Minimum wage; it's not a payroll for the haughty is it? You kinda sag inside like a burst sofa just contemplating it. When I tell people that I'm earning that salary, it feels like admitting to an erectile dysfunction. It's like:
"Hey Callum, not seen you in while man! What you been up to?"
"Ah, you know, Uni. I'm working."
"Cool, how much do you earn?"
"Uh, minimum wage."
"Yeah. Minimum wage. The least amount of money I could legally be paid. I couldn't earn less if I tried. Yup. I mean, my boss would like to pay me less, by Christ he would, but there are laws stopping him. Otherwise I'd have the same salary as Bob Cratchitt. Sooooo all those years of education I've been through, are apparently completely wasted on me, because I'm now employed to perform a task that could be better accomplished by a ring-tailed macaque for a weekly paycheck that buys me a Pot Noodle in this economy. Until I have to pay tax. Top-banana."
|(Would you like some self-respect with that?)|
Then there's the other kind; the kind of job that leaves you with PTSD after your first shift, the kind of job that reduces you to a gaunt, hollow-cheeked husk after a week. The kind of job that kills you, buries you in a shallow grave by a roadside dyke, then after sixty-hundred-and-sixty-six months uses the arcane arts of necromancy to reanimate you and put you back on the payroll.
|(Working hard or hardly wor-ARRGHGHGHCKH!)|
In the June of '12, my dearest mother gave me a phone call to announce, with audible pride, that she'd secured my summer employment. She'd been drinking with people at the local highland games, exchanging news and gossip, and had managed to convince a friend's husband to give me a job in his biscuit factory. Interested was I. Naive was I. Unbroken was I.
You know, I was actually pretty stoked for it. I'd been unemployed over the last summer and it had not sat well with me. Plus the prospect of filling out applications and printing CV's and sending e-mails and the endless, endless rejection was too arduous to even consider. It was a job right? Money in my pocket: I didn't give a soggy shite how I got my hands on it, just as long as the labour was mindless, the pay regular and I could piss-off home before 5pm. It was a biscuit factory man, how hard could it be? I wasn't being sent down a mine-shaft, I'd be boxing oatcakes, Easy cash, right?
|(The horror! OH THE HUMANITY!)|
For a start, I was informed that my shifts lasted from 6am to 3pm, every weekday. Since the factory was in Niddrie and I live in Bathgate, this meant that every morning started with a 40 minute drive. To get to work on time I had to climb out of my bed at 5am. Dear readers, 5am is not something that regularly happens to me. I have never been, of my own free will, fully conscious at this hour. I never had any desire to experience 5am. 5am is a phenomenon for those of us who have never had the good fortune to have heard of half twelve.
|(Not pictured: me awake at this ungodly hour)|
So Monday morning I pitched up at the gates, 5.55 sharp, signed all the appropriate forms and donned my work clothes. When dealing with food; I don't have to tell you guys how important sanitation and hygiene was to the business ... but fuck it, I'll tell you anyway. All employees had to adhere to a strict dress-code. We were required to wear a hairnet at all times for a start, and that was fucking humiliating. And I didn't get a baseball cap hiding it like the kids in Subway. Nah, I was constantly aware of how much of a twat I looked; and I looked like a monumental twat. I could actually feel my stifling twatishness and it was suffocating. I felt like a sideshow attraction.
|(And I looked like this. Seriously)|
|(The engineer's shoehorn)|
So, properly attired, I was ready (not really) to commence my imminent carousel-ride through all seven circles of Hell. The next fortnight was as traumatic as watching your girlfriend have an affair with your Alsatian.
|(Adultery's a sin Rover)|
So I was a factory worker; not a position I was proud of by any stretch of the imagination, but I was also a new guy with no previous experience, which put me roughly just below yeast in the factory food-chain. I was everybody's bitch, and for good reason: I never had a clue what I was doing. Usually I had a lot of janitorial work to do, because by and large it was the one type of work that I could do without ruining everything. This meant a lot of sweeping, which was good, because usually when you're sweeping people leave you alone. It's such a dull, pointless lowbrow task that supervisors usually pay it no heed. Often, they wouldn't notice that I'd been meticulously sweeping the same four feet for twenty minutes, which left me free to daydream. If any of you guys suffer the misfortune to become janitors, I've got one piece of advice for you: learn to mop in your sleep. It will make your life immeasurably easier.
|(These are life skills I'm teaching you guys)|
I also had the ignomious job of collecting the waste biscuits in these large cylindrical plastic bins, and dumping them in an entirely separate shipping container. This was by far the most repugnant of my various duties, and the one I loathed the most. For a start, those bins were heavy. You might not think that oatcakes are the weightiest of foodstuffs, but once those bins were full they became as dense as a collapsing star. Also, I had this job before I started taking regular exercise and weight-training seriously, so my soft wee noodle arms would struggle to lift even one more than ten feet without my having an asthma attack. The only choice you had if you wanted to avoid picking up fifty metric tonnes was to jog around the factory floor, taking out the bins before they got too full. Anything filled more than halfway was exhausting to shift, so you had to be quick, but often the effort of keeping up with the pace of the machinery was more knackering than just heaving the bloody things out when they were full.
|(Don't look at me like that, lifting things is hard)|
|(How do those rat turds taste Babe?)|
(This week I've been reading the famous satirical mock-epic 'The Rape of the Lock' by Alexander Pope, which is; shock and horror, actually pretty funny. Imagine that! People in ye olden days had senses of humor! In all seriousness if you haven't read it yourself, then give it a look, particularly if your a classics student with a firm knowledge of 'The Iliad' or 'The Aeneid' - I'm looking at you Rachel - although I still haven't read either myself ... Whoops. There goes my carefully cultivated facade of literacy ...)
|(Alexander Pope: A Pretty Cool Guy)|