Sunday, 15 May 2011


The end was in sight. After four years of living in a coastal town I finally fled to the capital to find fame, glory and franchised coffee. Good friend in tow, I literally threw my possessions into an oversized bag and ran away to follow my modest dreams and career ambitions. It was this or cleaning.

Like all people cursed with a creative tendency I have unfortunately not been able to live it up like a French creative, sipping wine and getting all existential on the world, and thus had to endure another horrid job. I constantly think, ‘I don’t belong here’ but also realise ‘I like food’ and thus continue. This vicious cycle all started at University whilst gaining a (BA) Hons Degree. My chosen temporary career was cleaning. It was a Bleached Dawn.

The Problem was money. I didn’t have any and I needed some quickly. I soon managed to find employment at the very campus in which I was studying. This was a fortunate piece of luck since I could simply stagger up after my shift and work on my dissertation or have a li’l sleepy in the library.

The shift was 6am-9am, requiring me to arise around 5am; a sickeningly early time for any student. A strange double life soon emerged – On one side I was a film student writing pieces to be published and attending obligatory nightlife. Then BAM the alarm, a Thor-like hammer to the skull summoning me to another date with mops, hoovers and free coffee.

Caffeine soon replaced blood until I was so sleep deficient that my facial features resembled that of a Tim Burton character. Somehow this existence continued for another 10 months after graduation. I tried to escape. I tried other jobs but always ended up returning just in time to watch another fresh crop of minds enter the hallowed halls of higher education. In the U.S people pay for blood and hair - how I wished it were the same over here.

Many co-workers found themselves in the same boat, desperate for a break in their respective fields - music, pottery, screenwriting, photography, you name it. We bonded over our pain and early mornings. Find the employee with the most distant gleam in their eye and if they aren’t the town psycho they’ll be the artist too busy daydreaming to stack the shelf in front of them.

It’s important to learn in such situations, take stock of one’s aims, skills and level of commitment. If you’re still happily spending hours of your day back home working on your ‘real’ career, then you might be in with a chance. If not, then how badly do you want it?

I for one believe that having a dose of what you might not like can often spur you on. I learnt many great things in my time as NVQ qualified cleaner and down the line I may pen a Bukowski ‘Post Office’ style novel full of the crazy incidents. But for now these gems gleam out…

1) Girls’ bathrooms are actually worse than guys’ - and never underestimate their capacity for carnage.

2) The stain left by the beverage known as ‘Snakebite’ cannot be washed from any surface.

3) Do not drop industrial strength bleach on brand new trainers.

4) 9 to 5 jobs are not boring. They’re a beautiful realm where sleep is plentiful.

5) Some cleaning jobs provide free Gym membership.

You may come to fondly reminisce on the ‘crap’ job in your twilight years.

Sam Walker-Smart

No comments:

Post a Comment