The Case of the Bread-and-Butter Job

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m not actively seeking a position at Glosbi, but despite the fact that this role is under-paid, it should cover my daily expenses. Therefore I’m applying to the role of Assistant Secretary.

I have absolutely no interest in administrative work and in case you have any doubts about this, I’ve attached a picture of my room, where for the past two years, piles of unopened letters, forgotten to-do lists, and important documents to file have been invading every flat surface, and have occasionally enjoyed the refreshing rain falling through the window.

You will be happy to learn that since I graduated I’ve acquired some very valuable work experience at a distinguished film company. I became an expert at brewing tea. Indeed, I’ve made over 300 cups in two weeks, some were with milk, others without; I was constantly challenged. I have an intermediate level of proficiency in marmalade spreading, but I have been eating toasts with jam daily for the last week so I’m rapidly improving. Throughout my work experience, I was given the task to deal with the copy machine. I did not only make black and white copies, but also colour ones. The opportunity to work along the photocopier gave me the chance to expand my English vocabulary by learning new swear words, as the technician came to fix the deficient machine. Please refer to my CV for a full description of my work in the film industry.

I’m very keen to apply my experience to this role, but also to be challenged by the new tasks this position involves such as: ordering office supplies (I look forward to eagerly wait for 10 boxes of sharp new pencils to be delivered to your offices), updating your database of contacts (there is nothing like mechanically adding names of random people to an excel spreadsheet to brighten up your day), cleaning up meeting rooms (I can’t find anything more fulfilling than throwing out garbage).

Even if this job cannot be further away from my long-term career goal, even if it is unlikely to give any deeper meaning to my life or even to bring me any enjoyment whatsoever, it will at least get me out of the house on a regular basis.

I would like to work part time (minimum hours for maximum pay). Indeed, this would allow me to have time every day to look for a better job and leave your company ASAP.

I do not look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely not yours,

Clementine

The Case of the Lost Cause

Vacuum cleaner roaring. Alarm clock shows 6.22am.

Another night without sleep. Despite living with a cleaning maniac, an overactive mouse succeeded to infiltrate this old London house and used my room as his own private nightclub, running and scratching the carpets all night in search of crumbs. I tried everything to get rid of him: peppermint oil, mice repellents, poisons, traditional wooden mousetrap, kill and seal mousetrap, bucket mousetrap, electronic mousetrap, glue catching trap, ultra power mousetrap, quick kill mousetrap and even the full mouse killer kit. A mice exterminator analysed the situation. All the holes were blocked. The mouse never surrendered.

But nevermind! I’m very excited because I’m taking my first steps towards becoming a scriptwriter. I rush into the tube station and proudly join the crowd of (sweaty) workers who all commute during rush hour on the central line. Yes, finally, after a long search following my graduation, I have a job, a goal, a purpose, a direction in my life! I’ve been selected for an internship in a very renowned film company.

Ok. Ok. So the truth is… while the film company’s reputation could not be better, the role could not be worse. I am below the bottom of the bottom. Even below the runners, which spatially would be as low as the centre of the earth. I have the glamorous title of ‘Runner’ Shadow’ and to reflect this title, I am situated in the basement, next to some abandoned scripts and a photocopy machine. Needless to say, it was unpaid.

My colleague, a smart show-off Spanish chap, is the most unhelpful person I’ve ever met. He tries everything to get himself up the hierarchy/floors.

What do we do daily? We make photocopies and tea, and on bright days we go to the post office. We used to fight to deliver every single cup of tea to renowned producers. But it was in vain. Runners’ shadows do not deliver cups of tea. They only make them. You can have two PhDs, a Nobel prize, and a 3 meters high statue on Trafalgar Square, you are not still not qualified to deliver tea.

It is all a very subtle process. When Mr. Producer decides he wants a cup of tea, the emergency phone in the runners’ room on the first floor rings. Through the door of the basement we see the livid face of the runner peeking: ‘a cup of tea for Mr. Producer. Quick!’. The Spanish Chap and I jump out of our seats. We fight over filling the kettle, adding the milk, stirring the tea, and the winner would then proudly climb to the first floor and give the cup of tea to the runner. The cup of tea climbs one floor after another: the runner gives the cup to the assistant, the assistant passes it to the intern, the intern leaves it with the secretary, the secretary places it on the desk of the PA, who holds the supreme power to hand it to Mr. Producer. Occasionally, we were given a task that required a higher level of intellect, like making toasts with jam.

Today we learn that there is an opening for a development intern position. In the evening, I go to see the secretary to obtain some further information, but Don Juan is already there, flirting with her. I join them and am informed that Mr. X is the one who will be hiring the intern. The next morning, I arrive very early, with my CV and cover letter and knock on the door of Mr. X’s PA. Again, the Spanish chap has beaten me to it and is having tortillas with Mr. X’s PA. They were cheerfully eating them.

Spanish chap: ‘Oh! Clementine! Do you want to try some? It’s my grandmother’s recipe from back home. The BEST in the world. I think I’ve surpassed her this time!’

After another monologue about how Spanish people are superior to the rest of the world, I swallow the tortilla, which I hate to say, is very tasty.

Clementine: They are pretty good. I was wondering if I could have an appointment with Mr. X tomorrow?

Spanish chap: Oh, is it about the intern position? Do you mind if I join you?

Yes, of course I would bloody mind!

Clementine: Absolutely not. You are more than welcome to join us.

PA: Mr. X’s schedule is full, but you might be able to catch him early in the morning.

Clementine: Ok. I will come at about 8am.

I will be there at 7am!

Back home, I spend the evening trying to cook fancy macaroons. I whatsapp Lexie: ‘Kitchen emergency! Can we postpone our Skype meeting?’ I look at the apocalyptic vision. The top of the macaroon is slipping on the garnish like a drunken giraffe on an ice rink. I receive a text from Lexie.

Lexie: ‘No problem. What are you cooking?’

*Adds the picture*

20151229_113852

Lexie: ‘What’s that?’

I throw it all in the bin and resort to the safest option: a box of Swiss chocolates.

The next morning, I arrive at the same time as the sun, with my CV, cover letter and box of chocolates. The show-off isn’t there yet. I pass by the intern cubicle. Between two columns of books she is sleeping on a pile of scripts. Ten empty cups of coffee and a couple of opened vitamin tubes stand as a barrier in front of her. Both her desk phone and mobile are ringing. Mr. X enters her office.

Mr. X: Jane!

Jane: Yes?

Mr. X: Have you returned my shoes from ASOS?

Jane: I…

Mr. X: What are you waiting for? And I need that script report before my meeting. 10 minutes!

The Spanish chap arrives behind me. I hand him the box of Swiss chocolates.

Clementine: Good luck. Oh and by the way, that’s the BEST chocolate in the world. It’s Swiss.

And I quit.

Sometimes it’s best to give up on a certain battles, because they are not the right ones to fight. This is not the way one becomes a writer. This evening I shared a piece of Swiss Gruyère with the mouse and we both fell asleep, digesting our food peacefully. I called him Bernie, by the way.

The Case of the Misconstructed Identity

Part One

As Clementine and I were reminiscing one day, she told me about an incident that had occurred back when we were studying together. She asked me whether I remembered a Ms P, an assistant teacher who was an active feminist. That description alone was not specific enough to jog my memory – our department of English Literature was a feminist den. But a couple of teachers did stand out as particularly – how should I put it? – passionate. Ms P, as it turned out, was one of them: as she was briefing students about the upcoming exam, she made a point to tell Clementine that she shouldn’t wear a skirt to said examination. That a young woman who enjoyed wearing skirts, who specifically chose to wear them because they fit her sense of style and sense of self, should not present herself to an examination in one. Because… what? Because it was too demeaning? Because a skirt would immediately flag her as a streetwalker? Because she wouldn’t be taken seriously in what is considered a feminine attire, and thus she should renounce it in favour of her academic career?

After the initial indignation had worn off, I paused and reflected on the ludicrous recommendation. I do not consider myself a scholar of Feminism, and thus I am perhaps confused about its exact purpose and goal. But, to me, a movement fighting for women’s rights should first and foremost be about giving women a choice – the choice to be who we want to be, to accomplish what we wish to accomplish… and to wear what we bloody want to wear! If, in order to be taken seriously, we must shed everything that has come to be identified as feminine, including our clothing, then what right of choice have we won? What freedom? It looks to me like we have gone from one dictatorship to another. Previously, women had to fight society if they wished to pursue a career. Now, women have to fight society if they wish to be stay at home wives. Somewhere along the way, the concept of a woman who takes care of her appearance, who is interested in arts and crafts as well as home keeping, who genuinely wishes to devote herself to her family – all of this has become associated with lack of education, with backwardness, with imprisonment. For the sake of progress for our gender, we must, de facto, crush everything associated with it. Just like a well-meaning supervillain who plans to destroy the world in order to build a better one, we must abandon “stereotypes” and construct anew.

… yeah, I’m going to have to say no to that. What we need is to change our world, not get rid of it. We need to be able to choose. To be ourselves, freely and completely, without dreading any stigma. We need to change how we are perceived, and not change ourselves to fit existing perceptions. We should be able to be blonde, wear hot pink, attend University, and still be taken seriously. Just as we should be able to be a talented and well-educated stay at home mom, and not be told that we’re wasting our lives.

In the immortal voice of Gloria Gaynor, “I am what I am”. Kindly accept it, world.