When I left school I was like a moth in a hurricane. I had no idea of what I wanted to do, and my lack of qualifications limited the number of positions I could apply for. Still, I had to try.
Before I’d even left school I attended a half-day’s try out, labouring at the premises of a local firm that made pottery items – pomades and piggy banks and the like. I turned up thinking it would be a breeze, but not long into my stint I was told to fetch a bucket of slip (liquid clay). It wasn’t a standard sized bucket, but a tall thin thing that was three-quarters full. I tried to lift it but it wouldn’t budge. I thought that maybe this was a joke, and the bucket was stuck to the floor. The long-haired guy who was showing me the ropes came over and he lifted it effortlessly, even finding the time to call me a weakling.
I didn’t get this job, but I did enjoy going to collect my half-day’s wages, which I blew in local coffee bars.
After I’d left school, my first interview was at a local butcher’s shop. The job was to make pease pudding, black pudding, white pudding etc, on site. When I turned up at the shop, good and early, a counter assistant told me that the person I needed to see was out. I hung about for a while, but after ten minutes or so, I left the shop and headed home.
As I walked along the pavement, however, I was overtaken by a white van, which stopped just in front of me – it was the butcher himself. He apologised for not being in when I called, but he’d had urgent business to attend to. I got in the van and we held an impromptu interview there and then. He told me of the duties I would perform in making the various puddings in the back shop. I showed great enthusiasm for the post – until he said something that put me off. And yet what he said should have increased my determination to secure the job.
He told me that he wasn’t looking for someone who would stay with his firm for a short while and then go off somewhere else. He wanted someone who would work at the shop for many years, but such commitment went against the grain of the young maverick in the passenger seat. My enthusiasm for the post waned visibly, and I didn’t get the job.
Soon after this I attended an interview for what was quite a coveted position among school-leavers: bicycle courier for the local harbour commission. All the successful applicant had to do was transport documents between the various departments via bicycle, and keep the machine in good order. The deal was that the courier would spend a few years on the bike, and if he (or she) proved satisfactory, they would be offered another job within the commission, and another school-leaver would take the saddle.
Again during the interview the person opposite said something that put me off the job. We had been chatting quite amicably, and I had shown enthusiasm for the post, but then his demeanour changed. With a stern look on his face, he leaned forward across the desk.
“We don’t want any time-wasters here,” he boomed, “If you act the goat you’ll be straight out on your ear.”
I didn’t like being spoken to in this manner, and I certainly didn’t fancy having this tyrant for a boss. Once again my enthusiasm evaporated and I didn’t get the job.
In these days of short-term employment contracts, posts that offer job security are much sought-after. Yet in my sixteen-year-old naivety, I saw such security as a negative aspect of a job – I’d rather drift aimlessly through life than make a long-term commitment. Of course, I know different now.
Soon after my courier interview, I learned that some of my friends had started work as labourers for a local roofing firm. I called in at their office and was given an immediate start. I remained in this line of work for years.
It was the worst job in the world.