes, actually, I am still bitter. How can you tell?

Anyway, that was rather long-winded, so I’ll get to the nice(r) part. After I was fired, I stayed in the office a while to fix up the form I’d filled out. I went into a kind of daze, not thinking about anything at all. I walked out of the shop and into the busy street, and feeling started to come back. Right, I thought, I can handle this.
And then I burst into tears.
I raced across the road and sat on the steps of the building opposite my now-former workplace, and cried and cried and cried. The only other time I’d cried in public before was not long before that; I’d been Christmas shopping in a suburban shopping centre when I’d gotten the news about Bec, and ran the long, circuitous route to get outside, crying and hyperventilating as I went.
This time, as last time, I didn’t care who saw, even though I am normally very private about things like crying. It didn’t matter anyway; no one stopped, no one even looked my way.
Eventually, though, I heard “Excuse me, Miss, is there anything I can do to help you?” and twigged that the speaker was talking to me. I looked up into the face of an elderly man and tried to choke back more sobs.
“Not really, but thank you,” I said.
He asked what was wrong, so I gave him the condensed version. He looked incensed, and sat down beside me and we had a long chat. He railed against the continued casualisation of the workforce and the government’s determination to strip lower-income workers of their rights (his words, not mine). He talked about his son’s employment status (with a major furniture retailer, which by the sounds of it doesn’t live up to their name when it comes to how they treat their employees). He commiserated about Bec in a way that didn’t sound forced or false despite the fact that a blotchy-faced young stranger was now unstoppably pouring out her story to him. As mentioned before, I’m normally a very private person when it comes to how things affect me emotionally, but this man, Dave, made me feel like I could talk to him, and listened carefully to everything I had to say.

When I was feeling a bit better, and grief and rage were giving way to embarrassment, we parted ways. But not before he gave me a homemade business card with his and his wife’s names and address and phone number on it, and told me that if I ever needed to talk to someone, to not hesitate to call him. He patted my shoulder and smiled at me and left.

I misplaced the card when I moved a couple of weeks later, but I still write Dave thank you letters in my head. What he did that day truly touched me and helped me in a very bleak moment when I wasn’t believing there was much good in anyone. If I ever find it again, I’ll write him one for real.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugh

Friday, August 5th, 2005

Briefly:

The Good: Discovered yesterday that I received an HD for my major essay for Literary Theory last semester, which was a lovely surprise, considering I thought I was absolutely shit at the subject and that my essay was crap, even though I busted arse getting it done. However, I am more than happy to defer to the better judgement of someone else when they think nicer things about me than I do.

The Bad: Also yesterday, I found out that my all-time favourite professor, the man who has been a fabulous mentor and enthusiastic supporter of my endeavors for years, has cancer. Fortunately the doctors caught it early and he’s undergoing chemotherapy at the moment, so hopefully he’ll make a complete recovery. It’s a shock when someone you know who’s normally so healthy and energetic has something like this happen to them; a reminder of human frailty, which is something I, for one, don’t particularly like being reminded of. I’m thinking of him a lot and trying to compose a letter that doesn’t sound mawkish and stupid. It’s not so successful so far.

The Ugh: My thesis is actually due two weeks earlier than the date I was originally told it was, making it due at the end of September. On one hand this is good because the end is in sight finally and I have something to work for, but on the other hand I kind of need those extra two weeks. Oh well. We’ll see how I go.

Updates may be even more sporadic than usual as I focus on slaying the Thesis Beast, but then again I might kick into procrastination mode and finish those long entries that are currently saved as drafts in Movable Type. Who knows. If only ridding myself of Thesis Beast was as simple as my nephew’s method of ridding himself of Daddymonster: I would dearly love to hide under a table for a while (taking a much larger companion with me, natch), then jump out screaming “RAHHHH!” and run away, and still get first class honours for my efforts.