Jackie Little: My Life As A Domestic Ogress
Scoop's Jackie Little ponders the absurdities of modern life.
Well, the time had come. Sons number one and two established at the local primary school, the tiny terror dispatched to wreak his havoc at the kindergarten three afternoons per week. Perhaps my head would stop spinning for long enough to make a much needed return to paid employment. Nothing too taxing on the old grey matter of course, just a cosy little number to keep the wolves from the door and to provide some desperately craved social interaction with post pre-pubescents, as it were.
So, here we go, a local health supplement store is looking for a shop assistant. A doddle! Flogging vitamins over the counter to health and fitness freaks. Excellent. I know all about healthy living. I’ve got an Ó level in food and nutrition – admittedly dating back to the days when vegetables were boiled to soup and public information broadcasts exhorted fatigued drivers to stop and light up a nice soothing fag, but the foundation is surely sound.
Ye Gods! What is this they’ve sent me ? An application form for refugee status from some malevolent despotism? List your last four employers, your title, role, immediate superior, duties and skills acquired. List your educational and other achievements dating back to pre-school, tell us what you have to offer this dynamic and fast growing industry. It went on and on.
Chewing on vitamin B for stress relief, punctuated with the odd dose of rescue remedy, I ploughed through the tortuous inquisition dredging my distant memory for who on earth might have been my boss 20 years ago and what his/her phone number might be – did they have phones then?. This I sent off with required CV enclosed (Isn’t all the relevant information meant to be on the wretched things, isn’t that the whole point of them?)
Next my dream job, a bookshop. Oh the bliss. To sit in a peaceful nook perusing the pages of Shakespeare and Hardy – with maybe the odd peek at Jilly Cooper below the counter – and chat in a leisured and learned fashion with my fellow bookworms. I fired off a self congratulatory letter full of boastful hints regarding my literary erudition only to receive a scathing reply informing me I had not attained the position of salesperson at the stamp and stationary counter of said shop. Philistines!
Never mind, why not go straight for the genuine article? The local PostShop was looking for a “Retail Officer” on Fridays and Saturdays. Ideal. Always seem a jolly friendly crowd when I pop in to pay my bills. Transported with excitement when I was actually invited to an “assessment”, - I had been starting to doubt the reality of my own existence.
I was told to allow two hours for the appointment. TWO HOURS? I don’t any interview I’ve ever attended has lasted longer than about twenty five minutes.
Anyway, I turned up at the appropriate hour, smartly spruced up in my most business like duds and joined the other would be postal service workers – not without a pang of apprehension - don’t a lot of these types end up on bitter and murderous shotgun sprees because their pension plan didn’t pan out?
But we were a cheerful enough bunch to start with, right up until we found ourselves herded en masse out of the building, around the side, back in through a seedy entrance and upstairs to a tiny, gloomy room bereft of any furniture whatsoever and with a distinctly subterranean atmosphere, despite the actual location on the top storey.
There we were left, shuffling and avoiding eye contact for a good twenty minutes during which the ambience felt more chillingly Orwellian with each passing moment. By the time we eventually heard footsteps echoing along the corridor, I fully expected the first quivering candidate to be dragged off to room 101.
Instead, we were trooped into an equally cheerless – though mercifully larger chamber where we were presented with cash tills, price lists, details of this week’s specials and a running balance sheet. We were given 35 minutes to calculate, round up or down and record transactions of various complexity, also to make a note of any “suggestive sales” that might occur to us – ooh er!!!
Well it was torture, so reminiscent of the dreaded school exam room, complete with pacing invigilator, nervous coughing and hasty scratchings out that Room 101 was looking like a distinctly attractive alternative.
Anyway, I failed dismally, getting through just over half my conundrums due to fanatical rechecking of my mental arithmetic. But along with my fellow would- be Retail Officers, I was kept waiting a mere half hour in the original cell before being told I simply wouldn’t cut the mustard in the fast paced world of stamps and envelopes.
All very depressing, at this rate I may end up making my living recording my wretched life on an Internet news site .Anyway, this being my first, and on current form, possibly last column for Scoop I have yet to come up with a suitably catchy sign off, so I’ll leave with a now sadly familiar refrain and wish you all good luck in your search for employment