Stories: Employment Lore

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  • andrew llewellyn,

    I remember seeing more than a few guys there who seemed pretty well permanently toasted after many years in the solvent room.

    Everyone was happier by afternoon.

    What got me, having worked there in the holidays for 3 years (? if not more :) was how many long servers had passed away from cancer & the like, since I'd last been there.

    The union kept an eye on the factory practises, but the workers would spend their allotted solvent-free breaks playing euchre & smoking.

    Although I would not be surprised if washing your hands, arms & even faces in a mix of turpentine, nail polish remover & sundry other solvents each day for years, was harmful to your health.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    nail polish remover

    Gah - acetone! It's all coming back to me now....

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I would not be surprised if washing your hands, arms & even faces in a mix of turpentine, nail polish remover & sundry other solvents each day for years, was harmful to your health.

    Speaking as someone who used to work handling hazardous waste for the local council, in my no-longer-professional opinion:

    Yes, that's not a recommended practise these days.

    You are definitely gonna die.

    Sometime in the next 80 years or so.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Dykes,

    Any joyous work stories out there? Or do the rotten jobs always make the best stories?

    I once worked for a large company that required its business units to create strategic plans once a year. We were allowed a couple of work days and a small budget to go offsite and create these plans. Almost always, such sessions involved renting meeting space in a hotel and working through a tedious list of vision, mission, objectives etc etc which ultimately didn't change much from year to year. But of course you couldn't say that, you had to go through the motions and dress up the nonsense created by the process.

    My group was one of the last to plan its strategic planning session & Chris came up with a brilliant idea - take his mate's boat across the Cook Strait, loaded up with full necessary supplies and cruise about the Marlborough Sounds for a couple of days and nights. So we did. The ride across was a bit bumpy but we saw a whale on the way, and once we were there it was idyllic. We spent our time sitting on the back of the boat in the sun, fishing rods in hand, chatting about life and a bit about work. We took turns being scribe while others enjoyed their wine or braved the water. We came up with some great ideas for the year ahead and it was the most creative session I'd been involved with at the company. Afterwards it was obvious to all that we delivered much better work and we'd also spent less budget in doing it. While it wasn't our intention, we made a lot of other employees envious.

    Sure enough, the next month a directive came out that said in future, planning sessions would have to occur within an hour of Wellington and expressly couldn't involve chartering a boat due to the appearance of spending large sums of shareholders' money. But that just served to underscore our victory against faceless bureaucracy. And we figured the next year we would come up with something even better.

    Has anyone else managed to beat the man at work?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I got beaten by the man at work - the faceless bureaucrats anyway. I worked for a multinational, fortune 500 company whose CEO was a member of the Business Round Table.

    For reasons too complex to go into, I had the chance to visit one of our branches in Australia. Unfortunately, the firm had a rule that only senior managers could travel overseas.

    So the Australian branch offered to pay the fare - oddly, they really wanted to see me.

    You don'ts break the rules though in a fortune 500 company. I did not go.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I've found the larger the company/organisation, the larger the bureaucracy, the more people who aren't directly connected to the customer/money source, the more it all starts to resemble a Dilbert cartoon.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    There was little difference between a large government department & a large multinational company. Except you get unreasonable directives from Head Office, instead of the Minister's Office.

    I presume it hasn't changed in 15 years.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    For most of my adult life, I've worked for online companies in virtual offices. Turns out this seems to bring out the absolute worst of office politics - you don't even have to TRY to look someone in the face while you stab them in the back.

    I work for online writing/role playing boards as an administrator and technical writer. My first job of this type was at a company called DayDreamer's Gate. (The page you get when you do that makes me smile every damn time.) It took about two years to work out that the boss was a sociopath. Charming, ruthless, needlessly cruel, stunned when people were upset by her actions.

    She (and I'll call her "Pamela Hydrick" to avoid confusion) decided that we needed to have 'family friendly' boards, and therefore nobody would be allowed to write gay characters on them. During my vociferous protests, it came out that I was bisexual. She went apeshit, and I still have the 3000 words of abuse I got emailed. (Apparently I was having orgies on my front lawn AND I belonged to Greenpeace, which appeared to be the same thing.)

    Eventually, either she sacked me or I quit, depending on who you ask. About two-thirds of the other staff came with me, and that led to the company I work for now, Bardic Web. Those of us who left have so far endured three and a half years of intellectual property theft, sock puppetry, and online stalking. OTOH, in that time we've got to watch her wonderful Christian business go under, and our den of sin flourish.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Chockasunday,

    I took a working holiday and went to work as a waiter in Austria. It wasn't for the money, just the chance to practise some German and live at a ski resort for the winter.

    I told them I'd never worked as a waiter before I started the job.
    I soon found out waiters in Austria go to a waiters school. Damn, I was going to be in trouble now!

    I wished I'd asked my sister for some hints (she's worked in hospitality all her life, and now runs the Drake pub in Victoria Park, Auckland)

    The only thing in my favour was the majority of guests being English speakers.

    So I figured they would want my help as a native English speaker, in, say, translating the menu. It's quite hard to explain what spaetzle is.
    And there's the fact that yes we really do say 'Bon Appetit', even though it is French.

    But no, they didn't want to listen to any of that. The couple who ran the hotel were stern taskmasters who wanted everything done their way and their way only.

    They were only in it for the cash here and now. Woe betode any guest making a request to, say, change rooms. You'd have to take what you are given and that was that.

    We tried to give good service in spite of the attitude of our bosses.

    I speak German, but not enough to understand all of the instructions the boss gave at the start of the day.
    On my first night, I made 6 mistakes, 5 of which the boss saw. Things like giving food to the wrong people etc.
    The next morning the boss took me aside, and told me to be on my way.

    It was Christmas Day, and I had moved from London from this job.
    I sobbed to Mum on the phone for a while, then I got my thinking cap on. Having come all this way, I wasn't going to give up without a fight.

    I made a list of 12 things they could do to improve the hotel (e.g. HP sauce for the English). I went to see the boss and told him he could have the first idea for free, and the rest if I got my job back.
    He gave me the job back, but not surprisingly none of the ideas were implemented (they would have cost money, and they were too proud to take suggestions from a junior waiter who spoke such poor German).

    How the place continued to run I'm not quite sure. We had five new waiters in one week, all of whom lasted a night before unintentionally crossing the boss. The guests all stayed for a week, which wasn't usually quite long enough to figure out the chaos was consistent.

    I survived a backstabbing sleazy Italian waiter who was every cliche you could think of. And a fight with the grumpy dishwasher where he found out exactly how much German I knew!

    Although I got better, I still got fired twice more from this job. The second time the boss told me he would come and see me later, but never did.
    I did last longer than the other native English speakers, who got the boot after New Years.

    On the other hand, I had a great time living in Mayrhofen: I made loads of friends, learnt to snowboard and got a taste for weissbier (German wheat beer).

    There's another good work story that happened soon after this one, but I only tell that in person ...

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    We're all persons here ;-)

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    At the Interview:
    My best ever interview was for my first "real" job. Of the two guys interviewing my one had trimmed his moustache really badly and it was really uneven. The other guy had...something about him, which escapes me know but was equally attention grabbing. So I spent the whole interview desperately not trying to stare. Then they asked me: "so why didn't you do a lot of uni papers in 1997 or 1999? Were you studying part time? My response: No I just failed a lot.

    They laughed and offered me the job. (I turned them down because they wanted me to live in Christchurch for 3 years)

    As I Left:
    After being bullied for months by a particularly nasty manager, that I now call "Cu*stance" (where *=n), I was able to tell her that I was leaving for another position. Her response: You little shit.

    Best Job:
    I didn't get paid but me and a friend got to use sledgehammers to smash up an office that was going to be refurbished. Wooooooo!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    jobs,I've had a few.......isn't that how the old song goes? No? Oh well, it's true nonetheless. Loving all these stories. My worst jobs were definitively the ones I had as a barmaid in England. For three years, I seemed to take the jobs with the shittest landlords in all the land. Frank the Irishman who threatened to throw me out of a window. He got fired for diddling the brewery. Another guy who was diddling the brewery. Oh yes, and another one too. The best of the worst bastard bosses was at a place called The Ship in Richmond. I was there for two days when I was fired for asking the man what he had said (turned out he was asking me to wash ashtrays). "It's not going to work out" he dramatically says. Apparently he said that to alot of people. I went to a TNT bbq at Richmond Park where there were hundreds of aussies and Kiwis. And eleven of us had all been fired by the same man. The commonality? We were all fired a few days after he'd stopped smoking for the 1000th time etc. The best job I've ever had is the one I do now. Teaching 3-5 year olds in public kindergartens. Love it. Haven't always loved the people I'ved worked with, however. But you get that sometimes.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    My first full time job out of Uni was contracting for an NZ organisation, where the contract was rolled over week by week. You knew you were not a valued employee, but a resource to be used.
    After some time I started to apply for other jobs and was duly offered an interview, arranged to take 2 hours off and on the day went out for my meeting.
    Upon returning to work I was asked to step into the manager's office with a witness and given a formal warning about disrupting the workplace. The reason... wearing a suit to work and obviously looking for another job.
    Handed in my resignation later that week with a smile

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Gavin Stowers,

    Best job I ever had was as a musician based out of Auckland. We went to pubs and clubs - and got paid to have fun.

    At one point we were sponsored by a Canadian brewery, so got to drink all our beer for free - AND got paid to have fun.

    Other band members were friends from school, so we gto to live that dream we had when we were day dreaming in class.

    Toured around New Zealand and fell in love with the South Island - especially Christchurch and Wanaka. Saw some amazing scenery and met some wonderful people.

    Developed the philosophy that the further you go from Auckland, the better the people are....

    Probably why I live on the Gold Coast now.

    Gold Coast, Australia • Since Jul 2007 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Lea Barker,

    I once had a childhood wish fulfilled when I got paid to sit up all night and watch television.

    Unfortunately, the decade in which the wish was fulfilled was the one in which BBC World covered every smoky, bloody detail of the war in Kosovo and the genocide in Rwanda. It was also the decade in which Clinton was interminably impeached and Diana impeccably interred, and NBC Asia dared not turn from either story.

    On the bright side, I did discover Cow and Chicken and Dexter's Laboratory.

    Oakland, CA • Since Nov 2006 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    Moswt fun job was as a clown in Auckland's Queen St one December when I was at uiniversity.

    It was for a gift shop called 'Box-It' based in CML Mall. I was dressed in a clown face, red tights, a box around the middle, and with a box lid as a hat with baloons and streamers on.

    The important thing here is I look nothing like a clown. A friend of mine at the time described me in the course of a university festival debate as resembing a slightly demented accountant. More recently, I've been mistaken, during select committee meetings, for a Treasury official . (not a oncer, this: it's happened three times).

    It was an odd combination but it worked. I used to walk along looking as depressed as possible and trying to channel the spirit of Tony Hancock. Handed out flyers to kids who were throwing wobblies - they loved it and I used to get such grateful looks from the Mums. The pay wans't bad either.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Stef Alderson,

    Probably the worst job i had was as a "carrot grader" for a market farm one student summer.
    You had to stand at a conveyor belt and pick out the deformed carrots as they came rattling past before bagging them.
    T-e-d-i-o-u-s. First day on the job, came home and yes, we had carrots as part of tea...and the dinner table was moving.....


    My best job was probably as a copywriter for a tiny station in a small town.
    For our christmas party, we jumped on a bus and were whisked to the local pub for lunch. Then back on the bus, to a boat..the boat sailed down a river and we were picked up by the bus and travelled a short distance to Wanaka...where we were split up and put on a hovercraft. The hovercraft was met on the otherside of the lake by a van that drove us to the local small airport. We were put in a six seater plane and flown over alps to a farm where we landed in a field to be greeted by fellow staff members on horseback and a function tent filled with more piss then i've seen at any wedding.
    It was a memorable few days after that....

    Since Jul 2007 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    There were four of us working on the call centre of the ISP's accounts department. We were understaffed at the worst of times, and this was one of those times.

    That afternoon, I was at my scheduled lunchbreak (12.00 to 12.30, and you'd better be back at your desk by 12.30 so the next person can take their lunch break, girl), Donna was away sick with the flu, Selwyn was away from his desk processing a payment for a customer he'd just been speaking with, leaving only Trent manning the phones.

    A customer had been trying to get through, but when faced with a lengthy wait time on hold, had hung up, phoned back and tricked a receptionist into putting him through to one of the directors. He then spent several minutes yelling at Jim, the director, telling him how useless his company was and how he didn't want to put up with that kind of terrible service.

    Jim's response to this was to storm into the accounts area, yell at Selwyn and Trent, and inform our manager Louise that Trent, Selwyn, Donna and I were to all get written warnings for not taking calls. Louise managed to talk him out of giving the written warning to Donna, saying it was a little unfair to discipline someone for not answering calls when she was away sick. But I still got one for being away on my fiercely scheduled lunch break.

    A couple of weeks later, Louise took me aside and said Jim had later told her that I probably shouldn't have got the written warning because I was quite a good worker. But, like, I still had it.

    Selwyn, Trent, Donna, Louise and I had all left that company within a year.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    PA readers are probably smart enough not to need this warning, but just in case there's some nerdy sheltered types out there looking for extra cash:

    NEVER take a Receptionist job at a Massage Parlour/Escort Service. They may assure you that that's all you're required for, and you may believe it, but they will be grooming you from day one.

    Ditto for Strip Clubs. You might think it's only a barmaid position but one day Blondie will be sick and Jasmine is out doing a Strip-o-gram and all the other girls will beg you to try it ("just for fun!") to help them out cos they're so tired from having to do all those extra routines to fill the gap. (And you wondered why they had been shouting you drinks all night ...)

    This advice is based on friends' experiences from last century. I guess with the rise of P they need not be so nefarious these days.

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    NEVER take a Receptionist job at a Massage Parlour/Escort Service.

    Or "The receptionist job's gone, love, but we have another job you might be interested in, and it pays more. Here, have a seat and Krystelle will give you a tour..."

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    A friend of mine did his PhD in Sociology in the States. His thesis involved interviewing workers at strip bars and massage parlours. He said that, with no exception, if your girlfriend said she was only the receptionist at one of those places she was definitely more than that.

    He also said that by even involving sex workers in his study he was ostracised by the other sociologists at his university. They didn't mind that he was gay (and flamingly so), but talk to prostitutes and they'll shun you.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Which reminds me of a lecturer from the School of Education at Waikato who started out researching how prostitutes educate one another, did indeed become a receptionist (purely for research) and is now a professional dominatrix in Sydney, which I think that is probably more fun than teaching ungrateful undergraduates,

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    thesis involved interviewing workers at strip bars and massage parlours

    In my time looking after University student computer labs, I found it amazing how many of them were 'researching' for a paper on internet porn.
    Even more amazing were the ones who used the lab colour printer to run off their favourites, complete with header sheet with their student username on it and then forgot to collect it.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

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