Ridiculous Jobs

I saw a thread recently of people discussing the most outrageous jobs they’ve ever done. This got me thinking about what I’d consider mine to be, which made me realise just how many ridiculous things I’ve done over the years for some extra money. Maybe they’ll make you realise you’ve also done some weird work over the years, maybe they’ll make you ask “why didn’t you just get a normal part-time job?” Either way, here are some of the best.

  1. Sock Organiser

In grade 11, I worked at a school uniform shop in the holidays. This was at an all-boy’s school and I won’t lie, I took the job in the hopes of fulfilling the classic romantic storyline of Sock-Organiser-Meets-Sock-Buyer. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, and not at all to the fault of my employer, the shop had just been taken over and had previously been left looking like a washing machine threw up in the storage room. So, my primary job was sitting in the back room sorting the socks in a variety of ways (all of which I included as separate items on my CV for years): finding matching pairs, organising into size order, into sports order, counting them and filling out my observations on a spreadsheet. I can now tell the shape of a rugby vs cricket sock from a mile away.

  1. Beer Maiden

Everyone’s heard of Oktoberfest. South Africa has its own version, Bierfest, which is basically Oktoberfest’s weird cousin who it only sees on special occasions. To be a beer maiden, you need only have breasts, plait-able hair, the ability to maintain a sense of professional authority despite being dressed in faux-lederhosen and a firm history in bodybuilding. If you’re lacking the superhuman strength element, though, they have a solution for the fact you spend three 9-ish hour days carrying up to four litres of beer in each hand. They strap your wrists with thick adhesive tape so that you don’t snap them. This is all well and good, except if you forget to bring the under-layer sock (will they haunt me forever?) that goes under the tape. Now, as someone who, in twelve years of schooling, remembered her PE kit on the appropriate day approximately seven times, you best believe I forgot that every single day. For anyone interested in tips for a free and exceptionally painful arm wax: call me.

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  1. Film Extras

Throughout my undergrad, I “acted” as an extra. Being an extra for adverts and films seems like a really glamorous way of earning some extra cash. Until you’re waking up at 2.30am to drive to a beach in the middle of nowhere to film a Specsavers advert that only airs internationally. Please feel free to watch me on repeat at the following link:

Be sure to pause at 0.08 and look really carefully because I’m gone by 0.09. The worst one I did was for Sean Penn’s “The Last Face”, and not only because they completely cut the scene that took us twelve hours to shoot. We were at a carnival, supposedly, and were meant to be having fun. But seeing as it was only a snippet of fun, we were basically human GIFS. We’d have roughly four seconds of fun and then we’d have to walk back to our marks and start again. And again. And again.

  1. Twitter Composer

This was probably the first in a long line of shitty jobs that actually encompassed my skill set, so that was exciting. Essentially, I was emailed a bunch of pictures live from events and I’d have to create a bit of copy that could be used in the Tweet accompanying the picture. The one event I worked involved a red-carpet guest arrival, so I had to think of as many different ways as possible to say exactly the same thing. Word-synonyms started failing me, and I eventually had all my house-mates helping, flicking through magazines and shouting new adjectives at me when they found one that was applicable to an outfit.

 

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Kind of like when Joey learnt to use “The Saurus”

 

  1. Bovril Connoisseur

Now, it’s possible only the South Africans will find this horrifying. But basically, British people drink Bovril as a hot drink. But it’s not the Marmite-esque gel that we get, it’s in a powdered form – so, essentially, a stock cube. Stay with me here. You get these premade cups that have the powder at the bottom, which you add hot water and a sachet of pepper to (???) and serve as a drink, usually with a meat pie. I currently work at the football stadium, which seems to be where these drinks are most popular. It is a daily struggle trying to keep serious and non-judgemental when you have to smile at a customer with a poised pepper sachet in hand and ask, “Would you like a pepper with that?” Especially because my accent makes them think I’m saying “peeper” every time, confusing the situation greatly. On top of that, this is a stadium. Stadiums aim to make money. So, stadiums confiscate all your snacks at the door and then overcharge for them at the kiosks. That’s capitalism, sweety. The number of people who’ve said things like “how do you sleep at night?” or “SIX POUNDS FOR A HOT DOG?” as if I’m personally profiting as opposed to being paid an average hourly rate to do the stadium’s bidding. It’s maddening. “Yes sir, ha ha, £2.30 for a Bovril. Outrageous. Anyway. Peeper with that?”

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Did you just say “Red Bush”?

Starting university comes with a plethora of new experiences. For instance, learning the word “plethora”. Two-for-one Jagerbombs, a seemingly endless stream of themed social events that always result in someone dressed as a Smurf, and a lot of free pens at the society fair. These are the cornerstones of being a “fresher”.

I thought I’d be immune to the temptations and surprises; I’m not quite the sparkly-eyed 18-year old I once was. I guess this thought came half true. Basically, I drink the same amount, but from the comfort of my lounge. Also, the 18-year olds don’t want to hang out with me (???)

This said, there were still a plethora (hehe) of unique experiences when I started my MA in Cardiff, Wales. These experiences overlap with the usuals, of course: getting horrifically lost in the student union, catching a bus in the wrong direction, learning the hard but necessary truth that just because they sell 5kg bags of pasta curls for £2.50 doesn’t mean you should buy them all. But they also overlap generally with moving to the UK from another country, so today I’ll share some of my memorable discoveries.

Flapjack 

For South Africans, this is a flapjack:

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For British people, this is a flapjack:

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It’s not even that big an issue because I don’t talk about flapjacks that often. But boy oh boy, let me tell you: it is highly confusing when it does come up and you aren’t suitably prepared. British people would call my version of a flapjack a Scotch Pancake or an American Pancake, and when someone asked me what I’d call their version, I said probably an oatcake or cereal bar or something. Frankly, I wouldn’t ever eat one on purpose anyway because it falls into the category of “food that’s unhealthy but pretends to be otherwise” and I don’t need that kind of two-facedness in my life.

Knowledge of South Africa 

I realise I can’t expect everyone to know the nuances of life in South Africa, or to be able to differentiate the accent from an Australian one (???) You know what? Sometimes, you can’t even be mean to people who don’t know it’s a country in itself and think you are in the habit of announcing the general section of the continent you’re from. Heck, you even need to try be nice when someone’s first request on finding out your heritage is to ask: “OMG PLEASE SAY ‘FOKKEN PRAWN'”. What I do find particularly interesting are the elements that have successfully travelled across:

  1. Red Bush Tea

The crass translation of Rooibos to “Red Bush” is reminiscent of Amanda in Friends who it took a month abroad to get a fake posh accent.

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2. Die Antwoord

I honestly have no idea how, of all the South African musicians, Die Antwoord made it through passport control. Also, everyone pronounces it “die” (as in death), “ant” (little bug), “ward” (hospital room). Weird.

3. Nandos

One of my favourite showstoppers, when people have no clue about South Africa, is to take something they love and then go SURPRISE IT’S ACTUALLY AFRICAN. For anyone unclear and confused because they thought Nandos was Portuguese: the food is Mozambiquean (previously a Portuguese colony), and the chain was founded in 1987 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

4. Toto

TOTO DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE. But yes, of course, I know that song. I’ll sing “Africa” with you any day. ANY DAY.

5. Biltong

Biltong, if you don’t know, is a cured meat that is seasoned and dehydrated into a delightful snack. It has made it all the way from the South African veld to the snack aisle in Tesco – and I mean the normal snack aisle, not the African section (that sells Mrs Balls Chutney, BTW). Unfortunately, this version is a cheap imitation, and while the good stuff made it here, its travels bumped its price from a protein-rich treat to the only-affordable-if-you-poop-gold range.

Chips/Crisps

Calling crisps “chips” in the UK has caused a reasonable amount of confusion for the relevant parties. I guess it’s because there’s more of the hot-chip variety here, and both crisps and chips are very readily available. Also, I feel like you all need to know that people – in Cardiff at least – put Marmite on their hot chips like a sauce. (I know!) (It’s pretty nice I won’t lie to you.)

I won’t carry on for too long with this discussion, but the Walkers crisps colour system differs from most other brands, which led to me picking up up a blue bag of what was not, to my horror, salt and vinegar but CHEESE AND ONION. Ugh.

Pants 

So this actually differs depending on which region of the UK you’re from, but enough people use the word “pants” to refer to underwear that it’s worth mentioning. Pants, for me anyway, refer to general trouser-wear. Pantaloons, perhaps. It’s a very useful word because it encompasses all variety of trousers, including jeans. Kind of like how “shirt” could apply to any type of top-half-wear. Now, knowing what you now know, please read and acknowledge how lucky you are that you didn’t learn this in the same way I did:

Meg: I’m going away for 6 months and I’ve packed about 3 different pants. Probably too much but at least I’ll have variety?

Person who I don’t know very well: Only 3???

Meg: Well, yeah. I won’t wear them every day.

Person: …

Meg:  And you don’t have to wash them every time you use them.

Person: …

Meg: What? Nobody washes their pants every time they wear them! Sometimes I just air them on the back of my chair!

I’d obviously never be so arrogant as to suggest that either is right or wrong, but it’s always interesting to note the differences, even if they are discovered through implying you hang your dirty knickers out to air instead of cleaning them. And all things considered, we don’t really get Ribena or Galaxy chocolate soooooo….

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Image accessed: http://www.cargotoafrica.co.uk/blog/cargo-trade-agreements-uk-south-africa/

 

 

On Structure

I remember sitting in poetry classes in high school, reading Shakespeare and thinking: “This is bullshit”. I believed him to be purposefully contrary and wondered whether he actually had anything important to say, or whether he just took very simplistic thoughts and disguised them in iambic pentameter to make them seem more profound. I pictured him sitting at his desk, quill propped up on his pot of ink while he used both hands to count out stressed and unstressed syllables, musing to himself about how clever it was going to make him look. I’d get irritated with teachers who claimed significance in “what the poet intended” because I imagined that most of the time the reason the poet chose to write that something was blue, for instance, was because of how many words rhyme with blue. Perhaps the poet would have chosen orange if it rhymed with anything.

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Ten Jobs That Aren’t For Me

Every now and then I find myself weepy when I think about how once I’ve finished my upcoming masters, I have to choose a job. The fact that “professional Disney karaokeist” and “cheese sampler” aren’t feasible (or should I say cheesible hahahaha I’m so sorry) make the decision all the more difficult. So, instead of using the next hour to productively do some research into fields of potential interest, I’m rather going to make a list of jobs that definitely aren’t for me.

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Back to the Future

Great Scott! This is heavy. October 21, 2015, was the year Marty McFly arrived in the future in a time-travelling DeLorean from his time, 1985. It’s now a year past that date and I simply cannot express how disappointed I am that I’m not riding a bright pink hoverboard around. With that said, I’m also very relieved Jaws 19 isn’t a reality. Who knows – maybe 2016 has been such a disastrous year because we are missing some very important developments… Like self-lacing shoes!

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Princess Problems

A common trend of “modern-living” involves obsessing over trivial problems. Most reality TV shows will show us this. It’s a perfectly normal thing to do, it’s just how things work – when you’re in a rush, you’re unlikely to worry about Cecil the Lion when you have no clean socks. Yet, with Disney Princesses, we seem to have a preoccupation with the big problems, and ignore the little ones.

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Harry Potter Midnight Party (no spoilers)

Picture me. Young, naïve, innocent. It’s about 2 months ago. I’m trawling the Exclusive Books website (as I do for fun, sometimes) and see that the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is available for pre-ordering. I squeal in anticipation. I order it.

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Semi-mature musings on the world of Meg Thomas.