Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My First Job

I was sixteen, just out of school and didn’t know what on earth to do with my life from there on in. For some time, I’d thought of being a psychologist, but I decided against it. I really don’t fancy the idea of ‘classifying’ people, even though it does make things simpler, and I couldn’t think that my ‘wisdom’ would be of benefit to anyone.

Besides, my mum wasn’t too worried what I actually studied at uni, as long as I found a ‘nice man’ who would have a good job. Given the divorce rate in this country, it seemed like a shocking waste of time, besides not wanting to ‘prostitute myself’. So I obdurately declared that I would be a hairdresser.

At the time, I had hair down to my waist, and for the very good reason that I never so much as went near a hairdresser’s. I said it to shock her and make her leave me alone, but she was ‘supportive’ instead – the last thing I wanted, but how could I say so? So I decided to give it a bash.

When I decide to give something a bash, I go at it hammer and tongs, so before long I had a job as ‘apprentice hairdresser’ in a smart-ish salon. I very soon learned a number of things: everything in that salon was about appearances. You stand even when there aren’t customers, your boss has to approve of your looks and grooming, and everything you do is vitally important.

Its not enough to hand your boss the perm papers, you have to do it as if your life depended on it. No surgeon’s assistant could be more alert: paper, curler, paper, curler every time he stretches out his hand, you’re there. If you’re not…

The worst part of it all was that I found that I was allergic to the chemicals they used. They blistered my hands, they made my nose and eyes run. It was hay-fever all day every day. I suppose that it can be said that I know when to quit, but sometimes it takes a boot up my derriere to get me going.

This happened when my boss pulled me in to the back room and piled in with the metaphorical gloves off: I was the worst apprentice he had ever had bar none, I looked miserable all day, and my puffy eyes were an indication of some pretty hard living on my part, probably drug use.

That evening, after several drafts, I came up with the following masterpiece:
Dear Sir, with reference to our conversation yesterday, I would hereby like to tender twenty-four hours’ notice of my resignation. Yours faithfully…

It may not be the best letter I ever wrote, but it ranks as one of the most satisfying, along with the one I wrote to the Broadcasting Corporation: 'Thank you for your final demand letter. I do not have a television, have never had a televison, will never have a television, and I should like very much to know where you got my address.' But I digress

The boss was surprised. He’d never meant to push me as far as resigning, would I reconsider? So I told him about my allergy and showed him the scabs and told him about the runny eyes and said I was miserable, of course I was miserable and I’d be going now.

So that was my first job. I think it taught me not to make assumptions about people and turn them into accusations the way my boss did, and it taught me that all work is deadly serious – I just have trouble taking all of it seriously.
Today's pic: Hair of course!


  1. When I read that your first job was in a hair salon- I really did about "fall out of my chair"! Seriously. What I found fascinating is that you gave it your all- apparently a character trait. Yet- the job was clearly NOT you.
    That boss of yours- his philosophy was to berate workers into submission of The WAY. And once you are sufficiently indoctrinated- then you can share in a sense of superiority. I've seen it in salons here- and it's why I don't go.
    Jeff and I have been cutting each others hair for the last decade.
    One of my worst jobs was the evening out cleaning over 100 toilets in a large church. I've had worse- but that was the one I only managed to do three times before I could no longer face it.
    Another great post my friend!! Loved every minute of it.

  2. I impressed my boss today by managing to burn myself on a bagging machine. I wonder if there's a sort of genius in being bad at something?

  3. Oh PAMO! If hairdressing wasn't me, then you can bet your bottom dollar you were wasted on the loos! A hundred of them too!
    PT: Glad you're still with me despite our heated debate. Your machines sound dangerous! Hoping you'll find something in the arts where you really belong soon... Maybe, Dickens-like, you'll find your inspiration?

  4. Oh, part of having strong opinions is that inevitably strong differences will also arise, but secretly I'm quite good-natured and my friends know it's never personal.

    I'm making a film at the moment. Everyone is suspicious that I'm doing this job to find inspiration, but it's not like that - all you learn is that some people's lives are grim, and that's all there is to say about it.

    Also, the machines aren't dangerous, I'm just completely rubbish. Sample story: I was going to cook an oven pizza last night. I started my stop watch and then did something else, before realising that twice the allotted time had gone by. I rushed back, only to find that luckily I had forgotten to turn the oven on as well. I am not well suited to factory work.

  5. I was going to be be a hairdresser as well but for some reason I became a dog groomer instead, sounds like it was for the best. I bet you would have had to deal with a lot of snotty people!

  6. Yes, some of them were terrible snobs, but others quite nice. My favorite was a chap who used to come every month in a chauffeured Rolls Royce. He was almost bald. So after I'd shampooed his scalp and my boss had cut all three of his hairs, he'd be off.. until next month!

    At least my customers didn't really bite!