Another short lived job was working for a well known gastro pub-wine bar chain. I’ve never been one for working in chains. I found the standardised way to tie your apron and the standardised way to wrap the cutlery restrictive and suffocating. If I want to wrap diagonally I will, damn it, and no centralised head office will tell me otherwise! I used to come home and count the standardised bruises on my thighs at the exact standardised level of the standard table height. I hated it to the point where a month in I bumped into my then boyfriend in tears of horror at the thought of even going in and decided to never go in again. Another in a long line of “Fuck this I’m outta here’s”. There’s no feeling of relief so great as to realise that life is too short to be lorded over by a middle management jobsworth and that the power you do have is to chuck your metaphorical keys at him and go. I also understand that for many this isn’t an option and I was still a teenager with no responsibility whatsoever, swanning around north London packing shit jobs in when they didn’t appeal to my sense of entitlement. For those with families to support, who swallow their rightful resentment towards these 13 year old middle management douchebags and get on with the job regardless, much respect!
This terrible brass and mahogany prison was in Hampstead, which for some reason breeds the rudest and most entitled people on the planet. It was also the era of All Saints and Oasis and ladies who lunch, who don’t actually lunch but order food push it around their plate, drink a bottle of wine and leave the food untouched without a second thought; there’s probably only so much pretending to eat one can do when actually surviving off Chardonnay and diet pills. Their loss was our gain though and, after a sneaky look to make sure the customer wasn’t so vile you might catch something, shamelessly polishing of plate after plate of quesadillas was the only advantage to the job!
My friend had worked there just before me and I had her till key that still said her name. That name was my only beacon of hope and joy in an otherwise bleak and soulless job, every time I saw the illuminated letters I was rewarded with the knowledge that she got out. Like Shawshank Redemtion, I would picture her on the beach whittling her boat in the sunlight.
My days consisted of polishing knives and forks with stinking vinegar and using one of those knives to scrape posh peoples posh chewingum from the bottom of the standardised gastro-pub chairs they had used to rest their posh derrieres. It was supposed to be a wine bar, but rather than teach us anything about wine, they taught us the bare minimum amount of bullshit to be able to not look like complete imbeciles but still know nothing about wine.
Everyone there was creepy and not a single person stands out in my memory, except for the assistant manager who left shortly after I arrived. The reason he stands out is because of a story so odd I can’t quite believe it myself. Now this chain served food, mostly average gastro pub type stuff from the kitchen upstairs but there was a little downstairs preparation area where the pickles were all lined up. The memory of having to scrape the gungy bottles of congealed piccalilli into each other genuinely still makes me gag.
At closing up time, a month earlier, my friend, of boat whittling fame, had just finished her jobs and innocently walked into the same preparation area only to find the assistant manager, there amongst the condiments, having a wank. ‘What are you doing?’ she demanded and he spun round, cock in hand, with a look of red-faced panic. She’s a headstrong girl and I don’t think the experience had any harmful effect on her, as it might have another hapless employee trying to earn some pocket money on the weekends, but all the same what perplexed her most was why on earth he chose the open kitchen area when there was perfectly good kitchen upstairs! I never trusted the piccalilli again after that though.