Are you comfortably numb?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

What would William Wallace say?

Well, I write on my second day of being co-home runner with Tom of the flat. Mum and Dad went off on Tuesday night, post-traditional meal of Burger King. I have to say driving home, getting home and waking up the next morning were some of the strangest experiences I've ever had. Despite planning and thinking through one moment for so long, we can never prepare ourselves for how the actual moment will feel. Knowing that we are now on our own, that if we sleep through our alarm there will be no one else to wake us up, that if we can't work out how to fix BT broadband there is no one else to try and fail, that if I burn something in the kitchen there is (probably, going on Tom's cooking experience) no one to empathise with me - this is a very weird feeling. However, it's also quite liberating knowing that if you go out till 3 am there is no one having a sleepless night at home, wondering if you've been raped and pillaged in Brighton by a gang of knife-brandishing 7 foot tall prison escapees. And I'll tell you what's really nice - having my own room! Yes, the moment has finally come.

I have a hideous day today. A joyous split shift awaits me, and in the middle of it I have to do kids' club from 4-5:30! So all in all I am going to go through roughly 12 hours of non-stop activity, most of it fairly physically wearing. If you have never been acquainted by the idea of a split shift, it probably means you have never worked in catering, but fear not! - I will tell you. What happens is you go into work from 12-3 (or 11 if you're REALLY in luck), so as to make the most of the lunchtime rush, of course. This normally involves little to no tips, if you are a waitress. This has always been one of the things that has puzzled me. It's as if people think that, because it's lunchtime, it doesn't really count as a meal out, and waitresses don't really count as waitresses. I mean, do they think that the waiting staff spend their lunchtimes there anyway and that bringing out a couple of plates of food and some drinks is just an aside, and therefore there's no need to pay them anything for their services? The other day I had a table of three who had starters, mains, and then coffees, with quite a few soft drinks as well - their bill came to over forty pounds but did I see a penny in my own pocket - no! In truth there is nothing less strenous about a busy lunchtime than a busy evening - in fact it's perhaps more so, because it's hotter, there's more of a rush all at once, and you know that people aren't going to tip you which makes your job seem like even more hard work.

Anyway, I digress. So after this palatable period of 3 hours of lunchtime mayhem, usually including a few whingy toddlers, deaf old people who can't understand a word you say and vice versa, and the occasional pervy and/or rude businessman indulging in a liquid lunch, you get to go home! Whoopee, you think! No 12-6 shift for me today! I get to go home, have a rest, put my feet up! However, your spirits plunge quicker than an Olympic synchronised diver as the cold realisation that you must return to your place of work no later than SIX PM seeps through your tired, sweaty body.

Now on the face of it this seems quite reasonable. Okay, you finish at 3, you go back at 6 - that's 3 hours in which to have a snooze, maybe meet up with a friend for a drink, perhaps even enjoy a quick game of cricket. But no. By the time you've walked home, made yourself a meal (because you won't have eaten yet) and cleared up after yourself it's nearly always 4. And the reality is that if you have to be back at work by 6 you have to start getting ready at about 5:20. So that leaves you a gap of 1 hour and 20 minutes in which to... well, let's face it, we normally end up lying in front of the telly.

Work will probably be worse than this today as well. "Not worse!" I hear you cry, "How could anything possibly be worse than that? Forget human rights in the Sudan or collectivisation in Russia! Split shifts make those look like a walk in the park!" Well, tsk tsk my dear reader, I feel you are perhaps overexaggerating a little; I would ask you to calm yourself. However, the calamity that has befallen us is this: my boss has 'done his back in' - apparently the technical term is that he has 'crushed vertabrae'. This happens from time to time, but this is the worse I've seen him. He even has bloodshot eyes (read that how you will). So anyway, I go into work last night and am informed that I should help on the bar as well as run my section, which is fine by me cos my section was quiet and I like bar work occasionally. But what really gets me is this: I ask, 'what's the doctor given you for it?' and he says, 'a week off work'. And then he shakes his head in a very solemn fashion and says 'there's no way I can have a week off. No way'. You know how people do that overly serious thing, with the little sarcastic snigger in their voice, to try and make you think they're proclaiming the 3rd world war, or the coronation of Prince Charles, or Daniella Westbrook being made a Lady or something? And I must say this phenomenon of my boss not being able to take a week off does quite baffle me. I mean, what does taking a week OFF from smoking and drinking entail, really? My boss is the only person I know who quite literally has given up cigarettes and then started smoking Hamlets at the same rate. He's very good at starting shifts. Starts them brilliantly. Serves people at the bar, does food order, might even run a couple of meals out. But the problem is that after roughly 42 minutes (maybe an hour if we're lucky) his body just seems to cry out in pure physical pain (or maybe it's an allergic reaction, I don't know), at the thought of carrying on! So sadly, he is forced to drop out of the race, to 'do a Paula', if I may use that expression, and retreat to the smoking area where his talents are much more at home. I will say that in the workplace he does have several skills which he uses extensively. Most of these are to be found in the drinking and smoking bracket it is true, but still he must be commended for them. The most amazing thing is he actually thinks he works harder than almost anyone else. It's quite astounding, his self belief.

Anyway enough of me whinging. I haven't written here for ages and obviously the creative potential is just pouring out of my pores, so to speak - or is that something to do with the fact that I haven't had a shower yet. Anyway, must go. Despite my seemingly negative tone I am in a good mood!

I will write more soon, even though no one reads this!

Bec x

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