Thursday, October 01, 2009

One sad way to lose a job

If you know London, you know The City refers to the financial district – the new-money hub, the once sparkling centre rife with slick suits, the testosterone traders, the bankers – City Boys. Or so I hear.

By the time I came to England, the credit crunch was in full bloom. My boyfriend took a redundancy package not long after my arrival, and my dreams of jump-starting my international PR career began to wane.

Still, in the face of back-to-back refusals from recruitment agencies – the only real way to get a job in London – on the basis of being a foreigner without at least 6 months experience on the island, I managed to land a PR job through an independent ad. And after about 5 weeks, I quit. Not because I'm a quitter, but because the man I was working for was one of the most difficult personalities I've ever encountered. Even worse than that. And he'd just had an unplanned baby, so even worse than that.

Since then, I've held a total of eight different jobs – each with distinct advantages and horrors, an I've written about most of them in my blog. And it is the eighth job I'd like to introduce now.

You may wonder what happened to my recent 'chugging' job – face-to-face fund-raising for UNICEF – which I spoke about not long ago. Or you may just assume I've grown tired of strangers telling me to 'F*ck off' for the criminal act of saying 'good morning' while wearing a charity t-shirt. That's how I'd assumed it would end, but alas, that's not the case. It ended because I cried. I cried my face off. I sobbed like a 10-year-old, hyperventilated even. And not because someone was mean to me, but rather because I was surrounded by people who were so nice.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer was to be our next campaign. Everyone in the company was gathered in a conference room for a detailed briefing before heading to the streets to pass the word on. Looking around at my colleagues, I felt privileged to belong to a group so good-looking, bright and young. It's the level of overall group beauty to which I imagine cult leaders aspire.

I made it through the munch and mingle breakfast portion, and even a few minutes of the video presentation. But when pre-recorded personal accounts began, I choked up. My face burning hot, I looked to the floor instead of the screen, and began singing an entirely unrelated song in my head. My body needed to be there, sure, but my head requires no warming up to the idea of finding a cure for breast cancer.

When the video was finally over, I took a deep breath and passed a tissue to my tearful neighbour. For a moment, I was quite sure I'd recover. I was, however, very, very wrong. Next up was the mother of a breast cancer victim. Her personal story broke me into crumbly, gooey little bits – and I cried for everyone I've known, and for everyone I'd never had the chance to meet, who've battled this horrible disease, and for everyone who's lost someone they dearly love. And ultimately, I cried myself out of a job.

My manager comforted me in the reception room, the Breakthrough Breast Cancer employees brought me water and tissues, there were hugs all around, and I said good-bye to my other tearful colleagues. They were all incredibly sweet, which exacerbated the profound and overwhelming sadness I felt. There was no question about it, my manager suggested I not work on this campaign, but that I would be welcome to join them for Save the Children in a few weeks' time. Apparently, the global suffering of children I can handle.

After sleeping off an intense crying-related headache, I began worrying about where my next pay-cheque would come from. But I struck it lucky, and landed something within three short days. And get this: I work in The City.

The one profession left untouched by recession hysteria, in the heart of the financial district, is mine. I'm a full-time barmaid in a gritty old English pub. Sure, instead of helping people, I'm getting them drunk and sending them home to the wrath of their wives – who've apparently dubbed the spot, The Flying Toilet – but it's fun.

And so far, it hasn't made me cry.


wyliekat said...

I think slinging beer at a classic Brit pub in the middle of the financial district borders on the ideal way to experience a foreign country. Does your accent yield better tips?

Kate Savage said...

wylielat - Well so far, it's really fun. Like a Brit sitcom, but live. And messier. Unfortunately, Britons don't tip. But American tourists and Polish business do! Yay!