Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Adventures in Unemployment (Part 1)

"It was, at any rate, notoriously impossible to starve in London, so there was nothing to be anxious about."

George Orwell may have found that true back in 1933, but I haven't been terribly anxious to test his theory (or to sleep in the slums like he did when attempting to live on eight pence a day). The past few weeks, though mostly exciting, have been troubling ones as well. I visited countless employment agencies, took mind numbing typing tests (I type 65 wpm if you were curious) and suffered by the phone for hours. BUNAC literature promised me that 90% of participants find a job within the first two weeks or some amazing figure like that, so as I sunk into week three, not to mention sunk a large chunk of my savings into my deposit and first months rent, creeping panic lurked constantly under the surface.

Last week I decided to lend myself out to the odd temp job, figuring a day's worth of pay is better then none, and at least I wouldn't be sitting around pretending to be an Australian housewife that afternoon. I spent two miserable days making coffee at an upscale law firm. It was some eye opening stuff, mainly to the fact that most well to do lawyers, or solicitors as they are known here, are assholes. This firm counts Jude Law, Matthew Perry and David Beckham among their clients, and they can't be troubled to say thank you when you make them a mug of tea. I spent my non-coffee making time in the post room, talking to the employees there, and I felt genuinely awful for the abuse they have to put up with on a daily basis. I got off relatively easy, my favorite conversation with my supposed supervisor, a skinny imposing woman ala meryl streep in The Devil Wears Prada:

Steph: Here's your coffee.
Meryl: (looks at cup disdainfully) Who are you?
Steph: Uhh, the temp…
Meryl: Where are you from?
Steph: Washington DC
Meryl: Oh, your accent isn't too horrible. For an American.
Steph: Umm, thanks?

I wonder if she'd say that to Matthew Perry.

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