|The best part of my job, checking the surf after work.|
four star hotel. I said at the time that I quite enjoyed it, I get on my bike at 7.30, cycle up, sweep my paths, clear the palm fronds from the garden beds, then go over the road and check the surf from the nearby Captain Cook lookout point, then cycle home to go surfing it conditions are good, or to my writing desk, if not.
One of the reasons I agreed to do the job was because as outside path sweeper, a janitor effectively, I am the lowest of the low on the work totem pole there, and I liked this because I was sure that this would mean I was well out of any workplace politics.
Well I couldn't have been more wrong.
Turns out that it seems to be an immutable law of the human workplace that politics always sticks its oar into the mix. And this workplace was (sadly) no exception.
The first glimmerings that I may have a problem began close to the start. Being a surfer, and not drinking these days I am usually up early, and so my plan was to do the sweeping at 6.30 or thereabouts and then be in time for an early surf.
However the boss up there, Madeleine, who is great I should say, said 'no' to this. I was a little surprised, as rarely in the world of the workplace does the boss not like you to be early.
However, she explained her reasons, which were reasonably sound, which were that the previous incumbent in the sweeping role, had done it this early, and had apparently made too much noise and woken the guests who, to be fair, had paid a lot of money to get to Byron Bay and sleep in.
So okay, I worked it out with Madeleine that I would start at 7.30.
So far so good.
However as it turned out, even this relatively late hour was too early, as a noise complaint came in.
To say was surprised about this is an understatement as I was truly mystified about the source of the noise.
I wear my rubber-soled running shoes, not my steel-capped work boots, and pass lightly across the outdoor paved pathways with silent foot and elastic toe.
But then a text came through from Madeleine indicating that it was the skritching of my straw broom that was the noise-making culprit.
When I first saw this text, I thought it was a wind up. Surely this couldn't be right?! The scratching of the broom was too loud!
Oh for god's sake.
However I read the text through, and it was a serious text.
I nearly quit then and there.
One of the reasons I enjoy low level jobs these days is to avoid such workplace bullshit as this.
However, after thirty years in the workplace I have at least learned something, and with my testosterone dropping as it does for all men after the age of forty, I was able to not go off half-cocked and send through a fiery text along the lines of 'THE BROOM"S TOO LOUD?!', and then in the words of Apu from the Simpsons (you just knew a Simpsons reference was coming didn't you?), I nearly added 'You can take this job and restaff it'.
The polite version of 'Stick your f#$-ing job up your f#$-ing arse.'
But as stated I have learned not to go off half-cocked, and these days I have a rule that I don't quit any job within 24 hours of getting angry.
So I sat on it for a while, and then was able to speak to Madeleine about it.
Turns out the problem was that the paths on the upstairs part of the building are bounded by these hollow metal rails, and as my broom hit these rails then they sent a kind of shudder through the rail which passed through the whole building, and made noise in the guests' rooms.
Really, I mean really.
Anyway, I then had to go through a hard to believe workplace discussion with Mad about how to sweep the paths so I didn't wake everyone up.
In that discussion, things then kind of became clearer, and this is where the workplace politics bit came in, there is a live-in nutcase at this hotel and it was her who complained, and not the guests.
Now there is an important line to draw between letting workplace bullies walk all over you, and not going off half-cocked.
So now knowing the source of the noise complaints, and unhappy that I've had to have several discussions (One would have been too many) on the subject of sweeping more quietly, I now bang my broom once outside this nutjob's room each morning at 7.30 to make my displeasure known in a subtle fashion.
If she comes out and complains, I'll just say 'sorry, it was an accident'.
There's always a way to get your point across.
If she says to Madeleine the boss, 'either he goes or I go', then I strongly suspect that Madeleine will choose me, and tell this idiot, to get the f$%k out and don't come back.
Madelaine and the other staff really like the job I do, which is gratifying in its way.
Then the other part of this is the 'going to work too early bit'.
Now this is the second time in my working life that this has happened, which I find a bit odd, as I always felt that when it comes to work, you can never be too early. My family came off the land where hard work and nothing else was the order of the day.
My farming uncles would be the first to say that 'you can never come to work too early, you can never stay too late, and you can always work harder'.
Of course, this work regime killed one uncle and turned the other into an alcoholic, so the next time you hear some old crusty say 'hard work never killed anyone', punch them in the mouth and tell them they are wrong.
Anyway, here at the sweeping job the 'sweeping too early' bit was wrapped up in the 'making too much noise' too early in the morning.
And there had been a trade off in my discussion with Madeleine which was that if I start later I can make more noise.
Anyway, the other time it happened to me was when I took some data entry work with a spiritual organisation in Suffolk Park, in south Byron Bay.
That was the period of my life when I was most alcoholic, I was drinking at eleven in the morning, I was smoking pot all day, it was all too horrible.
Anyway, I was very lucky and was allocated to an employment counsellor named Michael, now my friend, and with Michael's careful and attentive help, I slowly realised that I needed to get off the couch and get a job.
So I began scanning the wanted ads in the local paper, and happened across this data entry job.
When in the corporate world of Sydney I had worked with Excel spreadsheets before and though data entry work is as tedious as it is possible to be, I needed just somewhere to go during the day to stop me from reaching for the wine cask at the stated eleven in the morning.
So I rang the number on the ad, and had a brief over the phone interview.
I got the job, such as the interview was, (I later learned that no-one else had rung up), and we agreed that I would start work a couple of days later at their head office in Suffolk Park.
The only mystifying part of the phone call was when I asked what time to start, Kate, the office manager on the other end of the phone said, 'Oh, in the morning, just don't come before 9.45am'.
And with this sort of mystifying pronouncement, she rang off.
Well the day came, and I got up and made myself ready, and headed down to Suffolk Park.
As it happened I was early, 8.45 or so, but relying on the old uncle maxim of 'you can never be too early', I found the address, walked up to the front door and knocked.
'Hmm,' I thought, 'have I got the wrong address?', so I stepped back from the front door and checked the number on the house, and compared this with that on the scrap of paper I had made note on during my brief phone interview.
No, I was at the right address.
I checked and there were some lights on in the house, and there were several cars parked around and about, indicating that their were indeed people inside, even if they didn't seem inclined to answer the door.
I must confess I had forgotten the dictom, 'don't come before 9.45', at this point, so I stepped back up to the door and knocked again.
Once more there was no answer, and so I just opened the door and walked in.
Once inside I discovered why they didn't want to be disturbed.
All the staff inside were involved in a meditation session.
They weren't giving it the 'Om, mane, padme, om', bit, but were indeed just sitting in a room involved in silent contemplation.
When I saw them there, I realised the reason for the 'not before 9.45am' bit, as obviously they had organised meditation at this time.
I had to admire their concentration, I must admit, as they had obviously heard me knock twice, and were disciplined enough not to answer.
However, unused to being ignored in such a fashion, I was sorely tempted to go and get a paper bag, blow it up, then walk up to the room and smash my hands together making the bag go 'BANG' in the closest meditator's ear, just to see how good their concentration was.
However I needed this job, and so thankfully sanity prevailed, and I went up to the Suffolk Park shops and had a coffee and smoked a handful of fags.
At 9.45 I returned, met the office manager and got my work and began my data entry.
It was pretty tedious, but then the money was good for the area, so I began work and continued three hours a morning for the next two weeks or so.
As I worked I got a closer handle on this organisation, they were called 'The Journey', and were nice enough people.
The Journey is a way of life, sort of like Hare Krisnaism, in which you live clean, meditate every day, and (I don't know if this is for real, but visually it seemed so), wear white clothing.
Once the building filled up each morning, it kind of looked like a cricket team's dressing room on the morning of a test match.
Actually, I tell you something else that WAS weird about this mob. They favoured white clothing, and this seemed to have a spillover effect on to hair colour.
All the women had blond hair there, either dyed or real, and those that didn't have blonde hair, usually wore a white scarf over their hair to cover the real colour.
Strange, but true, and this was to have an effect further on, as you shall see.
However, we got on well enough, though our ways of life were, the most diametrically opposite you could ask for.
AKA, they took no drugs, didn't drink, didn't smoke, either pot or tobacco, and didn't drink caffeine.
All of which I did at the time. (constantly)
However, it quickly became clear that they needed me desperately.
What they did for money was to go round the country to various health and hippy festivals, and hold a stall from which they booked people into meditation courses, sold their CDs and incense, and all the rest.
Each bit of money that came in was receipted, in a receipt book and it was these receipt books that I had to enter onto a spreadsheet.
Turns out that even spiritual organisations have to explain themselves to the tax department, and they had apparently not done a tax return for three years, and their accountant had told them in no uncertain terms to get their books up to speed ASAP, of they would be fined.
Thus they called me in, and I began this much needed work of entering several thousand receipts into the spreadsheet for them.
Now I mention this because, while they needed me to do the data entry, what they were less than happy about was having, an alcoholic, cigarette smoking, coffee drinking arsehole like me sitting near reception.
Clearly this was hardly the image they wanted to present to the world.
|The Starlight Wellbeing Festival was one of the events they attended.|
I wonder how this woman would have got on if
I'd blown up a paper bag in her ear?
They had come here to learn about clean living, and there was I swigging from my fifth coffe of the morning, and reeking of cigarette smoke as told them of the benfits of living without stimulants.
However after three weeks or so I had had enough, and so a lucky accident that I am still not sure if I engineered on purpose or not occurred.
I was sitting at my desk when a couple walked in, they were in their white purity clothing, and were obviously adherants of the organisation.
I realised that I had met the female half of the couple before, and I could tell that she vaguely recognised me as well.
So we back and forthed for a bit trying to track down where we had met before.
Evetually we nailed it down to a mutual friend, Lucy, I had known while living on the WWoofing farm just outside Byron Bay, where I had first lived when I arrived in this town.
Anyway, now I just want to point out that I actually got on quite well with almost everyone there, even if we were from vastly different worlds.
However one of the more senior women of the organisation, really didn't like me and my filthy drug-taking ways.
She had had discussions with the office mamanger Kate, I know, asking how long I was going to be polluting the office atmosphere, both real and spiritual, with my foul presence.
Kate had, I'm conjecturing here, but am reasonable certain this was what happned, had said, 'well I know he's hardly our sort of person, but we need him to get our books up to date, or we're sunk with the tax department', or words ot that effect.
So this higher up woman had grumped her way through her work, all the while resenting that the organisation needed me.
Anyway, this morning when the couple walked in, just as we had thrashed out where we had met before, the woman who didn't like me walked in, she saw us talking, and came over and said, 'oh, do you guys know each other?' (obviously that was a black mark for the female half of the couple, knowing people like me was not good for your progress in the organisation)
The female half of the couple replied, 'yes, we met through a mutual friend out at Ewingsdale.'
The woman who didn't like me, nodded, and then some gremlin inside me, obviously bored with the data entry work, made me add, 'Yair, I always bought my drugs off Lucy, she had the best head-ripping buds you could get'.
Well that was it, the woman who didn't like me walked away, and later that night Kate rang me at home and told me that though she disagreed, my services were no longer required.
So in the end I think the lesson is if you're going to be an out-of-control sort of chracter you better be good at your job.
And I guess it's a lesson to those starting out in the workplace, that politics,and human emotions are always going to more in control of your workplace than simple job competence.
And by the way, the woman who didn't like me had brown hair, and I think this soured her view of the world, and made her hate everybody.
Perhaps if she had just dyed her hair, I might still be working there today.