I’ve had a few jobs.
Around 50 if you factor in individual DJ venues.
Not all of them have been great, some of the seemingly good ones have been a nightmare and some of the really bad ones have been amongst the ‘times of my life.’ In my employment life I’ve been everything from Youth Sports Coach to Chicken Factory operative, Call Centre worker to Door to Door Sales Rep, Estate Agent to Data Entry worker, Web Content Exec to Digital Marketing Exec and National Lottery Studio Telephonist to… and let’s start here, Extra or ‘Supporting Artist’ in a TV commercial…
TV Extra/Support Artist
Having just given up a cushy job processing cheques in the basement of Rupert Murdoch’s News International building on the outskirts of Sydney’s Central Business District, a job was a job, and One Hundred Australian Dollars was good enough for me to be the star of a TV advert I’d been sent to by my casting agent, Rosey’s Talent Consultants.
I boarded a train at Sydney’s, Central Station, having carefully sketched my journey onto an A4 piece of paper in the apartment I was staying in which over looked Hyde Park (this was 2001, camera phones and apps were a way off yet) and set off to be a superstar in the making.
I’d love to tell you where this advert was going to be shot, I remember it was a park and I got bored on the train, that’s about it, Sydney is massive.
As I was making my way to the park once I’d got my bearings on the rough map sketch I’d made myself, I got talking to a similarly lost looking girl with striking looks. It turned out that we were heading to the same gig so we agreed to buddy up to find it.
She told me that her agent told her the ‘bank’ was Halifax, which she’d never heard of.
‘Oh…’ I said, ‘this might help’ and I pulled my Halifax bank card out. ‘They are my bank in England’ I informed her.
‘We’ll probably be standing in a giant X’ I joked.
‘So, have you done much acting work?’ she probed.
‘A bit of Shakespeare at ‘Am Dram’ level,’ I schmoozed, ‘I was in an improvised scene on a teen’s TV programme called Love Bites once, school stuff, you know, that kind of thing; you?’
‘Yeah I’m a noticeable extra in Home & Away and All Saints.’ She shrugged.
I’m guessing, she stayed as a support artist because… well… her teeth.
I don’t remember her name or the email address she gave me to keep in touch.
It was then that we approached the park and I saw it. Green string, pinned down, in the shape of a giant X.
We were split into groups, A – H. I was in category G.
When they called ‘close ups on category A, everyone else hit the hospitality tent’ for giant muffins or weirder still, giant apples, cups of coffee and what seemed like an endless supply of fruit juice, I noticed that everyone in category A was really good looking, category B stood behind them, category C stood behind them and… I was category G… in front of the last category H.
The better looking you are, the less your looks will deteriorate when a helicopter flies close by. The aerial shots were undertaken by a dude, hanging out of the side of a circling helicopter with an over the shoulder camera pointing at us. When the helicopter hovered above my side of the X, it was like standing in gale force wind, eyes barely opened, hair flung everywhere, clothes sticking to the unflattering curves of my body.
In the ad we appear on a beach which would have been inhumane conditions with what the helicopter would have whipped up, hence the park location which made for a giant green screen.
It was the only job I did for ‘Rosey’ and her ego massaging ways which abruptly stop the second you hand over your cash for the sign up/admin fee.
With admin fees, cost of travel and agent’s commission, it’s one of the only job’s I’ve done that cost me more than I made.
It took 3 months for me to get my Ninety Australian Dollars, which was the amount after the agent’s percentage… I was in England by the time I withdrew it using my Australian National Bank card.
In 2002, you could really do something with £30.
Open the shutter by way of industrial chain, receive on average, 20 fair sized boxes (60 on a bad day) of returning ECG machines, wheel them into the warehouse, open the boxes, discard the boxes, clean and test the machines, note the faulty ones, scan everything onto a spreadsheet, scan the test strips, file the test strips, clean and test smaller machines, do a time consuming, brain numbing stock check twice a year, repeat to fade for 2 years.
Having left one of the worst, worst jobs I’ve ever done, I responded to a group text to one of my work agents and found myself, interviewing the same day and starting work on the other side of that weekend. Initially for 2 weeks… I stayed for just shy of 2 years.
My PC, which I touched base with on the office side of the warehouse for a couple of minutes at the start of end of a day had no Photoshop, no secret library of music to listen to and was generations behind the current Windows package.
Despite being in a team of 9, which served as ‘the basement’ of a larger team based in plusher offices a couple of miles away, I spent a lot of that time either on my own or working with my equivalent colleague who had unofficial seniority over me.
I made the days pass by connecting my iPad to the battered old stereo to play hours worth of songs stored on there and in the mornings, I would use the ‘return machines to stock’ routine as a work out, lifting them with repetition, sometimes holding my stomach muscles in whilst doing so and twisting. I got quite fit as I couple it with sprinting up and down the long warehouse when I needed to travel to opposite ends.
I also made a lot of short videos, took photos to manipulate and any else to keep the creative flow going.
In the months where I was between cars, I’d walk the 4 miles home in the blistering Sun in my steel toe capped boots. By the time I managed to squeeze myself into a new Digital Marketing role which marked my return back to being ‘creative’ with ‘all things digital’ I was finally, wearing t-shirts as a top layer in public which showcased toned arms and could walk for miles without breaking a sweat.
I made some great friends too, one of them, my superior equal, is one of the Godfather’s to my son. I still keep in good contact with them and when I was out of work briefly, in the summer of 2014, I made an attempt to see if I could get my old job back, I figured, the repetition would be good for my now desk bound, figure and I’d get to hang out with my old mates again.
I’m glad I didn’t go back. Being in a team of 9 in a repetitive environment sends everyone, understandably, a little crazy. Little issues become big issues, gripes become grudges and you feel like you’re underneath each other’s skin, not to mention the fact that the ‘main office’ bods kind of sneered at you in their smart work wear when we wore, jeans, t-shirts/sweaters and safety shoes.
When I resigned, I didn’t just resign, I shouted it, adding, in a playful manner, ‘I’m outta here, bitches!’
That nearly backfired didn’t it!?
Oriental Food Delivery Driver
I was working for a regional magazine, DJing once a week and picking up photography gigs here and there. To keep my weekly pocket money flow, I delivered Oriental food from Northampton’s town centre.
I convinced my boss, that since I’d let him ‘brand’ my car in silver lettering with the magazine’s website, I would effectively, be advertising the magazine all across towns on my runs. He saw the funny side and was equally impressed when I got the restaurant to pay insert their menus into every single magazine… magazines which I then delivered to various outlets across the county.
Delivering food involves driving around in your car with the stereo on, trying to get to a few addresses at a time before trying to get back to base before the other drivers.
If you’re there to collect the orders, you’ve got a bigger chance of getting tips. I was driving a Hyundai Accent at the time so could shift a bit quicker than the others.
I was paid £5 an hour per 4-5 hour shift and I kept my tips, so long as I gave all money received back to the till before hand, naturally, if someone squared their bill and gave me money on top it’d go straight into my pocket but if it was a ‘keep the change’ tip, I’d declare it.
I also got a free meal to take home at the end of my shift and seeing as I inspected how they prepared meals; I was more than happy for the edible compensation.
As a generic rule of thumb, the more expensive the house, the less the tip, the more ‘economical’ the house, the bigger the tip.
The only problems I faced were
· The awkward loss of social life
· Delivery to less desirable estates where the distance from car door to front door involved a treacherous journey into the unknown
· New estates which were finalised after the publication of my Northampton A-Z (This was pre-Sat Nav)
· Houses with names instead of door numbers
· Resisting the urge to eat a chicken/pork ball if it was in the order
· Hoping a customer wouldn’t notice a missing chicken/pork ball if it was in their order
Months previously, I resigned from my second job in Estate Agency (and one of my worst, worst jobs); the director of the company claimed he was going to fire me anyway and snidely, wished me luck with my ‘five other jobs.’
I had annoyed him by taking a part time job at a bar opposite the Estate Agency and as we were amongst other Estate Agencies, it was the Estate Agents bar of choice; apparently I made him look bad. That’s what you get for paying low and setting unrealistic targets…
By contrast, I served my first Estate Agent mentor from behind the bar and he put a comforting arm round my shoulder, told me ‘We’ve all been here, Son,’ and gave me a monetary tip after buying his round.
Two of my hobbies counted as other jobs. I’ll never be ashamed of that, not even now where I’m wearing three job heads in the month of October 2014 where all jobs involved are technically hobbies of mine.
As a parting shot in response to wishing me luck for my ‘five other jobs,’ I retorted, ‘Good luck when you go out of business.’
Months later they went out of business.
As I walked past the empty shop front and smiled and thought…
I’m a lifetime of jobs more mature now though.