I left school in 1983, slap in the middle of the Thatcher era, when the Youth Opportunities Programme had been going a year or two and had already had its name changed to the Youth Training Scheme. It was basically a programme whereby employers could 'train' young school-leavers who were on the dole to learn 'skills' and perhaps a 'trade'. A bit like an apprenticeship, but more boring, really. They could get kids and pay them £25 a week (which was shit, even by '80s standards) and get away with it because they were being 'trained' and gaining 'valuable' 'skills'. In return, all these young kids were then deemed to be 'employed' and therefore the unemployment statistics would drop. Yeah, a con. I was employed in one such scheme at a place called the Ashford ITEC, which was on a cruddy industrial estate next to a car park and a railway line. We were being trained with all these vital computer and electronics skills, except we were using BBC B Micro computers, a searing 32K of power. No PC, no Apple, not even a Sinclair ZX81, just writing
10 PRINT "WORK SUCKS"
20 GOTO 10
all day and learning almost nothing. OK, maybe some people learnt something. But that's all I retained. From the chubby little porkchop of a Scottish manager Andrew (Android Fatterson) Paterson to the Scouse wack Colin Day and the speech-impedimented Wichard Fewwyman, to the TORCH supercomputer, to the disinterested bunch of Ashford and District losers that populated the place, the whole thing was crap from beginning to end. Luckily I only lasted about 4 months. Funnily enough though, I formed some good friendships there.
I had a job as a waiter at a hotel/restaurant in High Halden called Hookstead House. I worked there for four weeks although it seemed a lot longer, as most crap jobs do. I had no transportation so I had to borrow my friend Neil's bike to get there, and as it was waiting tables it mostly took place in the evening, so sometimes I did not get home from it until 1 or 2 in the morning. I had to cycle back in the dark, through some areas that were very poorly lit. Sometimes, I would have a drink in the bar after work and then wobble off home unsteadily. The worst thing about the place was the guy that ran it. He was a big tall loud brash New Englander named Tom Atkinson, although his real name was McNamara and he went by Atkinson to sound more English, I suppose, although there were several unsavoury rumours floating about the place concerning the reason for Tom's name change. He was married to a tiny wee delicate slip of a thing, named Julia if I remember rightly. They looked a bit of an odd couple size-wise, and they had a baby named Fleur, which I thought was a dreadful name for the poor child, especially when Tom would say it in his annoying "Pahk the cah in the Hahvahd Yahd" voice. "Fuh-LEURRRRRRRRR!!" They were always fighting about who knows what, and always choosing the most inopportune times to do so. One night just as everyone in the restaurant was ordering desserts, Tom chose to have a big blow-up with Julia. Julia had just gone into the anteroom just adjacent to the kitchen to prepare desserts. Tom went in there and locked the door behind him so that no-one could get in. We heard hollering and fussing and Tom emerged 5 minutes later, telling us that we could now go back in there. We entered to see Julia sitting at the table, tears in her eyes, and chocolate roulade strewn about the place - the walls, the windows, the floor, and on Julia herself.
Then on another day i had to mop the bar. This involved moving all the chairs and tables out into the hall and mopping the hardwood floors, and while i did so, Tom sat out in the hall on one of the bar chairs, reading his paper, burping and farting and being generally gross. I was only there for four weeks, yet during my tenure there were four separate chefs, one after the other. How that place ever did any business is a mystery to me. It is of course now just a house,and what became of Tom and Julia is unknown. if she had any sense she'd have left the man, as I heard a few weeks later from a former co-worker that Tom had pulled an awful stunt - he had wanted Julia to prepare desserts one night, and she had said no as she had the flu and did not want to spread germs. He got mad and threw her down the stairs, in her PJ's, and locked her outside in the snow. Oy.
I'd say those jobs were the worst, although there are a some other bad ones:
- I worked for a week at Pignataro VW in Everett, WA as a car salesman. It sucked, I sucked.
- I tried telemarketing for 2 hours. Trying to sell tickets to a Charlie daniels concert to benefit firefighters to random people on the phone in a roomful of other guys on the phone, who were uniformly loud and annoying.
- Manning the fitting rooms at Old Navy.
- A day's work experience at an old people's home - trying to take lunch orders from people who were older than dirt and barely verbal. Lovely.