Jobs v Jobbies

The world of work can be inspiring, infuriating and invidious. Crap jobs can have their advantages though, claims Colin Montgomery

It’s the ultimate paradox. The supposedly austere Presbyterian soul, all strait-jacketed sobriety and sombre resolve as it trudges through this vale of tears, is actually a wanton libertine at heart. For what else is the fetishization of daily labour, graft, industry (shorthand: the Protestant Work Ethic) if not a form of indulgence worthy of those of the Catholic persuasion? The papes and the proddies, in cahoots. Who’da thunk it? I would.

Of course, tribal tubes will take offence at such a conflation – the ‘hard-of-thinking’ sorts who put their faith in old songs and imagined correspondences with imaginary deities. I don’t say that to deride those with faith; may your God go with you as the late great Dave Allen said. But really, why not put your faith in work? For work will set you free. Oops I’ve stumbled into holocaust territory. And I have no intention in staying there. So, onwards.

Let’s leave murderous Nazi bastards to history and revisit their vile aphorism. A better, more truthful slogan, applicable to our age, would be ‘work will set you straight’. Not straight as in the ‘straight and narrow’ of the virtuous man, striding purposefully with morals intact towards a guaranteed front row seat in the afterlife. Nah, I mean straight as in devoid of any delusions or illusions about people, human nature, the meaning of toil and everything else. 

In summary: crap jobs are always crap jobs. But provided you can emerge from the crap with your physical and mental health intact (not always guaranteed admittedly), they are an invaluable education, which can only make you stronger. Sometimes you don’t even need to get to the interview stage… step forward Tory Mekon, Dominic Cummings. The great disruptor. The self-styled maverick. And, to use the technical term, complete and utter fud.

 

Exhibit A: Cummings’ recent ludicrous impromptu job spec for his new breed of civil servant, in one of his interminable blogs full of guff about challenging norms - reinventing hats and making cats grow an extra leg and aw that pish. Anyway, his burbling was a masterclass in cognitive dissonance; from a call for ‘weirdos and misfits’ to ‘I’ll bin you within weeks if you don’t fit’ in 3000 

words. That tells you all you need to know about the kind of twat who wrote it. Congratulations. You now have a first-class degree in twat-spotting! Go forth!

But of course, sometimes, we only learn our lessons when we’re stuck in a job of such hateful monotony or servility or fuckstickery – and have no easy exit. That’s the Post Grad of life lessons. I’ve done three or four in my time (you may be at Professor level yourself). Some are probably still enduring such agonies, so forgive me if the following seems like a bit of a ‘so what?’ moment; I can only tell it like it is as I dip into the file marked ‘My Shite Jobs’. 

Forgive the puerility, but I’m going to refer to them as jobbies – partly in honour of a now infamous vox pop from ITN news circa 1970-something when some poor bloke down the Labour Exchange was quoted as saying ‘it’s more of a jobby centre to be honest’. Seriously. The news agenda back then was as grim as it is now. Just a different shade of brown. So, here goes again, at the second time of asking…ladies and gentlemen, ‘My Shite Jobbies’. 

Jobby 1: Cleaner at Pollock Halls, summer 1992

This was a jobby in every sense. The student halls were rented out to the public. And dear Lord did they abuse that k key life lesson: many human adults aren’t toilet-trained. Plus they knew some poor tit was coming to clean the rooms too. Dirty bastards the lot of them. Plus one morning, I actually tripped over two boozed up chancers kipping on the floor in the Stygian gloom of the laundry room/kitchen of the floor I was working on. Cupla fannies…

 

Jobby 2: Kitchen Porter, Hendersons, spring/summer 1994

Hendersons was a mixed bag. The lasses behind the counter were lovely and very tasty (forgive me, I was a young man on heat). But I was in the kitchen/collecting plates, cups and… abuse from self-important arseholes; one actually clicked her fingers and asked me to “put this cup on your little tray”. Then a sadist started work as kitchen supervisor. I told one of the Henderson brothers it wasn’t worth it for £3.50 an hour. He seemed amazed. As though, I’d shattered a Faberge Egg made of golden courgettes in front of him.

 

​​Jobby 3: The Job Centre,St Andrew’s Square,winter 1995/1996

I was signing on. I was desperate. Ironically, I got a job as a front-of-house idiot at the old city centre job centre. It was the era of cardboard slips with the job typed or written on them, which ‘job-seekers’ brought to you. Corkers like ‘Cafeteria Slave in Liberton, £1.75 an hour’ or ‘Lathe Turner in Whitburn. Pay Negotiable’. Christ, it was miserable. I was reprimanded for not being positive about people’s life chances. Insert eye-roll here

Jobby 4: Museum Attendant, Edinburgh Council, 1996-97

My final pretend jobby before I got a real jobby. In this one, I worked at Council-owned venues – from The Scott Monument to People’s Story to the City Art Centre. TBH, 99% of my day-to-day colleagues were diamond; genuine, hard-working and friendly. The visitor ratio was different: 40% awright, 60% c**ts. Barking questions at you, condescending to you, ignoring your requests to “not touch the exhibits” or whatever. But as per my intro, looking back, I learned a lot in that job. And I’ll always be thankful for that wisdom. Hi ho etc…

Colour in your very own Dominic ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’ Cummings and put it in the attic to fester

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Step forward Tory Mekon, Dominic Cummings. The great disruptor, self-styled maverick, and, to use the technical term, complete and utter fud

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