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Saturday, 5 April 2014

It's A Dirty Job And We've Probably Done It

Lately me and Housemate have had occasion to rework our current business plan because, well, things in business rarely go as planned. Doing so led us the other night to reminiscing about our first foray into business and our own early jobs...

We got into the whole idea of self-employment in the early 90s when I becamse possessed by the overwhelming notion that dating services were going to be HUGE in the future. Back then there were only maybe two majors in the UK, neither of which were utilizing the burgeoning new technology known as 'the internet', and maybe a handful of those homemade penpal-mag types. The idea took real hold after I joined one of the agencies as part of the market research ( they were having a half-price sale and it seemed like too good an opportunity to waste ) and found that most of the clients using them were ordinary folks, not a bunch of sexual deviants and serial killers. That came later with the internet...Anyway, fast forward and we had this brilliant business plan ( "Sitting on a goldmine" as one of our business advisors put it ) and we couldn't get the funding we required for love nor money ( pun intended ). Not just were the banks and the government leery of such an idea, it was actively prohibited as a loan or grant option! Which, I think, proves that those bland-faced financial types in their boring pinstripe suits really don't have a scrap of creative vision to pass around between them. So we had to go sideways, starting a cleaning business instead to get the funding we needed, with the intention of quickly diversifying into the online dating service. I mean, us? cleaning? You can all stop laughing any time.

Remember those best laid plans? We got stuck in the cleaning thing for so long that by the time we were in a position to diversify, the online dating market had already boomed and for us to enter it would only have been us adding a whisper to that increasingly loud white noise. So we diversified into something else that we'd never intended to do. Such is self-employed life.

On the My Weird Job subject, Housemate once sold teatowels and other gimcrackery to tourists on a boat. Which wasn't too bad except that most of the tourists were drunk and quite a few were obnoxious ( what is it about being in someone else's country that makes some people think it's okay to act like an ass-clown? Or do they behave like that at home too, and if so why are they still living? ) and Scotland's lochs, although very picturesque, can also be surprisingly choppy, and cold. Freeze-your-tits-off cold. She also cleaned houses for a while. Until one day she found herself standing on a rickety wooden chair, scrubbing the baby-food handprints off someone's patio doors with some Windex and a crappy little excuse for a chamois, beautiful day outside, the pub just a couple miles down the road beckoning to her, and she suddenly thought "What the fuck am I doing here? I went to college for this?" And no, don't even ask how a baby's hand-prints got to the top of a patio door. She once found a dildo inside the lamp shade in another house. The lamp shade in the kitchen. Do not even go there. Please. Housemate also had a more recent cleaning job where she accidentally let a rather expensive brand-new Vax vacuum cleaner fall down the stairs. I swear I almost ended myself laughing when she came home and told me that!

As for me, my wackiest job was manning one of those 0800 read-your-Tarot phone lines. The office was one of those rent-a-lemon places at the arse-end of a badly-lit street in a crappy part of Glasgow that you'd be dubious about going to in full daylight with an armed escort. I took a friend along to the interview and when the guy interviewing me said "You shouldn't really bring your friend to an interview" I laughed at him and pointed out, "Do you seriously think any female in her right mind would come to a place like this, for a strange job interview like this, alone? You're not from around here then, are you?" I guess he liked my cheek because I got the job! It was a relatively easy job, you just sat back on a comfy couch, drinking tea, and suckers phoned up to have their fortunes read. It was all storytelling...the longer the story you told, the more money the company made from their £1000-per-minute number. And it wasn't all tea that was being drunk by the storytellers either. You worked from 7pm-11pm ( because those are the hours when the suckers were most likely to be unable to resist the lure of the 0800 number ) and Glaswegian women do enjoy their vodka...even in a cup of tea. I stuck with that job until the boss began asking us to work the 'other' lines...the ones which had nothing to do with Tarot cards. Don't get me wrong, I didn't give the job up because I found it disgusting or sick or any such thing. Hell no, I could sit there and talk dirty to some stranger on the phone until the cows came home and never have a single moral qualm about it, because sex is only dirty if you're doing it right, right? No, I had to pack it in because I couldn't stop laughing. Seriously, that was the problem... I just couldn't take it all seriously. And let's face it, the last thing that the bloke with his knob in his hand wants to hear is the woman he's talking to laughing like a maniac! So I left the employ of the 0800 numbers.
In an interesting little twist, it turned out that I actually possess something of a real talent for reading Tarot cards. I have no idea how, nor where it comes from, nor do I even believe in fortune-telling or any of its offshoots, but apparently I have a spooky accuracy when reading cards. Maybe I just read people well, who knows?
"Hello caller...yes, I can tell you that a feeling of sexual supremacy is definitely not in your future!"

Less wacky and more I-can't-believe-this-shit-goes-on was the job I had in a bingo hall. This was one of the early mega-bingo places, not so much a palace, however, as converted from a one-time fleapit cinema which might have been called The Palace but that's about as close as it ever came. The boss was a Hitler-in-tights, so twitchy and tightly wound that you spent the whole time wondering if that severely scraped back hair in the impossibly tight bun was really the only thing keeping her head from exploding. She would make us stay behind at lunch time, or after our shifts had ended, to count all the loose change and bag it. Unpaid, I should add. Labor laws in the late 80s under a Tory government were a joke. She also decreed that females were not allowed to wear trousers, only skirts, which really made me wonder about her because the punters were mostly women and they were so intent on their bingo numbers they wouldn't have noticed if the attendants were naked on rollerskates, nor would they have cared. So long as you hustled with their change. I left that job after less than one week and in the wake of *ahem* having had words with Madam Hitler over her whole there's-a-dress-code-if-I-say-there's-one-and-never-mind-company-policy demands.

Anyway, I daresay we shall find our way now to diversifying and reworking, as we have always done. But it was fun to have a laugh along the way reminiscing about the weird and not always wonderful things we have been paid to do in the past.

Combining housekeeper with sexy bingo caller who might also work an 0800 number in her spare time?