Getting down to business

One thing I always do before publishing these blog posts, is to read them out to the kids. Since I’m usually taking the mickey out of them (in a deeply loving way of course), they are allowed to veto anything they don’t want me to say, for whatever reason.

Kudos to them for not minding most of what I say, and extra kudos to them at the moment because they’ve both had a really tough couple of weeks for different reasons, and they have been amazing.

So, I thought I might give them a break this time and talk about something else. Also because when they’re being amazing, I have no ammunition and it basically leaves me with no choice.

My mind has been wandering more than usual lately, back to some of the jobs I’ve had over the years. The first job I had apart from a paper round, was weekends at the local supermarket when I was 16. I didn’t stay long because the manager couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I was an embarrassed teenager and didn’t know how to handle it, so I left quietly. That was possibly the last time I did anything quietly at work.

From 18-21, I worked evenings, weekends and university holidays as a hospital cleaner. I really loved that job because I got to work all over the hospital, and the other cleaners were a lot of fun. For a while, I was assigned to cleaning the pathology lab. I’m not particularly squeamish so I didn’t mind the various body parts in jars decorating the shelves.

What I did mind was one night when I was cleaning a sink, a doctor who was working late, shouted across the room at me, ‘NOT THAT SINK!’ She told me that cleaners don’t have to clean that sink and in fact, shouldn’t be touching it at all. I mentioned (very casually, in order to hide the sense of doom that had already taken me in its clutches) that I’d been cleaning it every night for the past four weeks. At which point she did three things:

1) Looked at me without speaking for quite some time. Probably only seconds but it felt like an eternity.

2) Looked back at the sink.

3) Said, ‘Ah. Oh no. Well, you’ll probably be alright’.

PROBABLY be alright? In my head that was immediately translated as ‘you’ve touched something that is 100% certain to bring about your demise. It’s clearly only a matter of time, but since there’s bugger all we can do, let’s not make a fuss, eh?’ Thirty years later I’m still here, so I’m slightly less concerned. But only slightly.

The rest of my hospital days passed uneventfully, apart from the time I was cleaning one of the private rooms off a ward. I did everything I needed to do, then cheerfully offered the patient in bed a drink. He didn’t answer me, and I realised he’d nodded off. I made him one anyway, and left it beside the bed for him in case he woke up soon. It was only when I left the room, and minutes later his bed was wheeled away with the white sheet pulled up over his face, that I realised I had accidentally provided a dead person with a lovely cup of tea.

During those three years, I also spent five months working as a waitress in a hotel in Switzerland. The idea was to immerse me in the German language and help my studies, which actually worked. And it had the added bonus of teaching me that I must never, under any circumstances, try to be a waitress again.

Everyone else carried out their duties with ease and grace. I was the one who got sent out with a tray of filled champagne glasses for a gala evening at the hotel bar, only to trip over some air that someone had selfishly left in my way, and drop the entire tray over half the guests. Head hanging in shame, I returned to the bar and was ordered to go back out there with another tray. My hands were shaking because I was terrified I’d do the same thing again. I didn’t, don’t worry. It was completely different because THIS time when I dropped the tray and the glasses smashed all over the floor, it was because of my shaking hands, not because I tripped. I try not to be predictable.

I’m pleased to say that eventually things improved. When I left university, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so to buy myself some time, I did some courses in computer applications. At the end of my course, the training company offered me a job, and I have been in IT Training ever since. After a few years learning the ropes, I chose to specialise in legal IT training, so now I teach lawyers and all the support staff how to use the applications they need to do their jobs.

Now I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I do like to think I’m pretty good at my job and that I’m professional. Mostly. However I don’t count the time I was running late because of messed-up trains. I walked into the training room to find everyone waiting for me. Trying to take my coat off in a hurry, I accidentally grabbed my shirt underneath the coat as well, and opened them both at the same time. Nothing like turning up to a presentation late, apologising and then flashing your bra to the audience to win people over.

Another time I was working at a firm where you had to have a pub lunch with the group you were training that day. This day happened to me a group of the firm’s VIPs. Back in the training room after lunch, I went to take my coat off and the zip got stuck halfway down. After several minutes going bright red in the face trying desperately to force it down, I realised I had two choices. I could continue the rest of the training in my coat, and boil to death. Or I could try to nudge the coat down inch by painful inch, then step out of it as elegantly as possible. I opted for the latter, and on reflection, this was a mistake. I didn’t consider the fact that I would temporarily have to lift just the one foot off the ground, and that ‘good at balancing’ is not on my CV. You can probably guess the rest.

After having children, I have been successfully able to embarrass myself far more easily and frequently. From enthusiastically pointing out sheep to a train full of commuters at 7am, to telling a lawyer in my best ‘mum’ voice that he wasn’t setting foot in my training room until he’d been to the toilet. From replying ‘what’s that darling?’ to the senior partner of the firm when he asked a question about digital dictation, to hanging up the phone with ‘love you, bye’ to a secretary I’d been helping with a spreadsheet problem.

None of these are examples of my professionalism and talent. In fact, the more I think about it, maybe I should just stick to the writing. Or better still, just the gin.

Bring on Bedtime!

4 thoughts on “Getting down to business

  1. glad to know others pay homage to the embarrassment goddess. going through all my embarrassing moments. a poignant read this time.

    Like

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