I never thought I’d see the day. And it’s not as if it was a rash, last-ditch move made out of desperation to restore financial order to a travel-fuelled sea of debt. It’s not like I had Baycorp at my front door, threatening to take all my belongings – which, at the present time, could be itemised precisely on one standard-sized post-it note (To be fair, if Baycorp arrived at the front door of the North London townhouse where we’re currently staying, claiming I owed any amount that necessitated an around-the-world flight then… fair play to them). No, it’s not as if I was even guilt-tripped into it by my better half who had almost finished her second week of mind-numbing contract admin work. No, I brought it upon myself. I’ll admit it. My inability to verbalise any remotely negative response, and thereby emphasize to the sneaky temp agency that I was a man who could do anything, was my potential downfall. It’s all like a strange dream now, but it definitely happened. And it will, more than likely, happen again.
And so it was, a bewildered 28-year-old version of myself, a promising-yet-somewhat-experienced sales and marketing professional with an awkward approach to humour, sitting in a popular clothing chain-store that was due to soon be in-fluxed by two kazillion fashion-conscious teens and university students. Next to me were half a dozen late-teen (21 at MOST) young women (with vastly more retail experience than I – i.e. have actually worked in a similar store or… have spent more than an hour in such a store without heading swiftly for the exit while gasping for fresh air) awaiting our “assignments” as temporary shop assistants. Yip, to say I was a fish out of water would be like saying the Queen herself may feel a little out of place on the set of “Good Will Humping”. I had no idea what I was in for.
To start off I was allocated a lanyard. I’m not sure how this piece of unnecessary equipment manages to alleviate some individuals levels of self-importance to that akin to Zeus, the god of all gods. This psychological effect seems related to what happens to even the geekiest of geeks when he/she attempts to wear sunglasses inside and assumes, seemingly because no-one can see their eyes, that they are Chuck Norris himself, and develop a strange swagger and accompanying Zoolander-type sneer. I was quite looking forward to a similar effect taking hold of me and envisaged myself as a real-life Popeye after having chugged back ten pints of condensed spinach. But, alas, I remained a mere mortal and found this man-jewellery to be a huge hindrance anywhere within cat-swing of protruding pointy things or passing projectiles. But, as an official “Top Shop Staff” member, I felt like I was part of the cool group… and I was gunna enjoy it.
The fun ended there really. Yes, I had a few moments of near-awesomeness – like when I adopted the native NZ “how’s it” head movement (you know… one eyebrow slightly down, faint upside-down smile and the quick upward-motion “nod”) at my fellow Top-Shopians, as if I was one of a select few. I even managed to surprise a fellow temp (who has five years experience as team leader at a Target in Sydney… so there) by quickly and efficiently learning the intricate art of fastening security tags to newly-arrived garments AND I got my first appearance on the shop floor (centre stage) whilst trying my darnedest to find the specific location (in a hectic, jam-packed, two-storied retail outlet) for the re-location of 20-odd singlets.
The rest of the day was more IQ-lowering than stock-taking individually coloured jellybeans that had, somehow, filled Scrooge McDuck’s hilltop vault (imagine that…). “Filing” over-priced clothes into storeroom locations, tidying stupidly-uncoordinated rows of jackets/jerseys and moving more clothes around than should EVER be squeezed into such a confined space (A few of you will have a giggle at that last one) was never going to put me on track for self actualisation. But it’s money in the bank… and for that I’m grateful.