Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Holiday income: hard earned, fabulously spent

Both my kids are working these school holidays, my daughter in a restaurant and my son for a local mosaic artist. My daughter gets paid R10 per hour plus tips to ferry comestibles, while my son earns R15 per hour to smash large sheets of coloured glass into small pieces, then grade them by shape and size.

My first job, at age 14 (I looked older), was in a shoe shop. It cured me forever of any female footwear fervour I may have been fomenting (with apologies for that odd little f-attack). In fact, while I’m not averse to massaging just about any part of anyone’s body – and some, obviously, more enthusiastically than others, depending on whose and which body part it is – I just can’t do feet. Two years of being up close and personal with the malodorous hideousness of what grows between most people’s toes and under their nails put me off for life.

By age 17 I had to up the ante – my father had banned me from ever owning a motorcycle, so of course that was the one thing I simply had to have. And motorbikes cost money. So I worked as a packer at P’n’P, a cashier at Woolworths and a waitress in a local restaurant, sometimes running from one job to another, changing out of one uniform and into the next as I did. (And my parents wonder why I didn’t crack the First Class Matric they were so sure would be mine.)

I left Woolworths never to return the day my mother’s gynaecologist, a lovely woman who had through sheer coincidence the previous day examined me before prescribing The Pill, happened to bring her purchases to my till for cashing up. Although she greeted me in a friendly and professional fashion (these f-sounds just keep coming, don’t they?), I just couldn’t risk the chance that I may have to, some time in the future, once again look in the face of someone who had recently looked at my vagina.

My stint at P’n’P came to an end when I started passing out, sometimes quite spectacularly amid boxes of smashed eggs and shattered bottles of shampoo (and now the s-sounds are having their go). While sympathetic, the management finally told me they couldn’t justify either the shrinkage or the shock to their shoppers. Oddly, after I left that job, I never fainted again.

With only my waitressing job left and three payments remaining on my motorbike, it was unfortunate that I got into a set-to with the leery, sweaty, fatty owner of the restaurant after he’d rubbed himself up against me one too many times – twice, to be precise; I’d thought the first time was an innocent mistake. What began as a polite request for him to stop sexually harassing me turned into a huge argument that ended when I tossed my metal tray at a nearby window and he roared, ‘You’re fired!’ I wanted to say, ‘Too late! I quit!’ like they do in the movies, but I was so humiliated and traumatised that I just took off my apron and crept away.

I had other soul-destroying and/or boring holiday jobs: I was the photocopy girl at a PR company, I worked as a signwriter, I did calligraphy for a conference venue, I sold fruit from a roadside stall, I was part of the security retinue for a computer faire (to my delight, I had to break up a fight on a stand, when an irate software designer, infuriated by a real or imagined copyright infringement by a competitor, poured a cup of coffee into a vital bit of machinery) and I did time in a stainless-steel factory, to name a few. I’ve resigned in fury and disgust a few times and been fired twice (for things that weren’t my fault; no, really, they weren’t).

But what my holiday jobs did teach me was the joy of spending my own hard-earned cash. I recall with what dizzy delight I blew my entire first paycheque on books – all of which I still own to this day and wouldn’t part with for love or anyone else’s money. Using my holiday earnings, I got my motorbike (off which I skidded, fell, was knocked, rolled, etc, until I realised that I was really going to end up dead if I didn’t get rid of it), and also my first car (which was uninsured, naturally, and was stolen a week later, but that’s another story). I used it to buy clothes my mother refused to let me go out in, makeup that made me look like a heroin-crazed raccoon, music my parents wouldn’t allow me to play in the house. Twice I went on road trips with friends to the magical Transkei and blew loads on marijuana, which we smoked down to the last head over the weeks we lazed about on the beaches – millionaires couldn’t have been happier.

So when my kids have to wake up early or work until late during the school hols, and complain that all their friends are either out jolling or allowed to sleep until lunchtime, and then take themselves off to their temporary places of employment with dragging feet, I know that when they get paid, things are going to look a lot brighter. (Although, obviously, I do hope they’re not going to spend their hard-earned moolah on dagga.)

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1 comment:

Juno said...

Bloody good on you and your kids that they are working. What a rarity among Today's Teens.