Archive for July, 2009
You are currently browsing the Blog Tired blog archives for July, 2009.
You are currently browsing the Blog Tired blog archives for July, 2009.
Standing on the corner by my local station, clutching a branded t-shirt and raincoat, I look sadly at my new ID badge. My laminated face pleads back at me, a forced grin betraying my discomfort through the murky pixels. They’ve spelt my name correctly and everything seems to be in order. Unless I can find another job in the next four minutes, this is me. Trained and equipped, I am a short tube ride away from being a charity mugger. I honestly could cry.
A few weeks ago, my financial circumstances hit a rock. I needed something, anything, that I could sustain and count upon for regular income – even a crappy one – until the real jobs came up. With a number of applications pending for genuinely challenging and interesting jobs, I grabbed a local paper and circled everything else.
Frantically calling round, I spoke to a recruiter who booked me an interview for what she called ‘street fundraising’ but what everyone else calls ‘annoying strangers’. I can’t explain why I find it so abhorrent but I do. Maybe I’m being unfair, but any time it’s been directed at me, I’ve never found it to be anything less than emotional blackmail.
But good jobs fell through and mediocre ones were postponed. With chugging lying at the bottom of the pit, I watched my safety nets disintegrate as I plummeted towards its dank security, swallowing my pride and landing in a training room populated primarily with university students – all charming and fascinating people with a variety of careers ahead of them, but painfully obvious I wasn’t part of the usual demographic. Still, I needed the work, so I took notes and nodded along to a tone of voice I had not received since I left school twelve years ago.
And so, after a day and a half’s training, I find myself standing here, constructing a smile for my new team leader as she stands cheerfully beside me, keen to get her new recruits out onto the street. She sips tea from a paper cup and I can’t help but like her. She’s a positive person and I have no doubt that she believes in her work and does it well. It just hurts me to join her on this quest because it’s not me. I am already in the midst of several other quests and I have to bury my sadness and disappointment just to remain standing here. I feel like a bad person, but I’m really not up for this.
I prop up my regulation umbrella by the wall and check my phone again. Nothing. Earlier in the day, I had spoken to a former employer who had tentatively offered me a few weeks’ work. A potential lifeline but the manager is away tomorrow and if I can’t get hold of her before that cup of tea is finished, I’m out of here and doing this for the rest of the week – Old Street today, Brixton tomorrow, Wembley the following day, and on and on. I can’t bear it.
I sneak off and make a quick call, to the person I’d rather be working for. Her assistant picks up. I rattle off my situation quickly and ask him if I can start this week. I tell him I’ll walk away from this job right now if he can guarantee me a start this week. He says he’ll see what I can do. I hope he hurries.
My fearless leader works on her tea, its dark horizon descending like the sands of time with each sip. The final gulp will have me on the southbound line, six stops from being the person on the street that you most want to avoid. Excuse me… have you got two minutes?
I go back over the day’s training in my mind. I’ve learned enough about my allotted charity to rattle off a loosely rehearsed spiel. I might need it. I imagine bumping into any one of a number of friends who work in that area, and ducking into an alleyway. Is it really that embarrassing to bolster a charity’s membership? Yes. Yes, it is.
And then a glimmer of hope as that familiar beep-beep vibrates in my pocket. A little bump of adrenalin. I hope it’s not my bank, or my phone company. I slide the phone out of my pocket, unlock it, hit ‘read’. Praise the fates, for I am rescued.
The next hour is a giddy blur in my memory. I explain to Chirpy McTea that I need to leave, thank her for her time, and wish the rest of the team all the best, before heading back to HQ to hand in my badge and brolly. One of the trainers makes a joke about me breaking the record for the shortest ever career with their agency. I know he’s exaggerating because one of the other recruits already left yesterday. I thank them all again and bounce home to my enormous personal to-do list, still uncertain, and yet so relieved. All I can think is “I don’t have to do it, I don’t have to do it, I don’t have to do it”.
Now that it’s no longer looming over me, I can look back at it with a different perspective. I’ve always avoided street fundraisers, convinced I’ll donate on my own terms, and not on theirs. That’s bollocks though. I’ve never made anything more than sporadic donations… and yet some of these charities rely on regular donors for 50% of their income and street fundraising is, after television advertising, the most effective form of gathering donations. ‘I can’t afford it’, and ‘I’ll do it online’ are the most popular excuses but please hold me to this: when I can afford it, I will do it online. I feel like I owe them.
OK, now you can cross the street. Thanks for your time.
I’m heading off to Latitude Festival tomorrow morning and I have a confession to make… I’ve been doing a rain dance. The casual observer may say it looks the same as regular walking but it’s a rain dance, and it’s working. I know, I know, it’s summer and you regular folk all love the sunshine, but these bursts of rain actually help me to survive. This bastard humidity needs to shape up and respond to gravity. None of this hail nonsense, just a smattering of cooling rain, please.
It’s not that I don’t like the sun. In fact, I quite like it. It’s just that the sun and I have always had a bit of an awkward relationship, and I need to take a stand for once. For some people, when the sun comes it, it’s a great opportunity to cast aside all jackets, throw on a flip-flop or two and head to the nearest open space, where it becomes temporarily acceptable to drink alcohol in public before noon. Living a stone’s throw from London’s biggest park (though it’s actually easier just to carry the stone), I am no stranger to this and, since I’m heading off to a festival tomorrow, I’d better get bloody used to it.
Now, I like eating ice creams at picnics and winking at bees just as much as the next guy, so I don’t want my rain dance to come over as a protest against the sun. In fact, let’s get this out of the way – I am head-over-heels in love with it. I’m only lamenting, because I’m trapped in the clutches of an unrequited love affair, and it’s been going on for my whole life. The sun, for all its marvellous glory, fucking hates me.
The sun is a big yellow bully, hovering in the sky, just waiting to get its bastard hands on me. Sometimes it hides behind a cloud to shanghai me into a false sense of security, waiting until I’m out in the open, and then leaping out to point and laugh at my shoulders and neck and the backs of my knees (why always the backs of the knees?). Other people go out in the sunshine and get rewarded with beautiful bronzed skin and highlights. I get cooked alive. Left out in the sun for more than four minutes, my skin goes through these three distinct phases:
I was once told by a very bronzed and healthy-looking person that I have the rarest complexion type in the world. She described my skin as ‘creamy’ and ‘rosy’, like The Queen. That made me feel pretty special. I’m the rarest type of human in the world – a dying breed, like a panda or a manatee. Special!
For a while anyway, because the more I think about it, in evolutionary terms I mean, the less and less awesome it seems. My people are dying out. The human selection process has dumped us to the bottom of the pile, whittling us out so the rest of you don’t have to look at us any more – maybe it’s just because we never go outside. I think it’s very important that us creamy, rosy types (I’m looking at you, Queen-face) get out in the sun this summer and meet some bronzed beauties. We must do it for the sake of our people. Our people don’t like to go out in the sun, but we also don’t like to die out. Dying out is one of our least favourite things.
I’m going to get some tips this weekend. My girlfriend is one of those people who the sun adores. A few seconds in the sun and she becomes Spanish – which is totally unfair because she’s even more British than I am. I only need to mention the word ‘sun’ in her presence, and she begins to darken. You can actually hear the melanin granules crackling and making their way boldly to the surface. She’s probably getting a tan from me writing this.
This weekend, we’ll have to go through our usual process of carefully selecting places to sit outside. Generally near a tree, so she can bask in the sun’s benevolent glory, while I sit in the dark shadow, re-applying factor 25 every eight minutes. I know I look ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as the time my cousin Keith convinced me to sit on a beach in Durban on a summer afternoon, rapidly turning into a baked ham.
I spent the following day in agony, trying desperately not to touch anything with any part of my red body. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced head-to-toe sunburn but it’s a lot like being ON FIRE WHILE FIFTY MEN SLAP YOU. And once the initial pain goes away, you’re left with the peeling skin. I peeled off entire A4 sheets from my belly – I felt like Robocop minus the robot parts. I also developed a series of jellyfish across my shins – eighteen years later, I have just learned that this was sun poisoning. At the time, I assumed it was an early symptom of death.
But we can’t hide away forever. Festivals, parks, and beaches await us and they’re not going away. We must learn our lessons and move on, for the sake of our people. Me, The Queen, that ginger bloke down the road… we’re worth fighting for! So let’s get our sun cream on, whip out the broad brimmed hats, and get out there. I’ll stop doing the rain dance for a few days, though it may already by too late for the weekend.
Go, and make friends with the sun. You may feel slightly nervous at first, but you’ll get used to it. Just keep the hat firmly on the head and the suncream firmly everywhere on your body, including your eyeballs. It’s safer that way. God save the Queen.