Monday, September 27, 2004

Curriculum vitae

Seeing as the baby STILL hasn't arrived (and the terrifying prospect of inducement gets ever closer), I've yet to embark on my paternity leave, and still find myself at work with little to do today. Which got me thinking about my working life, and the wending twists and turns my professional existence has taken. It looks a little like this:

1. I managed to last an impressive four years in my first job. Having dropped out of my degree course on the grounds of apathy and unsuitability for the vocational path I had misguidedly selected (it was a law degree. Ha!), I jumped into a role at what used to be a very well-known high street record chain. To this day, still the best bread-and-butter job I've ever had. What's not to love? Hanging with your friends, listening to music and talking trash. It was the best. Having to sell Michael Bolton and Bon Jovi albums to brain-washed dullards was an unfortunate side-effect of the job. I met some of my closest, lifelong friends there. I met my future wife there. I had some of the best nights of my life after leaving the shop at the end of the day. Lots of laughter, lots of fun, absolutely sod all money. But somehow, we all managed to cope on our minimum wage. Which wasn't too hard when our job and our social life were exactly the same thing.

Towards the end of my time there, I had reached the heady heights of Acting Assistant Manager (which roughly translates as "Assistant Manager with a lower salary".) A new Manager was placed in the shop with the explicit task of splitting us all up. To force us to either transfer to another branch, or quit. We all quit. I was the last one of my crew to leave. I was surrounded by strangers in my last weeks there. It was about time, anyway. It wasn't somewhere to carve out a career. Which led me to...

2. The television post-production and animation company in Soho. I started at the bottom of the totem pole as the lowly runner, and within a month, I ended up with the dual-pronged job title of Production Assistant and Personal Assistant to the Managing Director. I snagged this role by exhibiting a character trait not usually associated with career advancement: I didn't flinch when the M.D. screamed at me for 5 minutes non-stop. So she promoted me, impressed with my ability to soak up an inordinate amount of shit and abuse. And she was more than happy to provide the shit and abuse. She was a stone-cold bitch.

On my first day in the newly-minted role, I was sent to buy her a tube of KY Jelly and some ribbed jimmy-hats. Either she was the dried-up skank I imagined her to be, or she wanted her man to do her in the ass. I like to think it was a bit of both. They do say that people in power often like to take the submissive position in a sexual scenario.

I tolerated her increasingly frenzied verbal molestation for another two years. She hurled every swear word at her disposal towards me over those years. She ignored me most mornings, she debased me most afternoons. But I'm a tough cookie. I inhaled her venom like cigarette smoke, and exhaled it when I left every evening. The job did play havoc with my self-esteem towards the end, though. If someone tells you that you are worthless shit enough times, you tend to start believing it.

The job in and of itself was quite enjoyable (which was why I put up with it for so long). I got to work on some interesting film-shoots for title sequences and commercials. I learnt a lot. I was a shit-hot Production Manager. I could throw a successful film shoot together from scratch within the space of an afternoon. I was reasonably well-rewarded for my work. And I was well-liked and respected. (Even the M.D. with her Medusa-like tresses was fond of me. She just had a fucked up way of showing it.)

There were two flashpoints which made me say "Enough!":

a) On a business trip to Prague, the M.D. was being bothered by a cleaner who insisted on cleaning her hotel room. Which was, y'know, just her job. After struggling to get rid of the cleaner, who didn't understand English, the M.D. screeched "Just fuck off back to the Concentration Camp!" and slammed the door in her face.

b) Shortly after the M.D. had returned to the opulent environs of our Soho offices, our receptionist was raped. Too terrified to call the M.D. to inform her why she would not be able to come to work, she called me. I told her I'd smooth things over at work, and not to worry about the office. In the big scheme of things, work wasn't important. On the receptionist's second day of leave to come to terms with the fall-out of her attack, the M.D. flipped out: "I don't give a fuck! It's a problem for the police, it's not my fucking problem! She should be here at work!"

And that was the second when I knew I had to get the fuck out of that company. I resigned later that week, even though I didn't have another job to go to. She fought to keep me, but too little, and far too fucking late. I think I'd sold out enough of my soul by then. I'd also made a conscious decision to leave the T.V. industry. It was a difficult decision to make. I was doing well in the business. I was starting to make decent connections, and I was damn good at what I did. But I couldn't face all the ancillary bullshit: the corruption, the rampant egotism, the self-centredness, the epic wastage of money on the truly diabolical shit that clogs our televisions.

So another change of career was on the horizon. But I'm already starting to run long here, and I should at least feign diligence as I hammer at these keys. Barring the arrival of my baby, I will return to the next sharp turn in my working life soon...

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