11 October 2005

Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed?

Remember me mentioning that little job I took, school hours, to pay the Council Tax?

Oops. Lasted a long time that, eh.

I could very easily prove that I was pushed. If I don't find another income quick sharpish, I may have to, although I prefer not to be militant, but if you meekly volunteer that you 'just quit', in this country at least, it disqualifies you from all sorts of benefits and rebates, for a very long time.

I so want to regale you with tales of poor hygeine etc, but that would reflect badly on the company, when in fact it reflects only on what goes on amongst uneducated and uncaring staff when their backs are turned.

To the woman whose first worrying words after training me were "And if anyone says anything just say, 'oh I've always done it like that and nobody's complained'," who wanders around eating the stock all day and takes unsold stuff home in her bag on a Friday, to the woman who told me off (!) for washing grimy lettuce before using it in the sandwiches 'because it takes too much time', to the woman who has not increased the hot food by a single slice of pizza in the time I have been making the sandwiches (hot snacks always sell out - the proper dinners never do) and has burned, it seems at least one item every single day:

Madam, if your takings have gone up so much in those two weeks, do you think it might actually be because all the baguettes and sandwiches I make sell out? Because in the only sector where you have really increased the work involved, the quality has gone up? Because the salad is fresh and clean, the fillings reach the edge of the sandwiches and there is just enough margarine to stop dry fillings like cheese salad from falling on the floor?

Every day something gets burned, by her or another. She burns the bacon, charcoalled the baked beans to the pan, burns the baguettes, over steams the pasta. The other new assistant (a nice young thing who responds to every disaster by giggling) won't mind me saying that she also cocks up all the time (she says it herself), cooks the jacket potatoes too soon so they mush; drains them over washing up instead of a separate sink, dropped one in the greasy water last week but fished it out and sold it to a teacher, burned so many shortbread biscuits that they had to drizzle them with chocolate to shift the last ones.

So how come when the worst I have ever done is to scorch a pair of basic pizzas, and that in my first couple of weeks on the job; how come that woman has the f*cking audacity to tell me that the other newbie and I can switch roles again, but only if I promise not to burn any more food and reduce her profits? What the f*ck does she mean by 'more'?

Why is someone who will not accept her own shortcomings and instead gets her emotional knickers in a twist and turns on her own staff as scapegoats, in a position of authority? Am I the only person she has tried to tread on to make herself feel better, or just the first in this particular kitchen?

One of the proper managers dropped by today and we had to hide a whole tray of blackened and crisped bacon, that this uppity boss had burned. Thats about the fourth time.

And there she stood, after this guy had gone, at the front of the kitchen right by the hatches, with people still eating and in earshot just beyond them, and tore me off a strip, loudly, for things I hadn't even done, things that if I HAD done wouldn't begin to match the other disasters that go on on a daily basis. She suggested that if I switched jobs I would spoil her profit increase by burning everything. Cow.

So I handed her my hat. I told her if she wanted it that much, she could keep it.

Suddenly it all changed - she went from 'you can't do that' to following me into the changing room and glaring at me while I got changed out of uniform! She was stood there in the doorway, with school corridors a window away behind her, while I was in not much more than my pants. Then she hung on to the door and told me I wasn't leaving. I had to tell her I liked her to get her to let go. Believe me, she might be a decade younger than me, but she's beefy, and one of the first stories she proudly told us was about her being bound over to keep the peace for beating someone up. Not someone I am inclined to tell distasteful home truths, for sure.

The sad thing is that when she's not being vicious and bossy, she can be really nice. I can't believe that I am actually going to feel guilty tomorrow, knowing that she wont have any time to crack jokes with her crony or slope off for her usual extra fag breaks. I hate letting people down, even evil ones.

I say I was pushed - what do you think?


Pol said...

Dunno about pushed - looks more like she grabbed you by the hair and threw you over the precipice.

Good for you for standing up to her and the consequences are her own responsibility.

You have nothing to feel guilty about.

Ally said...

I agree with Pol. You were definitely pushed. Good for you for standing up to her. I am sure that karmic payback will mean that you find something brill that pays fantastically to do very soon.

doris said...

Jeez that is awful. Truly awful.

I think the phrase is that she "made your job untenable". I think you should not be feeling guilty and should be reporting her to the job centre or whoever so that you can be salvaging something on the income front.

But in reality, I can see that it is not easy. That she knows where you live, etc.

There are often two sides to everything but I have every confidence in you and your ability and your ability to see right and wrong.

And.... there are health and safety issues regarding what goes on in that kitchen. Why not email Jamie Oliver? Or the Education Secretary?

Or her employer? You do have rights too and could help them get this sorted as you are probably not the first to be shoved.

PS Many years ago as a student nursery nurse I had to stand in front of a tribunal to report on key staff accused of abusing the kids. The fellow student who had brought the accusations to light got anonymity at the last moment for some reason so I had to bear it on my own. These beefy menacing women... but I did, as scared as I was, and the women were disallowed from working with children. They were transferred to working with old people instead. :-(

ME Strauss said...

People who know they are incompetent can suss who can tell that in a second or two. They get very threatened. They don't think you want their jobs. They think that you can expose them for what they are, so of course they have to find a way to get rid of you.

I vote for you were gone one way or another. There was no staying there for you.


Ms Mac said...

Noone should have to put up with that kind of crap in the workplace. You'll probably find that he staff turnover is really high and hopefully someone who counts is keeping an eye on it!

Sam Freedom said...

Pushed. For sure. Anyone can tell it was a push even from overseas. It has pushed written all over it.

I used to work for a nation-wide health food chain. Within 2 weeks, I was making close to $1000/wk working part time. I knew my stuff. All the little runt manager/enabler of her cocaine-addicted boyfriend needed to do was either shut her mouth or say, "Just ask him." and I would have been able to sell even the toilet every week (assuming they replaced it...but that's part of the trouble..)

So incompetence reigns. My father, a man who just sold the main division of his company for $10,000,000 once leaned over and whispered to me, "Son, you need to be careful. There's a lot of incompetent people in the work force."

So, Cheryl, is it any wonder I've worked my way up to $7,500 last month working from my chair at home?

When the health chain shipped me to the worst store in the region to help get it's sagging numbers up (26th out of 26 stores), I brought it to #1 in less than a month. It was in my blood. I was ONE with the customer.

I knew how to scare all of them into buying vitamins with their fat burners, and how for just $5 more they could get a discount card that would save them 20% each month off their fat burners and the toxin-neutralizing vitamins.

It was bliss. I turned runners
onto fast recuperative products,
and bodybuilders onto beef building
powders. I was in heaven.

But I started making careless mistakes. Oh so careless. In retrospect, had I known what I know now....but alas....

I requested that headquarters fix
the cooling unit so we could have
cold water and sport drinks for our
regular customers. Big mistake.

I requested that the torn and tattered
rug be replaced rather than have its
worn, ratty edges covered with
electrical tape. Bad move.

I emphatically stated the need for
white ceiling tiles to replace the
ones that were brownish-yellow from
the urine of rodents probably laden
with Hanta virus.

I also asked that we have sufficient
product in the store on days where
those items were on deep discount.

Oh, that and more...such big, big
mistakes. After all, coming from
30+ years in a family business that
sold only 1 division for $10,000,000
you think I'd know better and just
be happy to be #1 in sales and
discount club card memberships.

Nope...I had to have a clean store,
with replacement bulbs, working
cooler, untattered rug, no rodents
urinating Hanta virus on our heads,
and plenty of stock so customers
could actually BUY something that
was listed on sale.

Big mistake.

I'm with you on this one, girl.
You were definitely pushed. Just
tell me where to sign.


zilla said...

Pushed, of course.


(Selfishly) You're back here a bit more often, I hope.

(Not selfishly) This is opportunity calling.

I don't blow smoke up anyone's ass (do you use this expression in the UK?), Cheryl. You were born for better things.

The one thing that is worse than doing a job for which you are way more than over-qualified, is doing that job for a manipulative freak who can't think her way out of a wet paper bag.

I know this from personal experience. I've done my share of cafeteria work, I've worked as a short order cook for beer and pizza money, I've done two stints at effing Burger King to dig the family out of unanticipated financial holes. It sucked.

You have to stop worrying over the short-term problems and start working toward the big picture.

In my dreams, you are now angry as hell and writing furiously toward publication because that is what you are meant to do.

If there were a way for me to help you achieve what you are clearly meant to achieve, I would be there, helping, in a heartbeat.

I believe in you.

Cheryl said...

Thank you ALL!

All very supportive posts - there is nowhere else that I could have gone for such a lot of constructive feedback.

How could a girl feel deflated or question herself after support like this?

Zilla you are an angel, wow what a reply.

Milt Bogs said...

At the risk of alienating every dinner lady out there, I sort of had the feeling that you have far too much savvy to survive long in that role. It's a great piece Cheryl. Someone should bring it to the attention of the Director of Education. Better still - email it to The Guardian or Telegraph.

Cheryl said...

Milt, you are lovely.

As the Head Office people have been very nice on the phone and said that they really want to meet with me, do not like the idea of anyone leaving whilst upset with the company etc, I guess I may technically still be their employee.

This ties me to a direct instruction from their Publicity Manager and I am barred from contacting any press on any matter relating to the company.

Actually, I have to consider that, as that is a sackable offence, they may yet like me to do something along those lines - if I am fired, after all, they can rest easy that I won't be asking for tribunal. It would suit me too - if you are sacked then there are no questions asked when you sign on the dole.

No - I can't. My morals, however wonky, forbid me to share this info with anyone but my blogging friends.

On the other hand, if you feel strongly about it - then please do be my guest!

I avoided the specifics relating to poor hygeine, because I would have to explain the direct correlation between them and the push for good profit margins coupled with under-funding/staffing/training. It needs to avoid looking like a bitching session. I think I will wait for time and distance.

fineartist said...

Oh Cheryl, I have only just found this post, thank you for redirecting me to it. Pffttt, how could I have missed it? Well, my only explanation is that I have been picking rocks of my own, selfish twerp that I seem to be. I missed the opportunity to be there for you when you are always there for me. I suck.

Oh, I am so sorry that your work situation sucked so badly. Those kinds of situations can be turned around, but you would have had to’ve been hired as management to have been able to make a difference in an environment so plagued with out right bullshit. No other word for it. Those chicks lack a vision, they go to work to complain, push work off on others, screw around, and generally muck around in shit of their own creating, sounds like to me. That and the fact that upper management seems to think that working understaffed is OKAY. Ber der, do dee dodeedoo. Yah it would take you having full control to turn that place into somewhere that you wouldn’t dread going everyday.

You know, when you first told us that you were taking a job as a lunch lady, I couldn’t help but feel glad for all of those children who would be exposed to your compassion, kindness, humor, brilliance, wit, and generally wonderful nature. Now don’t go all squishy on me, I know I am a spewer of adjectives. I thought that you would have time to visit with the children, sounds like I thought wrong.

See, I have always wound up with lunch duty, I don’t know who I pissed off, but yah, I have been a regular in the lunch room since I started teaching. As much as I call it the dreaded lunch duty, I secretly don’t mind it--that is, as long as I can grab a cigarette break on my prep period--I have always really enjoyed visiting with the kids at lunch, it is more relaxed, they are eating, they are happy, usually.

Cheryl before I went to college I had a conversation with my psychologist, it went like this:

Me: I am thinking of going back to school.

Walt the shrink: I thought you might do that, tell me about it, what’s bothering you about it?

Me: Well, apart from being older than nearly every other entering freshman, I don’t know, I am kind of afraid I guess.

Walt, friend, shrink: You will be older if you wait. What is it that you fear exactly?

Me: Feeling like people will think I am out of place, fear of failure, fear of crashing and burning, but man I am so sick of waiting tables, and I feel as if my mind is turning to mush.

Walt, father figure, shrink e dink: What’s the worse thing that other students will think about you? Do you not think that you are a capable person? Have you not figured out how to pace yourself? DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT?

Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOO, I don’t want fries with that. Gaaaaaaa. I’m sort of confused, you see, I make decent money waiting tables, but I am frapping beginning to friggin hate it! I feel like I want to do something more with my life, but I also wonder if I am being self important, thinking that I should be doing something better. Gaaaa, I suck.

Walt, father wisdom, guy with the degree: Lori, you don’t suck, well not in this particular situation anyway, it is not presumptuous for you to aspire to do something else with your life. You have to do what you love in this life, or make the situation you are in, what you love. Either accept it or change it, don’t beat yourself up for wanting to change your life. Find your passion.

We all have to find our niches in this life, what works for us, what we love. You will find yours Cheryl, I just know it. Ye gads I have written a tome.

jane said...

You're too kind. You really are. She's a manipulative bitch and she was probably using you. Plus, her behavior was just plain unethical. when asked, I wouldn't hesitate to say that you were under duress when you said you liked her. And tell them what she told you about 'why' she's there.
You've nothing to feel guilty about. You may very well have helped someone in the future.