It’s been a bad day. My contract at work is up at the end of the month, which means once again I will be hitting the hustings, scratching for offerings in the Positions Vacant listings. I only work part-time (20-25 hours a week) but it is harder to find permanent part-time work than it is to find a full-time position. My past working life has been varied, sometimes colourful, sometimes nefarious. I have worked as a teacher, a community worker, an editor, a singer, a waitress, a shop assistant, a nanny, a cleaner. You would be right in thinking I am a little phobic when it comes to committing to a career. It’s not that I bore easily, just that I have a tendency to lapse into laziness and episodes of daydreaming which do not endear me to my employers. If I were to be granted three wishes, one of them would be that my rich, inner life would take a back seat to my impoverished, outer life so that equilibrium could be attained.
My creepiest job interviews this week included –
* the Aquarium Assistant (did I mention that I know a lot about fish, how to set up fish tanks, maintain them, and so on?) The owner of the store looked like Earl’s brother from My Name Is Earl, only bigger and hairier. He was wearing low-slung jeans and a voluminous T-shirt that said SuperModels Suck. He interviewed me while eating a sausage roll, spraying half-chewed pieces of sausage and pastry over my resume as he explained what I would be required to do. After finishing eating he paused and looked behind him at a door at the rear of the store. “Sometimes,” he said in a very unconvincing stage whisper, “You’ll have to help me out the back.” He half-closed his eyes and slightly pouted. I wasn’t sure if he was giving me a come hither look or suffering from intestinal gas as a result of too many sausage rolls. Either way, I couldn’t wait to get out of there; praying as I left that the fish in that man’s care would survive the night.
* the Personal Assistant. Picture the scene – a property developing firm in the city. Minimalist decor, white upon white. Run by a brother and sister who have been left the business by their father. They walk through the day with a sense of outrage that they have to put up with one another, exchanging nasty quips with the velocity of a machine gun letting off a round of bullets. “We can’t decide which one of us is going to have you,” they said as I left hastily, pressing the down button on the elevator with the urgency only seen in horror movies where the killer is inches from the victim and the elevator doors open just in time.
* Features Writer for a local paper. Turns out the features were Obituaries. I had to sit a test where I had to list 50 euphemisms for death. I could only come up with 10. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. “We pride ourselves on the myriad ways we refer to death,” the editor said coldly. His teeth were needle sharp, pointed. “This is just not good enough.”
Job-hunting sucks. So does my health. I veer in and out of anaemia depending on how much iron I manage to ingest. It is an absorption problem – most of the time the medication I am given leads to gastro-intestinal upsets and nausea which lasts for days. I am pale as an extra in a vampire movie, my legs ache, I am tired, light-headed. The new meds taunt me with severe constipation and a rollicking wave of heartburn. Fun it is not.
Then there is my sister. In three weeks she is marrying a man she has known for 6 weeks. It will be her third marriage. She is 35 and an alcoholic. He is 40, on disability due to a serious car accident, and is an alcoholic. He owns a house outright which he bought with the compensation he received as a result of his accident. Despite the irresistible lure of the house, my sister says it’s love, that he completes her, that it will be third time lucky; but I think it’s three strikes and you’re out. They’re getting married on the beach like Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Her dog is wearing a little doggy tuxedo. She has trained him to carry a small cushion holding the rings. They want the wedding party to wear Hawaiian shirts and Panama hats. I am thinking of wearing the Miami Vice T-shirt I still have from the ’80s.
Sometimes you have days that fuel your sense of irritability. Someone cuts you off in traffic, the four people in front of you in the queue at the Post Office each have a mountain of parcels they want to insure and send to Ecuador, the heel breaks on your favourite pair of shoes, the shampoo that promised to enhance your highlights turns your hair straw-coloured and limp. And then, out of nowhere, along comes an angel.
It happened in the supermarket. I was bemoaning the state of the fruit and veg, throwing moth-eaten carrots and cauliflower into my trolley when I saw them – love’s young dream, smooching and groping by the pre-packaged salads. As the heat rose I felt like calling out “Get a room!” until an elderly man approached – shuffling, walking stick, hearing aid. “That’s what life’s all about,” he said. “Love.” He patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t forget how it used to be.”
I went home and told my husband and son how much I loved them. The beds were unmade, the garbage hadn’t been taken out and the sink was full of dirty dishes, but I didn’t care, my bad mood had lifted. After all, love is all you need…..