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The stories

Contents

Below are most of the chapters from A Misguided Work Life, a Memoir and Imaginings – a book I quickly unpublished after realising I came across as a nasty person.

The people, places and happenings in these chapters are eighty percent true. The twenty percent ‘imaginings’ account for characters’ embellished and exaggerated traits and conversations. If you recognise yourself in these stories it means I have described you well. If you are upset by the representation, then I am sorry you feel disappointed in yourself. Mostly, I hope you laugh.

The names of businesses, cities and individuals have been changed for privacy reasons and to avoid hurt feelings.

“Chopper’s descriptions and anecdotes are told in a dry, sharp, and acerbic voice – I was frequently reminded of David Sedaris by her bemused observations and understated horror.”

– Jay Spencer Green, author of Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s

Chapter 1

Beginning and End

Stagnant and suffering decision paralysis, after four years I decided my job was like one of those emotionally damaging relationships where the sex is excellent – or ..

Chapter 2

Fourteen Cents

My parents were my first employers. They were cruel, despotic, tyrannical and manipulative capitalists. In a large hangar-like shed with tractors, tools, dust and wooden bins of …

Chapter 3

Flyers for Jaffas

A year after the traumatic box-making experience and with the memory partially repressed, I wanted to earn extra money. Mum suggested posting flyers in letterboxes. It sounded …

Chapter 4

Allowance and Family Holidays

Over the 1970s white round laminate family dinner table, my sisters and I signed for our weekly allowance. Mum sat opposite us on a white plastic swivel …

Chapter 5

What do You Want to Be?

When adults asked that seemingly innocuous question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my practised answer was, “I want to be an architect, …

Chapter 6

Work Experience

To realise our work ambitions in our chosen field of expertise, all it took for us high school students was a compulsory one-day work experience programme where …

Chapter 7

Greasy Peel

Lettuce, mayonnaise, beetroot, meat patty, onion, tomato, gherkin, cheese – the basic hamburger ingredients chant is still in my head. Add an egg or pineapple ring here, ..

Chapter 8

Ice-cream Parlour

A year after the traumatic box-making experience and with the memory partially repressed, I wanted to earn extra money. Mum suggested posting flyers in letterboxes. It sounded …

Chapter 9

Don’t Mix Your Smellies

I never smiled, and if I forgot the four-digit fruit or vegetable weigh code number I charged the item as tomatoes: 3226. When an item wouldn’t scan …

Chapter 10

After High School Advice

My mother’s advice for life beyond school in the nineteen-nineties was to replicate her nineteen-fifties adolescence and leave school at fifteen years old to pursue work as …

Chapter 11

Lurking Around Children

Believing an education was the best way to succeed and avoid horrible jobs, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Media Arts majoring in photography…

Chapter 12

The Big Time

I never considered my experimental photographs using long exposures to capture movement and drawing with light, or self-portraits dressed as characters from Peter Pan, were little use in the working world…

Chapter 13

Prostitution

Temping in administration is like prostitution. A client rings the agency and asks for a girl with a particular skill set. The Madam rings one of her girls and, after negotiations with both the client and girl, sends the girl to perform pre-negotiated duties at a pre-negotiated rate…

Chapter 14

One Copy Please

Gregory was a retired architect not interested in retiring. He had no children, no hobbies, a wife, shaky hands and bad breath….

Chapter 15

Yummy Yummy

Vanessa lived in Laguna Beach, had her lips filled with collagen and a facelift, owned her own business, was having an affair with a married man named Brad, wore makeup to the gym, motivated herself by blasting Tina Turner’s Simply the Best over her car stereo…

Chapter 16

Arrival in a Jeep

At a solitary desk at the back of the schoolroom sat a fat manager reminiscent of Sarcastic Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. He monitored our typing speeds and if we weren’t fast enough or were talking, he singled us out in front of our peers…

Chapter 17

Straight to the Top

Someone must have surreptitiously assessed my nose-bridge symmetry during my temping interview because I got the call I had been waiting for. I got a job as a sunglasses model…

Chapter 18

Examining

It certainly sounded like a job in which I could prove my intelligence. Checking high school exam papers would not only give me the mental stimulation I needed, but provide that next step in the career ladder…

Chapter 19

Photography was Always a Thought

I looked at my own inferior hands then at the serious faces of Mr Photographer and Creepy Assistant, feeling the corners of my lips spasming to a grin, my smile possessing my face as often happens when it is inappropriate to laugh, and a snigger shook my body, threatening to erupt as a hearty laugh…

Chapter 20

Wearing Dresses to Dances

“You’ll have a few people drop in to hang out in the day lounge,” said Mrs Jamaica, and pointed to a corridor. “They’ll just walk through there.” She paused and looked at me, seriousness overcame her. “They know where to go.”…

Chapter 21

Towers, Travel and Two Free Things

Once the person in front saw the culprit was a young woman their faces slackened to mild annoyance and because they were busy rushing to meetings to discuss annual forecasts and profit margins, in an instant they didn’t care…

Chapter 22

Out of the City and on Course

Although it was a surprise to find our boss drunk on our first night, we were pleased with our new surroundings. We had enough grass and silence and space to mentally breathe for the first time in months…

Chapter 23

Fish Factory

These were not questions, but thoughts seeding malcontent because I was too young to realise people get stuck in jobs, that some of us are cornered by our circumstances. At the time, I couldn’t make sense of it, and it broke me.
“I’ve never seen anyone so upset. What’s wrong?”
“It’s just,” I blubbered. “These people… what’s wrong with them?”…

Chapter 24

No Job, No Car, No Power

Because we had a pulse and no criminal record, human resources presented us an application form. After impressing with our ability to write and not misspell our own names, we had an interview to prove we spoke English, weren’t retarded and could carry a conversation…

Chapter 25

Miss Eggy-weggy on Ice

“I simply must have some toast for my eggy-weggy!” our young lawyer chalet guest demanded from the breakfast table, her hair and makeup done as if attending an important client meeting, rather than a day’s snowboarding. She wasn’t going to give up. But neither was I. This bitch wasn’t having toast…

Chapter 26

Edinburgh

After a brief stint in Edinburgh living in a hostel for two weeks where a drunk tried to attack us in our room so Ellie threw a hot cup of tea over him which antagonised him more so I called the police…

Chapter 27

Golf Course Part II

I opened the lounge glass sliding door and peered towards Ron the Hoarder’s house, and that’s when I saw him. Rambo the goat.
Rambo lifted his evil head, turned towards me chewing slowly and glared. Rambo’s evil devil-goat eyes penetrated my being, making the hairs on my arms lift and the room behind me fade from my mind. The moment was supernatural and paranormal. Rambo had decided to kill me…

Chapter 28

Mucking Around

Mucking around working lifestyle jobs from twenty to twenty-five years old was allowed in my Mostly Unstrategised Long-Term Unclear Work Progression Career Path Plan. I had my late twenties to get serious…

Chapter 29

Temping

My mother must have thought herself helpful cutting out the advertisement for supermarket workers from the local newspaper and giving it to me two days after our return. And because I would have sounded ungrateful saying “Are you kidding? Do think me capable of nothing else?” I said nothing…

Chapter 30

Moving Forward

At the council I discovered, like little children, adults like to fit into social cliques by using trendy infectious buzzwords and corporate jargon. Words that make them feel like part of the “in” crowd. Finding the overuse curious, ridiculous, amusing and mostly unnecessary, in an attempt to get in with the cool kids I constructed inane sentences, trying these out on co-workers…

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