Saturday, August 30, 2014

5 positives about temping other than "its not hospitality"

Because now that I have worked two full days as receptionist cover I have the authority to make these judgements. I'm scrounging around for some positives to get me through this, even though I volunteered and thought it would be a good idea.

You sit down all day
Standing up is tough. My feet would ache and my shoulders and legs and back and everything and its exhausting. Receptionists are provided with a comfy office chair right in front of the phone and computer they must man (lady) at all times. There will be an ergonomic foot stool directly in front of the chair and they will have no option but to sit in the position, as demonstrated in the manual, replicating someone with 'good office posture.' When I came home on Thursday I felt like I had been sitting in exactly the same position for eight hours and had this huge desire to run and dance and do yoga and swimming and move my body in every way I could imagine.

You have a computer connected to the internet in front of you
The first place I went to made me do things when I wasn't answering the phones, but Sheena, the Office Manager from the second temp place actually said "you can just browse the web, or whatever" when I asked if there were any tasks that needed to be completed. Even with explicit permission to use non company approved websites, I still felt like I was doing something wrong so I avoided the fun ones like reddit and Facebook. I pretended to be interested in the latest disgusting statement from Christopher Pyne on the ABC news website before I realise all I really wanted to do was continue reading my David Sedaris book (the one I lost in Melbourne). Instead of pulling the book out of my bag at my feet, I searched for some of his other articles online. Consequently I spent most of my eight hour shift reading his essays on The New Yorker; I read so much that I started to think like him. Coming soon: a post about how I can almost do push ups after three months of Pilates and how this relates to my Born-Again pre-primary teacher and the emotional damage that she inflicted on me as a four year old.

If you make a mistake, you won't be there later to deal with the repercussions
This is possibly the best point about temping. If I don't know how to do something I can pretty much just be all "lol soz I'm a temp" and someone else has to deal with it. Even when I really hate the work I'm doing, I usually still try and do it to the best of my ability but this temping set up just lends itself to increased levels of apathy on my part.

Endless supply of chocolate biscuits
I'm fairly sure offices are the main customers for Arnotts. My first day temping I ordered over $100 worth of Tim Tams from Woolworths because they were on sale and they have to have their chocolate biscuits. From my extensive experience I have noticed this is probably related to the overweight admin staff.

All offices are the same
In the same way that all airports are kind of the same, that particular sense of familiarity is evoked. There will always be that ergonomic chair strapping you in for the day, office space dividers, plain kitchens that always make me feel sad, automatic hot and cold taps, fluorescent lights that make your skin feel gross and pine reception desks. Even the phone script is very similar. At this last place I went to I had to say "Good morning, Sirius Resources, this is Sian speaking." By mid morning I dropped the "speaking" so there was one less S. I was reminded of a chapter in Sedaris' book when he goes to a speech therapist who taunted him and his lisp so he learnt to speak by avoiding S's. Maybe I should read another book for a while.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My second experience with an amolst-cult

Sometime last week, my friend Ella sent me an email inviting me to join her at a free business convention on the following Saturday. It could be useful for Western Salvation, she said, and if its shit it would be great to have a cynical friend there to sit and make fun of people. I wasn't sure if I could make it for registration (between 8am and 9am) as I had to move out of Lloyd's parents' place (I had been house sitting for three weeks) and I had a possible family commitment later that afternoon (visiting relatives from San Diego). Eventually things straightened out, the family day moved to Sunday and it turned out I had my dates mixed up and Lloyd's parents were coming home three days earlier than I thought. I could attend the convention! Plus Ella said she was going to make me a sandwich for the day. Possibly with deli meats.

While standing in the foyer of the convention centre, Ella and I discussed our plans for that evening and lamented the fact that we couldn't write our own novelty name tags. A middle aged man approached and interrupted us to ask if we had noticed that according to the program there were to be no women speakers for the day. I was almost annoyed that I hadn't noticed this, and then I remembered that it was 8:43 on a Saturday morning, I was mildly hungover and I hadn't even bothered to open the program yet. The three of us discussed our business plans and the importance of recycling, Ella and the man talked about tax and superannuation within the arts industry while I gazed off in to the distance and wished my coffee tasted more like coffee and less like a cup of hot, sweet dirt. As the man walked away, I said I was worried he was going to ask one of us to get on stage and talk. Ella said "give me a microphone and I'll find something to talk about."

We all filed into one of the rooms and filled up the middle front section. For a free event that was supposedly teaching us trade secrets there were a lot of empty seats. Eventually Richard Bell, the MC burst on to stage in his ill fitting suit. I'm sure it once looked very smart on him, but the way it stretched around his thighs and chest gave the impression he had worked out a lot and not thought to update his suit measurements. He spoke in simple sentences and requested the audience's demonstration of understanding by show of hands during and at the end of every point he made. We also frequently had to turn to the person next to us, tell them what we wanted out of today and occasionally yell idiotic things like "I'M GREEDY" and then do it louder and louder. I fucking hate that shit. Richard talked about how successful he is and how far he's come from living in his car after he left school and how beautiful his wife is and how we could have it all too if we followed the advice given out today. He spent a lot of time talking about and explaining social media and checking in, tagging and hashtagging the events of the day. I am sceptical of people who think social media is the duck's nuts. Yes it is a powerful marketing tool, no it is not amazing that you can now change the length of time that people can view your snapchats. I'm surprised he didn't try and sell us the supposed merits of QR codes. After talking for a while without really saying anything he introduced the Executive Director of The Entourage (totally forgot they called themselves the most douchebag name known to man, oh and the whole day was called the "unconvention" because they're cool, I guess), Jack Delosa.

A video was played about Jack's merits that I was sure was a joke. It was filled with tacky, but flashy graphics, punchy drum beats, snippets from TV interviews (where he was always slouched in his chair - he's just that successful! He doesn't even need to sit up straight when on TV) and spinning newspaper headlines. I really want to watch it again.

Jack is 26 and left school when he was 4 and now he's an amazing and talented entrepreneur worth 70 bajillion dollars and also with a stunningly beautiful wife who is 80% legs and perfect blonde hair. We all seemed to be there to learn from the master, Jack. People went ape shit when Richard gave away one of his books for free. He used the words "fricking" and "cool" way too often for anyone to regard him as such and he seemed convinced that the secret to business success almost completely resides in dropping out of university. Jack also made us put up our hands every three and half seconds and smile and cheer and generally act like school children. He also instructed us to write down various, nonsense phrases and sentences so that we could learn from them. For a group of people who appeared to very proud of going against the status quo and not bothering with formal education, it seemed a bit rich to expect us to come to them and learn from their experiences in such a basic way.

The first of many of Jack's golden business nuggets almost made me laugh out in disbelief at the nonsense that was being pedalled at the audience. He was talking about how difficult it is to start a business when the people around you can't see the future world you're living in and they tell you not to quit your job or drop out of school. But you have to stay strong to your vision, don't listen to the negative comments because only you can see the difference you will be making. He summed this up by saying "When the voices inside your head are louder than the voices outside your head, you know your business is working/dream is beginning/life is successful." I can't remember the exact ending to this because I was focussing on controlling my breathing and internalising my laughter.

Maybe its because I stayed in school and then went on to complete tertiary education in this specific field but I was under the impression that if the voices in your head are louder than the voices outside your head, you should seek psychiatric help. Also, you probably shouldn't start a business.

The seminar continued with more crowd participation and simple self-congratulatory rhetoric from Jack. Every now and again he would ask the audience to pick up their pens once more and repeat the deluded sentence so everyone could make sure they had it correctly written down in their programs with special note taking space. There were plenty of reminders that we could all update to VIP experience, which for $147 gave you front row seats, lunch, a signed book, some other things and the opportunity to pick Jack's brain about how he became so fricking cool. There were several attempts at jokes, none of which were funny.

An example of their legendary humour.

But I was having a great time, laughing at the absurd suggestions and wanky self help style slogans, generally feeling superior with my education when I realised I was the only one laughing. With the probable only exception of Ella, sitting next to me, enthusiastically taking notes to write a comedy sketch on the convention, everyone else in the room was lapping it up. And then I felt very sad and sorry for the people around me and started texting people who were using their Saturdays appropriately. I paid attention for long enough to realise that instead of applauding audience participation in the regular way that would happen within polite society, Jack had done away with that and requested that we clap once, in unison on the count of three. He called it "giving some love." I felt sick and I wanted out.

Before we broke for a quick break, Richard was back on the stage announcing that another member of The Entourage had been nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and decided that he should be forced to complete the challenge on stage in front of everyone. In his suit! This was apparently hilarious to Richard and his ill-fitting suit and I was suddenly reminded of Gob from Arrested Development. Don't worry, the third Entourage dude didn't ruin his suit because they only poured ice cubes on him and very little water. Thank god. Richard had the crowd standing up and everyone immediately pulled out their phones to film this stranger completing the challenge for all the wrong reasons. I bet these are the kind of people who clap at the end of movies.

After a quick wee break, Ella and I chatted to Eda, who seemed to think these guys were actually geniuses and we all had a lot to learn from them, we decided our Saturday would be better spent sitting in the sun and eating those sandwiches she had made. We lasted two and half hours. The convention lasted eight hours. I wish I could have stuck it out for the comedic element but it was just too painful. And I had the sneaking suspicion that our bros from the Entourage were backstage laughing at everyone's stupidity for believing their motivational nonsense. Or maybe not. Maybe because they dropped out of school they thought they were actually helping people.

Ella and I discussed what had just happened to us. I pointed out that it was odd, and cult-like, that everyone was in suits and corporate attire yet Jack, the leader, the guru, the saviour, was in smart casual chinos and sneakers. Ella mentioned that their advice was assuming we all already had brilliant business ideas and just needed help working out how to turn that in to millions of dollars, yet the reason people often go to those things is because they WANT an idea. They want to know where they can get one or steal one that they can turn it in to the millions of dollars. Learning business is one thing but its completely useless if no one is going to buy into your shitty idea in the first place. While I understood the Entourage was about turning everyone into entrepreneurs rather than business owners, I thought there was unfair assumption that people with start ups were only interested in turning their vision into a profit and selling the company on to someone else. Most start ups happen because people have that vision and want to be a part of stopping landfil and making recycling cool or running a production company. 

The convention really was a parody of itself. I commented on how effective 30 Rock was at satirising business and as we walked with our bubble tea towards the Supreme Court Gardens Ella explained to me what synergy actually means (its actually a thing!). The sense of community they created was quite clever, and powerful for motivating people who are feeling lost and unsupported by their friends and family. The interaction and the smiles and the hash-tagging all make the act of "giving some love" seem more worth while. Projecting the idea that these guys were giving away their secrets all in the name of helping us was very generous of them and only enhanced this new age cult feeling. I can't imagine ever wanting to belong to that kind of thing. Maybe not something that is so obviously trying to win me over, anyway.

In reality, I can criticize all I want but these jerks are still going home to their leggy blonde wives and millions of invested dollars while I sit in my childhood bedroom with my Centrelink money and unpaid HECS debt.

The Unconvention Instagram account liked this. Are they loving our piss-take and not perturbed by it or do they not understand that someone squeezing water into a bubble tea straw and suggesting that's as successful as they're likely to be for the next quarter is probably not a great result after being educated by the almighty Entourage? I'm curious.

I'm sure there were more golden moments, Ella seemed to be taking a lot of notes while Lara and I discussed me being the Original Gangster that everyone refers to and Lloyd texted that he holds unfavourable public speakers in the same light as the paedophile from Donnie Darko, but I just couldn't pay attention any more. I spent my afternoon going through Jack's instagram which, as you would imagine, is filled with inspirational gems that make you feel better about yourself.

This one had Ella and me in fits all night.

Perhaps this one is a good example of why you should stay in school.

So much magic.

I wish I had seen this before the day, so we could have cured my hangover with hair of the dog and turned this in to a drinking game.

Monday, August 18, 2014


I spent my Centrelink money on flights to Sydney and Hobart in November
I am pretty damn excited to hang with Su and Rob in Sydney and Jessie and Ali in Tasmania. Weeeeee!

My cousin offered me a job editing her PhD
In second year I pretty much dreamt in APA formatting so that will be fun to return to.

I went to the new Northbridge Brewery
It was underwhelming. I ordered a Pale Ale which according to the tasting notes I would like if I like Sierra Nevada and LC Pale Ale. Perfect! I took my first sip, from my pint that had two inches of head, and assumed they had accidentally poured me the lager instead. The night improved when we went to Ezra and sat next to a 30 year old woman who was a genuine fan of One Direction. She said she really wanted one of those electric toothbrushes that sing songs so she could literally have One Direction in her mouth.

This important update from Mum

Spending all of Sunday on the couch
I watched Office Space, The Killing (the Danish one, obvz) and had a nap after I exhausted myself thinking about where to get nachos in South Perth.

Dinner party at Gemma's
Gemma got accepted to cook on Master Chef so she practised on us. Given my culinary induced nap, this was an excellent end to my weekend. There was wine and fried parsnips and tiny carrots and controversial dinner conversations.

This song
I am obsessed. And have subjected Monash to watching me dance around the house while I play it on repeat.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Sometimes I think about how precise construction work is. How exact and perfect and polished the finished product of building a house or a chair or tiling a floor has to be. And how weird it is that usually the people creating such perfect objects are big burly men who exist on a diet of sausage rolls, Dare Iced Coffee and Winnie Blues. Their fluro shirt is stretched tight over their bulging gut and they adjust their balls with permanent paint stains on their calloused fingers. And that's kind of beautiful, that something so exact, so equal, so smooth is the result of all that grunting and swearing and testosterone.

In slightly related news, this one time in London my friends and I played a game where we asked everyone who they would want their celebrity dad to be (yes, I realise this is weird for twenty-something girls to be thinking about, I didn't question it at the time). I said Kevin McCloud and I won.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My fist day temping

I thought getting out of hospitality would fix all my problems. I thought sitting at a desk and answering phones was going to be the new me. There were a bunch of reception/admin roles advertised on Seek and Gumtree that I thought would be rad but needed at least 3 decades of experience. So what better way to get a step up, than by doing temp work!

Bre said her housemate's girlfriend works for a recruitment agency and could potentially help me get work in an art gallery! Yes! This sounds great! Everything is coming up Milhouse!

So Bre gives me her business card, and I notice she works for one of the big corporate temp/recruiting agencies, which is not a good sign. When I go in for an interview she asks me to take out my nose ring and says "its nothing personal," excuse me lady, but that bit of metal is my favourite thing about my face and there's a reason I paid someone to stick a needle through my cartilage. It is personal. She suggests I get one of those clear plastic studs as a way to "meet me half way." Considering I regard those studs in the same light as transparent bra straps and transition lenses (everyone can still see them!) I decide to begrudgingly remove my ring in the morning and put it back in when I get home. She also said work in an art gallery is very unlikely. These developments, although not unexpected, lead me to wallow in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

 About half a week later, I get a call in the morning to cover a receptionist's desk for an engineering firm in Osborne Park while she is off sick for the day. No problem! I run around making breakfast and coffee, take Monash (Lloyd's dog) for a quick walk around the block so he can bury his nose in everyone's gardens, get dressed and head to Osborne Park. I struggle to find a parking spot (its after 10am by now) and leave my car in a visitor's bay for a different building, just so I can let the staff know I have arrived. With instructions of somewhere to park, I circle the block and find a paid street vacancy and quickly power walk back to the building. I am flustered and hot and out of sorts but I am ready.

I report to Jackie who, although nice enough, has the kind of twangy whine that makes you embarrassed to be Australian. She shows me to my desk, right in the front of the door, and introduces me to the other receptionist, Nikita an overweight Kiwi who doesn't appear to have any discernible personality. Jackie explains to me that I will be answering the phone and transferring calls to the office staff while entering time sheet details into MYOB. I get that sudden child like rush of fear and anxiety and think "no no no no no I don't want to I don't want to you can't make me where is my mum."

I fuck up both entering the details and answering the phones. Thankfully, Nikita and Jackie are both patient with me and explain how to do it properly. I also check the supplies cupboard and order more stationary, as well as refilling water bottles and doing the dishes from a meeting. I get out of hospitality and I still have to do the fucking dishes.

While on my 30 minute lunch break, I sit at Aroma, the only cafe near by, and eat my shit and overpriced quinoa salad. I think about how completely boring and horrible this is. I've never felt more motivated to go back to uni or try harder to get a job in the arts industry. Hell, I would even rather be a barista. A barista with my boss saying mean things about me behind my back. I didn't realise how much fun it is working in a cafe or restaurant. I walk in, probably hungover, wearing whatever the hell I want and hug my friends. We chat and laugh at how clumsy I am. I joke with customers and make fuckin' ace flat whites that people compliment me on and probably put on Instagram. Then I do the dishes and sing out of key and generally entertain everyone in my immediate vicinity. I really took all that for granted. Being surrounded by fellow weirdos every day is pretty tops, even when my hands were rotting from doing the dishes all the time.

Five o'clock rolls around and I thank Jackie and Nikita for their patience and help and head back to my car feeling pretty dejected about everything ever. And very much looking forward to taking off my bra (my only beige one that had to be worn under my white blouse, and is also extremely uncomfortable). As I get in my car, I notice there is something under my windscreen wiper. A $100 parking fine. Well fuck you, City of Stirling. What a waste of shitty day. Then I sit in peak hour traffic and wonder how people can do this for decades. Literally decades. Oh and I'm fairly sure I had to repierce my nostril to get my nose ring back in, too.

I knew it wasn't going to outrageously fun and rewarding, but I thought there would at least be a little bit of that first day excitement about pretending to be a real adult. But I really just hated all of it. It was sterile and impersonal and boring and I want nothing to do with the corporate world.

I was expecting something like Workaholics or Ilana from Broad City. Where they're generally shit and do what they want but seem to get away with it because they're temps and it doesn't matter. But the reason those shows were written was because they sat through soul destroying jobs and used it to channel their creativity into something amazing. Or something. I think I'd just like to be friends with Ilana, really.

So, in scrounging around for some semblance of a positive outcome, I am deciding that it's good that I tried office work and learnt that it's definitely not for me. Now I will feel more motivated to keep studying, or looking for particular work outside of the corporate world. In other news, I got my centrelink money (I'm thinking a sneaky little trip to Sydney/Tasmania or buying a bike) and I am currently wearing one of my favourite jumpers that I thought I lost on the way back from London but it turned out Mum just washed it and its been sitting in Dad's wardrobe for a year. Its the kind of jumper that feels like home.

I will leave you with this video from Six Feet Under when Claire starts doing temp work.

P.S I haven't given up altogether. I've asked my recruitment officer for "less corporate work" and maybe more data entry based assignments. I'll keep going because I'm bored and would like some monies but I'm looking for other work too. I'm off to find out where I can buy one of these tshirts.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

8 things that remind me I lived in London

1) When people on the escalators in train stations stand still on both the left and the right. Do you not realise you would be eaten alive in tube stations?! One side is for standing and lamenting the beginning of another day wearing pants and the other is for workin' those glutes and halving your escalator ride time. Get it right and get out of my way.

2) The smell of mulled wine. I made mulled wine last weekend and I almost started crying in the kitchen while I waited for my friends to turn up. I had one of those sudden, sweeping rushes of memory that wash over you in multitude of senses and emotions. I remembered walking around East London with Jess (South African) when it was super cold, but not quite snowing, and trying small pop up, amazingly-out door bars that sold sweet, spicy mulled wine in the small plastic cups you use for water in the doctor's waiting room. I remembered walking around an even colder market place in Edinburgh and being desperate to find a mulled wine stall so we could cup the warmth in our frosty, gloved hands. I remember making mulled wine with Jessie (Australian) on the best Christmas Day ever.

3) Bikes. All bikes, anywhere, any time. Especially watching people do that thing where they start standing up from a stopped position, and they're really pedalling but not going very fast at first and they kind of wobble the bike from side to side as well as their body bopping up and down, trying to get their momentum up. I'm sure there's a fancy Tour de France name for it. Dunno why, but that shit gets me every time. I miss having a bike. I really should buy one.

5) Listening to Alt J. I can feel the jolt of the bus as it careens around the Old Street round about. Its snowing and dark outside - I'm starting work at 6am. I'm really not enjoying this job, but I think still want to live in London. I hope that finding a new job will make it better. It will. 'Matilda' will soon remind me of my first few day time shifts at The Breakfast Club when everyone was exciting and new and it seemed like the best place to work ever. It kind of was.

6) Come Dine With Me. I've been doing lots of house sitting for people with Foxtel lately. I hate Foxtel. But I watch it anyway (for example, as I type this I am also re-watching Bored To Death - and an adorable chocolate Labrador called Monash is snoring in front of me. I think its partly the novelty of sitting on a couch with a TV instead of awkwardly lying in bed with my laptop propped up on my chair, a pillow and two Frankie magazines so it won't overheat. At any given time Foxtel will always be airing Sex and The City (hilariously outdated topics when you compare it to Girls or Inside Amy Schumer), Friends, The Simpsons/Futurama, Seinfeld, Veronica Mars, Secret Diary of A Call Girl and several other series I have already seen several times but will choose to watch again over Keeping Up With The Kardashians (or "Karshadians" as my sister calls it) any day. Also why are there ads on Foxtel?! Surely no one has the attention span to stay on the same channel if ads are involved any more. Anyway, Daniel and I used to watch Come Dine With Me with a cheap bottle of wine and joint after work. Its totally crap and definitely insulting to your intelligence, but I still kind of love it.

7) My love of breakfast condiments. I've always been a fan of condiments, but I frequently crave a full English breakfast with ketchup (it took me so long to learn to say that rather than "tomato sauce"), HP or brown sauce and maybe a sprinkle of tobasco too. The combination of bacon and tomato and mushrooms and brown sauce in one bite is one of life's simple pleasures, and best enjoyed at Cafe 338 on Bethnal Green Road.

8) When after a particularly hard and shitty day of slave labour/volunteering at Pica, I asked a fellow volunteer if she wanted to join me at the bar (about twenty metres from where we were standing at the time) for a pint, she laughed at me for saying "pint". And then when I saw her again, she asked how my "pint" was. It was fucking magical, thanks for asking. I don't get it. I ordered a pint. I got a pint. It was a pint of beer in a pint glass. Its not like I walked up the bar, removed the tobacco pipe from my mouth and ask for a "hot toddy, cheers old chap" while peering over my monocle. Well I don't really want to be friends with some one who thinks an invitation to have a pint together is odd, anyway. I'm definitely would have said this whether I lived in London or not, I just wanted to complain about it.