Monday, February 04, 2013

Don't quit your day jobs

OR My week in review.

Although the U.K. general treats the un- and under-employed (including many artists) better than the U.S., my visa-holding status precludes me from receiving any government assistance or benefits.  Boringly, this means I work a lot, earn not-so-much, don't get any government monies, and without "concessions" (benefits) status, I miss out on lots of discounts (on gym memberships, theatre tickets, etc.).  That's right: I'm poor, and because I don't qualify for benefits, I have to pay more for things!

The upside to this situation is that I work a lot of ridiculous jobs to make ends meet.  I mean, I try to see it as an upside.  It's a pretty even trade off of all self respect for a few nuggets of comic gold. I actually have a (very exciting) well-paid ACTING job on the horizon, but in the meantime, I must keep plugging away.

This is what my schedule looked like this week:

JOB TITLE: Corporate Hospitality Assistant
UNIFORM: Black, long-sleeved, button-up shirt, black trousers, black leather shoes
JOB DESCRIPTION: Set up conference rooms with tea, coffee and biscuits.  Clear said conference rooms.  Prepare and serve sandwich lunches.  Drink lots of free coffee.

JOB TITLE: Costume Waitress
UNIFORM: Silver lamé catsuit, silver face paint, purple wig
JOB DESCRIPTION: Do the same waitressing as everyone else, only in a silver catsuit and purple wig.

JOB TITLE: Football Club Hospitality Hostess
UNIFORM: Tailored red dress with matching jacket, black court shoes
JOB DESCRIPTION: Greet guests in club level dining area, check tickets against list, make sure everyone gets a laniard, food and lots of beers.  Escort guest to boxes for football match, chat with everyone, make sure everyone has a good time and lots of beers.

JOB TITLE: Cover drama teacher
UNIFORM: Whatever the fuck I want
JOB DESCRIPTION: Teach four teenagers something about acting.

JOB TITLE: In-store promoter
UNIFORM: Black suit, flouncy purple scarf, branded badge
JOB DESCRIPTION: Bother women in the vitamin aisle.  Imply that they are probably old and wish  to look younger.  Tout the benefits of a skin nutrition supplement.  Try not to gouge own eyes out with pen.

I was dreading the week.  I am really tired of working in catering.  Every time I have to pull on my black uniform and apron and polish up my service smile, I die a little inside.  It feels like a massive step backwards.  So yeah, I wasn't thrilled to be doing two waiting jobs.

Monday went shockingly well.  I turned up to do a day of hospitality at an office I worked at regularly about a year ago.  I was not thrilled for a number of reasons, the first of which was the aforementioned backward progression.  Secondly, the boss is a big racist.  Much of my time working there was spent subtly trying to dispute her generalisations without compromising my shitty but much-needed source of income.

For Example:

RACIST BOSS: She's very hard-working.  But that's Indians for you.

ME: Mmmhmm.

RB: Don't you think? They're very hard-working.

ME: Um, yes, some of them are, but I would not say that about all Indian people.  But yes.  She is very hard-working.

And then the same again for laziness, trustworthiness (or lack thereof), etc.  Charming, right?  I know.

Then there was the time when I was bullied mercilessly by another agency co-worker for no reason that I could ascertain and was essentially told (by the same boss) that she was a good worker and that I should therefore grin and bear it, at least until they could find someone else.  This was a woman who blanked me when I said Good morning, shushed me and said, "Shut up, you're too loud", when I'd ask a work-related questions, and humiliated me in front of guests by leaving me without assistance in service and then loudly accusing me of doing nothing.  I survived two brutal days of this before vowing never to work there again.

When I did return, it was to a change in middle management (I didn't even mention how the former floor supervisors used to bicker and try to get me to take sides).  I was told by the big boss that my bully had been in the UK on a false passport and was consequently deported, "Typical Indian!"  I did not receive an apology for having withstood workplace harassment.  Nor for having poor management excused with a racist remark.

But, January is a quiet month in the events biz, and needs must, so I plastered on my finest grin and decided to make the best of it.

And, whadayaknow?  The big boss was in the office all day instead of the kitchen.  There were several events going on throughout the day, and (as I could do the job blindfolded underwater), I was left to look after the conference rooms all by my beautiful, peaceful, zen-like lonesome.  I had some lovely chat with the (film-loving) manager, and I got the job done.  Bam!  Monday done.

I was expecting Tuesday to be ridiculous and slightly humiliating.  I was not really being paid enough to wear a skin-tight getup while everyone else wore normal catering gear, but again, needs must.

After having my makeup done in a baby changing station, I went to collect my costume and wig.  The  package featured a buxom blonde woman, seductively unzipping her catsuit.  On me, the size small costume was simultaneously too loose and too short.  The stirrup feet gave the baggy zip-up catsuit a comically taught effect.  I did not look sexy.  I looked like a five-year old in a onesie, post-growth–spurt.

The management also found it pretty funny (which was fine by me), and gave me an apron to complete my "future waitress" look, but more practically to give me my waist back.

I was fine with rocking a goofy look.  In fact, I'm much more comfortable playing goofy robot than sexy waitress, and I was only attracting the strangest looks until the BUTLERS IN THE BUFF arrived.

Yep, it's exactly what it sounds like.  Until instructed that they would be required to wear trousers for this event, they were sporting only bow-ties, collars, cufflinks (didn't know before you could get them as separates), and napkin-sized, front-covering-only aprons.  I did not gawk at their bare bottoms.  Much.  Not as much as most of my colleagues.

Naked waiters!  Sexy onesie robots!  I was allowed to change for the last hour and help with the heavy lifting in the back.  I was grateful.  Tuesday done!

I'm actually loving working at the football club.  Because it's actually a regular gig for me, I see a lot of the same guests, people remember and ask for me, and this week I got moved to the boxes, which meant I actually got to work during (not just before) the match.  I looked after a fabulously friendly group of guests, and I got to watch a good bit of the game, and I met some football Legends.

Thursday was even better.  I was really nervous, as I'm used to teaching little little kids, and teenagers kind of scare the bejesus out of me.  I also hadn't had to make up any kind of a lesson plan in over two years.  The regular teacher gave me free reign to try out my improv workshop ideas (the ones I've been sitting on forever).  This was spectacular in terms of forward progression and doing the kind of work I want to do, but forward progression is also terrifying.

I had nothing to be worried about.  The potential for apathy was diminished by the fact that those kids wanted to be there.  It was a one-hour private class, and I could have taught them for three.  They were game for what I brought and smart as shit.  I want more of it.

Friday I wanted to gouge my eyes out with a pen.  I resisted.

Could I work a 9 to 5 job and have more financial security/less day-to-day insanity?  Yes.  Would I be bored shitless?  Yes.

I'll take the occasional catsuit over a desk job any day.