By far, the worst job I ever had was during the summer when I was twenty-one. I’d returned from South Africa early after a failed attempt at voluntary work (I like money) and couldn’t resume my old job for another 4-5 months because there wasn’t yet any work for me to do there. For the first time in seven years, I was unemployed.
I played nintendo for a few weeks, drank a lot of beer, and sunbaked all day in my parents’ backyard before my mother told me I should think about contributing to society.
“I’m an organ donor,” I reminded her.
“No, I mean you should get a job,” Mum said. “Pay some taxes.”
“You don’t,” I argued.
“Not according to your father’s accountant.”
“Fine, I’ll get a job.”
And after a few interviews with recruiters, I eventually landed a temp-to-perm position doing accounts payable in North Sydney….for a funeral home.
“Is the nature of the business going to be a problem for you?” I was asked during the interview.
“Bills is bills,” I said nonchalantly. “Besides, I like the quiet.”
However, unlike an episode of Six Feet Under, this job proved to be less fascinating than you might think. I was primarily trained by a balding middle-aged man who smelled funny and breathed heavily, which meant I could never have any sort of meaningful professional relationship with him. The hours were 7:30am to 4:30pm, which meant I had to drive in because the buses didn’t start until 8am. And so, every day, I parked my car illegally, and every second day, I got a parking ticket. The residents in North Sydney were clearly sick of the parking situation, because they often abused me. One morning, a lady drove out of her driveway, then told me I had parked too close to it.
“You just drove out of it,” I pointed out.
“I hope you get a ticket!” she said.
“Fuck you!” she said and drove off.
At work, I spent my days coding and entering invoices for flowers, catering, burial plots and children’s coffins. I could tell you how much it cost to cremate an adult, an adolescent or a baby; what flowers were most popular; and which funeral celebrants were well-respected. I spent all day looking at names of dead people, and every time I saw a surname I recognised, I had to stop and google them to make sure they weren’t related to somebody I knew.
My co-workers were mostly Asian mothers. Our boss was Cruella de Vil. On my first day, she showed me the depressingly small kitchen. I opened the fridge and noted a complete absence of alcohol.
“You can have a biscuit from the jar, if you like,” she offered. “It’s free.”
“Sure,” I said, knowing that I would eat as many biscuits as possible to compensate myself for working in such a soul-sucking hell hole.
I spent every lunch break chain-smoking in a park around the corner, calling everyone I’d ever met and asking them if they knew of any jobs going. Eventually I found a temporary position doing admin at a friend’s office. I went over for an interview and drank a beer with the CEO, who was wearing board shorts and thongs. We chatted casually for fifteen minutes and he asked me when I could start.
The next day, I quit the funeral home.
“This is awfully short notice,” Cruella protested, “I have no idea how we’ll cope with the workload.”
“Oh I didn’t really do much,” I said, comfortingly.
“This puts us in an awkward position,” she continued.
“Who cares,” I replied. “All your clients are already dead.”
I never got offered anymore work through that particular recruitment agency and I haven’t been to North Sydney since.