Stories that begin with, “one time I…” usually end up being stinkers. One time I went to a job interview two hours away from where I lived. I took two buses and a train, then I walked about 2 kilometres down a highway to Shitsville, NSW for an interview with a company that was clearly going down the toilet. The job itself was for an Editorial Assistant whose simple title belies the millions of poo poo tasks that take up your entire life so an editor can decide which colour background looks better in this month’s “Cacti and other Succulents” feature. (It’s teal, by the way.) You’re supposed to feel privileged because you got a job in ‘the biz’ but like all jobs in the arts, they’re completely overrated. Media types like to look down on people in the trades because they don’t talk about the ‘right’ kind of pop culture but lest we forget – no matter how cool the company, you’re still just somebody’s assistant. At least Steve the builder owns his own tools… (And house and car and television and bach.) I was young(er) however, and still wanted a job in media so bad that I’d come into a craphole office in a smeared-glass building to be greeted by no one. They couldn’t afford a receptionist. (Just FYI, kids, this is where you leave the interview – silently, backing away with exaggerated footsteps.) I rang the tele-buzzer thing and a brisk woman answered and told me my interviewer would be down to fetch me soon. (I laughed on the way home when I realised it was entirely possible this lady and my interviewer were the same person.)
When my potential boss-to-be appeared at the top of the stairs in an outfit that I would call, ‘gave-up-on-life, dirty David Bain chic’ I thought, “fuck it” and went upstairs to see how much more they could possibly suck. When I surveyed the office with my discerning eye, I couldn’t help but notice that there was only one person in it, but at least thirty desks. They were covered in shit: old magazines, coffee cups, those murky brown desk accessories that someone thought were so stylish they bought enough for eons of future generations to use. It looked like a police station from 1984. The desks were fake wood and well-worn, the carpet was stained and the general vibe of the place was depressing. There were posters, faded and yellowing, peeling themselves off the walls and in the boardroom a sad old chipboard magazine display with copies of the most esoteric publications imaginable. I was ready to paste on a very attractive grin and sell myself like a rent boy, but my portly interviewer began with a monologue on the history of the company instead and I felt my smile drop slowly and my eyebrows raise as she used the word ‘attrition’ more than anyone should use that word to a potential employee. Their admin staff has been ‘attritioned’ – same with the reporters and God help the sub-editors, they were attritioned like the rapture. I was waiting for an attritioning myself when she threw my line of logic by telling me that the company had a reputation for being tough. “If you can work here, you can work anywhere” she said, and I wondered to myself how long a job there might last for before I was looking for another. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in Miranda Preistley’s office, if it was in downtown Mogadishu, and my hard graft at assistant editing would attrition me to chicken farmer or something. Dare to dream? Can someone ‘attritioned’ even come back to life long enough to find another job? Because fuck knows I’ve been trying for a while and I’m fully formed. Surely she realised that by telling me they had no staff left and that I would be worked like a dog for what a Mogudishuan chicken farmer would be paid, that I probably wouldn’t be interested in the job. Interviewers can fuck up – that’s why you should never go into an interview with a submissive attitude.
I get that print media is supposed to be dying, but if that’s so, why am I typing this while sitting next to a human sized pile of magazines? Why do we still sell them if no one’s buying? It’s not as if the print media is getting bailouts from the taxpayer. In some ways, trimming the staff fat is not a terrible thing – everyone has that one bitch in the office who complains all day that she’s busy but is mostly browsing TradeMe and yelling at her kids on the trunk line. Let’s keep attritioning the shit out of those people. All they do is suck up valuable air conditioning air and your time. And the good part is, in a shrinking economy, the cream should rise to the top. So maybe you’ll be editing a home and living magazine in six months? Although, the irony is amusing because you’ll never afford a house to live in on the salary.
Unperturbed by my gorgeous smile and swarthy mien, my homely boss-to-be and her sweatshirt never offered me the job. I hope she’s still got hers though, there’s attritioning going around…