After Almost A Year And A Half
After almost a year and a half, I’m quitting.
I’m quitting being a waitress, a shop assistant, a slave, call it as you like. I’m quitting the most miserable job I’ve ever had. I’m quitting having to submit to my bosses and accept their laws as though they were the universal ones. I’m quitting.
But I might be exaggerating. The job was not so bad, one might say. We were a small team of three, or let’s say five, except that the two of them were the bosses. A married couple reminding me of my parents a little, despite that they did not quarrel all the time and despite that I see my parents everywhere and in everyone. How not to project them on my bosses? But they did not really look like my parents after all. He was the big boss, I guess, but he would never deal with stuff matters. She was the one to communicate his demands. Although he was colder than her, he was fair and moral; always in accordance to his own standards. She was closer to us, but abusing her power as a boss, treating us as we were her slaves, and I am pretty sure she never thought of herself like that. But what always made me suspicious towards them was that they were both stingy, him in a more legitimate way, her in a compulsive one.
But I might be exaggerating. They were not monsters. They were quite fine; I hated them merely because they were my bosses. I will not try to hide my pleasure of being able to maintain and support this hate without attempting to rationalize their behavior. Speaking from my own place, a mortal’s place, instead of speaking from God’s place, is a tricky task for me. Or this is again a cunning narcissistic act of mine that enables me to boast about the superiority that surrounds my existence. This superiority enables me to understand, rationalize and excuse all mortal creatures. And it automatically puts me above the rest of the mortal creatures on the rank. No one is able to offend me or to have power over me. I am a powerful human being after all, this is where I was trying to conclude. And to make it clear to you that I chose and was not forced to, embrace the role of the unhappy employee.
But I might be exaggerating. You can already guess, I imagine, how weak I am. How it hurts when people offend me and when I have to admit that I am hurt. But I might be exaggerating. In fact, I am never hurt. No one can surprise me, hurt me or have power on me.
But I got carried away. I was not hurt, I was furious. Furious mostly because stupid and superfluous people had power over me. The boss, even in this kind of stupid jobs becomes the master and stuff’s aim becomes to please them. I tried to want to please them but those brats had zero management skills. And here I am not talking about kindness but about plain cunningness. Trap me idiot, trap me with a stupid Christmas gift, in a hint of generosity, in surprising me with your understanding. Maintain your distance towards me but appear in front of me as someone that is concerned of my rights and I’ll try to serve you out of guilt, of morality, of gratefulness.
Instead, they did not understand, that keeping their employees satisfied, meant also silencing them and trapping them in a kind of morally indulged enslavement. They were not clever enough. They preferred trying to gain the most out of us, with the less possible expenses on us.
For each of my rights, I had to ask. Every time it was time to raise my salary, and I’m talking about £ 8.3 to £ 8.5 and £ 8.5 £ 9 per hour kind of raise, it was ‘accidentally’ forgotten until I had to point it out. For my holiday pay, I had to ask. For my right of having a break, I had to ask. For what would happen if I would get the Virus whilst working during the first lockdown, I had to ask. The UK sick pay in hospitality is 90 pounds per week.
To gain my right to complementary pay to the 90 pounds a week of the sick pay in case of catching the virus during the first lockdown, was not an easy task for me. I had to pass days to think of it again and again, to get frustrated, to see nightmares, to press myself, to write down my points one by one, to re-read them on my way to the shop, to find the right moment, to sweat, to have a serious conversation, to defend myself as a grown up. Out of the three employees working there initially, I was the only one still working. The others were furloughed. There was no one left to share with me all the tasks that no one wants to do. I became the slave of a family, the all-in-one kid. I would go to the post office to send away the online-order parcels, I would go buy the groceries every day or twice per day, I would carry heavy baskets full of goodies, fill the shelves, wash the whole shop etc. I told her I had not been asked if I felt comfortable to continue working during the pandemic, if I was scared or vulnerable, of how I felt to carry all the tasks of the shop by myself, or if I was tired and needed to be furloughed for a month or so (in this case someone from the other two would have to take my place), I told her she had even cut hours from my schedule to pay me less without even asking me if it was fine with me when she knew I really needed the money, I told her that I was working for a really basic salary, I had no family in London, no safety, and that I was exposed to the risk of catching the virus and if I finally would, I would get rewarded by making 90 pounds per week instead of my normal salary. How was I supposed to survive like that?
In the end she said Ok, if you get sick, we will supplement the sick pay money. I purposely got sick. They put the extra as they had promised. They were proud of themselves. They thought they were doing charity. I never said thank you. Supported by the law or not, this was my right.
It seems though, that my expectations from a job like that, might have been higher than that of what the common sense suggests. But I never gave so much importance to the law – and I never understood why this is a valid excuse in favor of my employers. Did not all of us know that the law was a scam? Then why was this giving them the right to act in accordance to it? If my father reads this, he will murmur some blasts and yell: This kid lives in her own world. My mum will then reply: And why are you telling it to me? I was the first to know. And not only them but all their friends and so many others will get prejudiced against a stupid compulsive protester, an illegitimate outsider, a hippie unable to hold strong opinions based on facts. It is true – I don’t believe in facts. I was never able to swallow the facts. I am blessed and cursed with this inability. I am born a protestor.
Or, I am so perfectly swallowed by the law, that I feel obliged to protest against it. The one completely perished by it, could easily be the one that is more passionately protesting against it. Who knows? Maybe you will know better than me after reading this.
But first of all, one must question if I am really protesting, or this is again, another myth I created for myself, myself. Were really my expectations so high, or my limited working environment made me feel like that? Raised up by parents who had never taken me seriously, and reduced my requests and little protests to the caprices of a child and then of a teenager, I became a capricious teenager. This teenager haunts me whenever I go and whatever I say. It is impossible to escape her, and forbid her to contaminate the seriousness of my thoughts and eventually extinguish them. I am the first one to judge my own protests as illegitimate – look at a person who claims not to have submitted to the law! Hahaha.
If this is true, even if my little requests are just basic, to me they might seem extraordinary and I will now have made a fuse out of nothing, fighting with my own demons, protesting not for much rather than my right to protest, not against the unwritten rules of employment but against myself.
So, what do I prefer to be? A quite illegitimate to many protestor, unable to submit to the law and therefore proposing other solutions, or a mere loser, trapped so perfectly in the law who is making little steps towards escaping it and giving herself the right to disobey? Here I’ll once again become suspicious towards myself, and will guess that I’d definitely prefer to be the first person and not the submitted one, and for this exact reason, I assume I am the second one.
If though, I am the second one, then I am a complete idiot to assume that I am exaggerating in my expectations from this damn shop. If I am the second one, it simply means that any other would have been able to protest and support themselves whereas I am holding myself back out of pure insecurity and the lack of belief of me being right. It would mean that after all, my requests are logical, not exaggerated at all, plus that I am a submissive loser. If this is true, I have to support my position at any cost. I hate and get disgusted from submission so much, that I sometimes think I am the epitomize of submission.
But if I am the epitomize of submission, then about the rest of the stuff? Why are my two colleagues at work so obedient? Why do they agree with me but always end up saying that this is how things are? I wonder then if they are right and in fact this is how things are and I just got something wrong. I notice in myself the tendency to investigate all matters coming from the outside, from the inside. I’d ask myself: Why am I so angry at them? Is it their fault or is it mine? It is probably mine. In the old days I’d be proud of my suspiciousness towards my own self and my ability to see and judge things “objectively”. Now I am suspicious of my suspiciousness. Maybe this is not how things should be. Maybe I gain too much pleasure out of the ability to demolish myself.
Maybe nothing ever changed by putting the blame on oneself. People say that it does. Everyone wants to change the world but no one wants to change themselves, said a popular quote, I don’t remember by whom. This suits me well, so I don’t believe it anymore. Maybe I am trying to change myself too hard. Not everything changes. Maybe I shall accept some parts of myself in order to let myself defend myself. My mortal self, whom I’ve not allowed to take power over my intellectual self. Maybe these that have the courage to blame the others change something. Maybe they change the way they are being treated. And this is what one wants. But not me. All I wanted was to do what I know best, a circle to end up putting the blame on me. This is me and this is my circle. This is who I am. I can’t change myself. I can’t change the world either. I guess this is where I have to start from next time. Or this is another excuse for me to give up on trying? Shouldn't I focus in fixing my wall?
I always saw other’s backs comfortably leaned on walls made out of stone to hold them straight up, and mine leaned on fake, badly self-made cupboards stuck all together, ready to get crushed by my own weight. Their defence is natural, and mine artificial. Make your own assumptions. I can always smell a specific kind of mother behind one’s power. It is very specific, this power, and I was always terribly afraid of it. It is mostly in men that I have encountered it, but you can find it also in women. Women possessing this power terrify me even more.
I did not understand much of my colleague’s mothers in this case but I non of them had the mother I’m talking about. I love both for different reasons, but what I mean by that, I don’t know. But I will restrain myself from writing more about them. I am afraid I will only share the fictions I made for them and not what they really were, if such thing exists. We all know that what would serve best my intentions is to see them as submissive. And this is how I saw them. I wish they were stronger. But did I? If I can’t bare the possibility of me not being a real protestor, imagine how I’d feel if I would be working with real protestors. I have to re-evaluate everything again and again. So let’s start once more from the beginning.
I request sth, alone, in a shop owned by a married couple, and they disagree. Their opinion becomes the law, firstly because they are two and I am one, and secondly because they are the authority. I become angry, they are taking advantage of their position I think, and I turn to my two colleagues who do not request. Authority wins. I am starting to question myself. I am trying to find out if I have understood something wrong. The general impression I have of myself reveals that I would have indeed ended up questioning myself. I am penetrable. I am week. No walls behind me. Justice is never on the side of the weak. And what if I am not weak but out of fear of being weak, I demand too much? My co-workers don’t seem as angry as me. Self-introspection again. My request could be fair but a child never wins over a grown up.
After almost a year and a half, Eleni Tomadaki, Unpublished, 2021