Friday, 30 May 2008

Earning Pounds, Losing Pounds

Beginning the 9-5 Hi-ho

So since my last post I’ve picked up an office job. My first office job. There are some pretty cool perks involved, but before hearing about these I was already elated that I don’t have to clean anything at all before I go home. This is the first job I’ve ever had where I can just leave. Scrubbing mugs, dismantling coffee machines, sweeping, mopping, polishing, cling-wrapping, dating and rotating, changing bins, restocking syrups and condiments, refreshing griller foil, emptying grinders, wringing out dishcloths, unpacking dishwashers, wiping dried milk out of blenders and all those other tasks that left my hands looking and feeling like crunchy-nut cornflakes (but probably tasting more like Windex and off milk) are – hopefully – a thing of the past. Here I can just turn off my computer and go. And someone else cleans up after me.

I’ve noticed that each morning when I come in the bin next to my desk has been changed, and the corners of the bin-bag have been tied in neat, thoughtful little knots so the bag doesn’t collapse in on itself under the sudden clunk of my banana peel missile. I wonder who this person is that I never see. Maybe it’s someone else who dreams of that glorious peach-flavoured day in the future when they don’t have to clean before they go home. Maybe I should leave them a little present with a note tied on:

To the lovely soul who empties my bin. Sorry about the unfinished cup of tea the other day. Please accept this jumbo-sized packet of Revels and a charcoal still-life entitled Basil plant and daisy in shot-glass on Hackney table* as a token of my appreciation. Yours with neat, thoughtful little knots: Sarah.

*based on a true still-life.

I’m working for the Admissions Department at a college in London and, after only a week, I have been hit multiple times around the ears, nose and throat with a giant plastic cliché bat, and tickled on the shoulder with many obsequious feathers. To explain, as part of the application process, students have to submit an essay/personal statement outlining why they have chosen this school, what they will bring to the campus community, where they see themselves in five years and all the usual gaff. Occasionally you will read one that’s well-written and touching, but in general the opening emails (read: the obsequious feathers) and personal statements (read: the cliché bats) go a little something like this:

(a) The emails

Dearest respected sirs,

Hope by the grace of God you are doing fine. I just put in my applicant to your highly esteemed and most honourable institution and hope very much that your excellences will give me a place in your grand school. Your excellences must see my English skills is being very high, and I think my applicant must be top priority. While waiting to hear from your quick and positive actions, I will remain your future student. Thanking you, and God be blessing you abundantly.

(I don’t mean to sound quite so mocking, because I happen to like being referred to as ‘your excellence’ (even though they assume I’m a man). It’s a definite step up from ‘that coffee wench’.

(b) The personal statements

It is my personal opinion that you must dare to dream in this life to achieve all of your life’s goals. You must aim for the moon because that way if you miss, you’ll still end up amongst the stars.

From a very young age I have dreamed about working in Marketing – it all started when I found that I had a knack for cross-promoting animal crackers in the playground at Our Lady of the Sacred Cheesewheel in Venezuela – and since then I have been slaving over hot quantitative studies and praying at the mosques of advertising shamans to earn a place at your fine institution. I see your school as the next step on the pathway to my dream, and if my hard work and naked determination to succeed is not enough to convince you, please take the following into account:

When I was sixteen my father had the hide to lower my Jimmy Choo budget and told me I’d have to start working if I wanted that new pair of orange silk pumps. This significant life set-back contributed to my low self-esteem and I ended up with a serious eating disorder where I could only ingest purple-coloured foodstuffs. It was many months before I could look at an orange, and to this day star-fruit upsets my fragile constitution, but I pulled together and, green grape by green grape, I reached my goal of ‘total dietary colour incorporation’.

When my father saw my determination to conquer broccoli rapids and scale the dizzying heights of sushi peak, he decided that I was obviously of the highest managerial and marketing calibre, and reinstated my Choo budget. He is also going to pay my tuition fees, so if you ever have a problem with payment (which you won’t, because he owns Belgium), just let me know and I’ll threaten him with a bag of aubergines and purple cabbage.

So, as you can see, I know what it’s like to suffer outrageous fortune (as King Lear said), and I will always hold a strong desire to overcome any obstacle and attain the freedom to eat white-chocolate mousse, or – in this case – study Marketing. Most of all, I know that we can’t let our dreams die. Life is a challenge and you have to take it up or be left behind.

Of course these letters are also usually full of so many punctuation problems that I am left with an acute stage of apostrophitis, and are peppered with so many ‘your/you’re’ mix-ups that my grammar Nazism starts marching down my internal Nuremberg square, but I just can’t bring myself to write a totally realistic replica for you all (or all two of you, at least. Hi Hayley!).

The Roman Heist

One sunny day, deep in the heart of Europe, someone decided that a five-course meal overlooking the Pantheon was the only way to truly experience Italian culture. Being rather short on cash, but of a naturally conniving and gluttonous disposition, this person decided to rob me of £205 as I sat innocently at my London desk. As I was deciding which colour post-it note to use – pink or green – they were deciding which Main to have – the Wagyu beef or the Lobster. As I was pouring my Tea de English Breakfast, they were pouring their Chianti de 1950. As I was typing in my 40th application, they were placing a 40 Euro tip on a crisp white tablecloth. And, as I was crying over the discovery of a depleted bank account, they were rubbing their bellies and sighing over an orange sunset.

To make this heinous crime even worse, I only made the discovery on a Friday afternoon before a Bank Holiday long weekend. And when I called the bank, they cancelled my card straight away – before I even had a chance to replenish my wallet, which, at the time, was only home to one weathered pound. So instead of the trip to Brighton I had planned, I had to settle for a trip to the discounted section of Tescos.


Jean-Marc Knoll said...

Please, pretty please with hundreds and thousands and warm caramel sauce on top, please tell me you went home and consoled your poor self by watching 'Roman Holiday'...

I liked the application letter, you had me for a while, I was pretty convinced you WERE looking for a career in marketing...

Unknown said...

Damn. And I was so looking forward to calling you "the coffee wench" from now on.

Kyle said...

I feel your pain keenly, my fellow university application administrator!
It's like looking into a mirror of my daily existence. Now I wait with bated breath to hear what you will do next, and intend to follow your example and escape from the International Office forever!
BTW your cleaner sounds nice, mine steals my bin and unplugs my computer.

LastExit said...

Those applications sound very painful.

Also, tell your bank if they don't give back the 205 you will leave them for another bank as you don't feel your finances are safe with them.

Reminds me of a Mitchell and Webb sketch where the customer asserts that his identity hasn't been stolen because he still knows who he is, but rather, it was the banks money that was stolen and so not really his problem.

Kyle said...

I also enjoy requests such as that received this morning, to enter the University of Cindy.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sarah. I read this just now becuase google reader is still something of an entirely new silicon-based lifeform and ZOMG X FILES MOVIE SARAH

I miss you and I felt teary reading your words and imagining instead a coffee-obtaining sojourn with free boob-ogling and a well-thumbed rack of Don't Ask Amanda cardigans.

So much to tell you (Its going to take me a while)
el kimo

Griffin said...

How about your exellency the coffee wench?

Brighton is worth the wait and do check out the Royal Pavilion... but join the queue of people deciding they want to live there... I saw it first dammit!