Work is shit

Pete Wylde talks to Think readers about the things we do to pay the bills…

‘Hard work is the refuge of people with nothing better to do.’ Oscar Wilde. But then again old Oscar probably never had to do that much hard work, what with all the parties and and the opium and his fathers fortune. Well, not until he ended up in Reading Jail for rodgering Jude Law anyhow.

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I bring up the horrid subject of work after recently scouring the rancid depths of my computer’s hard drive and coming across an old copy of my Curriculum Vitae. Amongst the various exaggerations about the back breaking charity work I had done (collecting pound coins for the local Scout Group aged 8) and my Olympic sporting endeavours (I almost came 3rd in the 200m at school sports day one year) I found a memory I had done so well to repress; My first job.

At an age too young to claim minimum wage, the local branch of a global supermarket chain (whose name might rhyme with Al Fresco) had been foolish enough to take me on as their ‘Frozen Foods Replenishment Co-ordinator’, or ‘Spaz who rearranges boxes of peas inside a walk-in freezer’.

Working gloveless inside a -150C morgue full of sausages and sweetcorn was only slightly more enjoyable than being bullied by my remedial chimp of a supervisor, whose job it apparently was to constantly change his mind about where the Quorn burgers should be stacked. The only respite was hiding in the far toilet cubicle, or the ‘Writing Toilet’, where staff members would scribe poetry in biro on the wall about said Remedial Chimp Supervisor, his lack of sexual potency, his bald patch, his unfulfilled wife, and so on.

And as I was daydreaming/shuddering away, it all came back. Like a flood of mental sewage, a decades worth of humiliation, bad uniforms and suicidal Monday mornings. I thought I had burned it out of my hippocampus with cheap cider. But no. There it was. Like a bag of rotten banana skins I had hidden under the bed. I wanted to explore all these occupational nightmares, decide if I had actually learned a lesson from it all, perhaps learn to live with them. But I could not face it alone. So I invested in the help of fellow Think readers.

The mundane
I started off by asking techno producer and crocodile enthusiast I AM BLIP if he had ever had a crap job before he made the big time. ‘I once worked in a cake factory. My job was to scrape the burnt on bits off the bottom of the tins as they went past on a conveyor belt to be greased by a machine that misted oil. Too hot, greasy air, and crap chat. 20 weeks of hell.’

BLIP was not the only one who had done hard time in a factory. Playwright Deborah Pearson vaguely recalls ‘boxing endless VHS tapes in cardboard listening to repetitive easy listening radio, mind bendingly dull’ and roving musicoligist Joseph Jonathon spent ‘Long hours being shouted at by speed-fuelled truck drivers in a New York book depository’

Had anyone come out of the experience with any wisdom? Apparently not. But hold on, I’m having another flashback…

The humiliating
I was back in Edinburgh, many moons ago. I had agreed to do a job which was advertised as ‘cycling’. Sounds fun right? I thought so. But what the advert had failed to mention was that the bike I was to ride around on had a huge advertising board attached to the back and speakers built into the frame. It was basically a pedal-powering twat magnet. After I forced myself through months of cycling around to announce a new supermarket or fungal toe cream, being abused by idiots in fluorescent Vauxhall Nova’s, I thought I was invincible to shame. That was until the day a new high-end gym opened that required our ‘target based marketing’.

In the middle of George Street (which is where all the rich people live/work in Edinburgh), myself and a colleague, wearing the fitness club’s red puffa jackets, rode the Ad Bikes round in circles to ‘attract more attention’ whilst ‘hot girls’, who where well past their sell-by date, handed out flyers for the gym. Then my boss arrived with a Britney Spears album to play through the bike’s speaker system. After that point it all goes a bit hazey…

As I tearfully recalled this exercise in ritual torture, a reader who DOES NOT WANT TO BE NAMED, admitted she had once been paid £50 to sit out all night outside a ticket booth to buy tickets for a Robbie Williams concert. When, sleep deprived and hungry, she went to collect her payment from the person who was both a) retarded enough to go to a Robbie Williams concert and b) rich and lazy enough to pay someone else to buy the ticket for him, the look in the his eyes and the smirk on his face said 3 words. You. Are. Scum. Here’s your money, peasant.

The downright shit
Then it all started to get dirty. With no residual malice towards the child in question, Charity Founder Shannon O’Brian recalled a lesson she was teaching at a nursery school in Ghana where ‘a kid actually shit on my foot’. The cheeky beggar. But that comment seemed to open the floodgates on the support group that this article has become.

Lili Gilbert suddenly remembered ‘picking poo out of a ball pen’ at a children’s play centre called Pirate Pete’s, ‘Especially fun when you have to individually wipe every ball’. Neuroscientist Tom Chater stood back and watched as a child dropped his shorts and laid a little brown egg in front of his checkout at a supermarket. He made the mother clean that one up.

But the prize definitely goes to war veteran David Clarke.

Whilst looking after two autistic boys in their parents’ garden, Dave was dumbstruck when one of the boys had a panic attack. The young chap’s knee-jerk reaction was to pull down his pants and jam his thumb up his arse whilst screaming. After trying to console him, Dave looked in the kitchen window to find the other boy also with his pants down, masturbating, as Queen played on the radio.

A silence that seemed to sum up the whole mood of the evening shrouded us all.
Dave looked up wistfully. ‘I was only trying to teach him how to ride his fucking bike’.

Hard work the refuge of people with nothing better to do? Fuck you Oscar Wilde. Fuck you.