A four part retelling of a three month saga.
Part One: Meetings – why do they exist?
Everyone has a bad job story. Everyone knows someone with a bad job story. Some are horrific and serve as both a warning and a gratification for your own nine to five. My bad job story isn’t that bad in the scope of things, it’s just bad – contextually – in my own employment history. I’ve been felt up, puked on, made to clean urinals, told that my opinion “wasn’t worth shit”, been dobbed in to the cops, cleaned rotten fish water, been screamed at over fax toner and called every name under the sun and I can cope with all of that, because my worst job ever was counting money. Seriously, rap video money rain is not at all what a career in cash counting is like. I like to think of it thusly; take all of the best bits about money and fun, and then take away all the bits about fun, and the money’s not yours and that is what cash counting is like. I lasted a staggeringly long three months. And of all things, the last straw – the actual nail in the coffin – the undisputed final be all and end all of my quitting this job – was over a Justin Beiber song. But you’ll have to read on through to the last chapter to find out how the Biebs sent me to Quitsville and halted my career in banking.
I saw the ad online for a money counter although knowing today’s HR bollocks is was probably re-titled as something more impressive sounding, (how did we all cope when secretary’s weren’t called ‘Executive Assistants’?) I was feeling whimsical so I sent in my CV. The HR department rang me the next day to double check that I actually wanted to count money because I just finished up at Fine Arts School and what the fuck was I thinking? “This job, it’s… It’s kind of repetitive. We’ve got a few openings in the call centre if you’d prefer that?”
“Do I have to sell stuff?” I asked.
“Um, no, it’s not selling as such. But you do have sales targets.”
“Oh. So I won’t sell something useful like vacuum cleaners but I have to convince people that call in for an account balance to get a home loan and a high value credit card?”
“Ha ha! No!” she said. (That means yes.)
I’d worked in a job like that before in telecommunications. No, it’s not ‘cold-calling’ or telesales, but somehow it just feels dirtier than either. Mrs Burns is calling in to ask why her internet isn’t working and I end up having to sell her three new cellphones and a business line just to make my target for the day even though she seems hesitant and I feel as dirty as a Rabbi on a pig farm. Suffice it to say that with that attitude I never made it in the sales biz. It should also be evident that I didn’t accept the bank “sales” job either on this occasion and ended up psyching myself up about counting money.
It was fairly evident from the first day that I wasn’t going to fit, and these feelings got decidedly more pronounced with each passing day. But I didn’t leave because I didn’t fit in – people like working with me because I’m polite and rarely late. Also, I quote movies to seem hilarious. There were four reasons why I left. Four utterly compelling and justifiable reasons and I shall list them now.
Fuck meetings. In other jobs, meetings are something you do to waste time in between doing actual work. In my younger days I had always loved meetings because I could take an hour out of the day to talk about stuff that didn’t matter and things that would never be done, the slackers haven, if you will. But after this job, I will forevermore utterly despise their wretched existence. Let me break down the work environment so you can see why I am evangelical about this. I would drive thirty minutes to get to a warehouse at 6pm for start. We would file through three armoury doors, where at each stage our faces were checked against photos by rotating (and almost certainly overweight) security staff before being allowed in. We also had to enter through each door one person at a time. This was to make sure that no one could hold a gun behind us to gain entry and ensure that we would be shot instead of letting a crazed loony take a couple of thou. Cool. The inside of the warehouse was cold, we weren’t allowed to wear long sleeves so that we couldn’t hide anything inside them – we were the perpetually goosebumped – and we sat at our stations for the evening’s work. Every deposit from the day would be periodically unloaded from armoured trucks and ferried in through steel doors, where trolley dollies meandered around; every few minutes dumping an unholy amount of small plastic bags onto your desk. You would pick these up – strictly one bag at a time – rip it open and empty it onto your counting workspace. The deposit slip was read and the account number entered. Names were checked and ticked off then notes were separated by denomination and weighed. Coins were either counted by hand or, in the case of shop deposits, emptied into a giant coin counting machine that was more temperamental than a Filipino wife. I swear if that machine ever ran through a load of coins without jamming itself, I’d be a monkey’s uncle. Cheques were the worst. The names had to match, the date had to be within certain, ever changing parameters, the numerical and the written values had to match. If anything was off, you had to summon your manager, who would make a judgement call, and then you had to log a form with all the details. Then you would clear the account from the computer, clear your workspace, and reach for the next bag. Utterly m i n d n u m b I n g stuff. So you’d be slogging away at your ever increasing pile of baggies, and you’d hear a ding! A message pops up on your screen, [Meeting: Team Panther Weekly Catch Up]. Fuck me. Fuck Team Panther.
So we’d stop working. The entire team would file into the unnaturally large meeting room under the perpetually depressing recessed fluorescent lights and we’d talk about utter bollocks. Or we were talked at; whatever. The lunchroom is being redesigned. Whoop de doo. Any input on the new mouse pad colour? Nope. The company chairman has released his quarterly update. Ugh. Why is there a rainbow sticker on the locker room door? Garry’s gay. They manage to drag these meetings out for nigh on sixty minutes while they wax lyrical about company this and strategy that; intranet doo dids and Christmas party ho downs. I DON’T CARE. I hate being indoctrinated into corporate philosophy bullshit. I am not a ‘team member’, I’m an employee and I just want to do my job and go home to spend time with people that I’m not paid to be around. But whatever, right? I can nod like my head’s submerged in water but the important thing to remember about these meetings, is that the work didn’t metaphysically disappear while we were having them; it compounded like interest. (HEYOO!) By the time you arrived back at your desk with a new company mouse pad, your workload for the night had doubled. And you did not leave until it was done. They had a service guarantee of 24 hours for a deposit so we worked on through the night to finish. Why were they so concerned with the mouse pad colour when they had a potentially costly guarantee on their hands? Are banks so big and rich that they can afford to pay me and a hundred other staff another couple of hours to discuss the surface upon which my mouse rests? If that’s the case, we’re all fucked.
The concept of “team building” through prolonged meetings torture confused me then and it confuses me now. This place had meetings up the wazoo. There was team meetings, floor team meetings, management team meetings and emergency response meetings – so next time your bank deposits 12 mill into your account instead of 12 thou; remember this story, and don’t call the call centre – you’ll hang up with a mortgage.