Despite applying for the Italian restaurant the boss (or Nazi) decided to put me forward for the canteen with the promise that, 'When a position comes available, you'll be the first person that I'll call'. Yeah right. Each Saturday and Sunday for the following seven months of my life were spent working from 9 until 5 with NO break, being bossed around by the bosses daughter who was almost as vile as she was, working with people who had no prospects in life, being barked at and pressured down the phone to go to work when I had a terrible bout of tonsillitis and patiently waiting for my dream job.
It may sound like I put the Italian restaurant on a pedestal, but seriously, it was so classy! Despite having the same boss, the staff seemed much happier and more valued than anybody working in our hell hole. They were even granted regular breaks! So when I found that a friend of mine had just been hired there, I decided to take a stand. You know what they say, if you don't ask then you don't get.
So during my next shift I went to the boss and asked her politely if she had 'forgotten' that I wanted to work in the Italian. I eloquently stated that I had proven that I could work hard, and be committed, and had what it took to wait on tables and then I said, 'I really want to be moved since that is what you promised me when I started here.' Still to this day I don't know where those guts came from, because the woman terrified me. However, I considered myself blessed when she smiled sweetly and said, 'No problem, of course I can move you. All I want you to do is to go home tonight . . .' and then she dropped the bomb '. . . and memorise this menu. If you pass the quiz that I'll give you tomorrow then the job is yours.'
I think that deep down I knew then and there that I needed to get out of this job. She knew that it was the Easter holidays before my GCSE's and that I needed to revise, yet she still put that pressure on me. I guess it was her way of seeing where my loyalties lay.
To cut a long story short, I passed her little quiz the next day. And she still didn't move me to the Italian restaurant. She explained, 'When a position comes available of course we will move you' and when I tried to argue my point she dismissed me and walked off. That was the lowest point. I just wanted to cry.
So what did I do? I sat my GCSE's and spent my study leave and a month afterwards earning and saving hard. Despite hating the place, once my GCSE's were over I worked five days a week whilst organising myself another job - I knew at least that way even if I couldn't find something else that I would have savings that would keep my summer fun.
Luckily, my dad decided to open a milkshake bar, The Hippy Hippy Shake Company, in which he gave me, my boyfriend and a couple of my friends a job, and it was in that part-time job that I worked for the next two years, whilst also doing a Christmas stint at The Disney Store and doing casual work for a catering company.
Even now, three years later, I have yet to experience a job which I hated as much a my first. But I have also yet to experience a job from which I have learned so many life lessons. The life lessons to which I refer are as follows . . .
1) How to prioritise my life. I believe that I was treated so badly there because I had prospects in life. Because I only worked two days a weeks I would always hear snidey comments, from both the boss and her daughter about how I was a 'smarty-pants' or a 'performer' solely because I worked hard at school and made the mistake of singing solo in a concert when my boss was in the audience. When she found out that I had Wednesdays afternoons off from Sixth Form she insisted that I should be working and not revising; a suggestion which even I could see was ridiculous.
2) How to work hard. For nine months I only had about five days off from Sixth Form or work. Nine months worth of working solidly, in a job that I hated, for a woman who I despised. If that isn't what they call 'character building' then I don't know what is. At least now, most things that I do aren't anywhere near as bad as the hell of working there.
3) How to put things into perspective. If I was so depressed working in a middle-class garden centre, serving classy people deli style food, being paid around £5.20 an hour, I realised in how much worse conditions others in this world work in and I felt lucky.
4) How to know when enough is enough. For nine months I stuck it out primarily because I didn't want to be a quitter. And I definitely didn't want to be sacked. I remember that one week I asked if two weeks later I could work only on the Saturday because I had a wedding to attend on the Sunday and I was told that it would be no problem. That Saturday, I showed up at work at the usual time having checked the rota the week before to confirm that my request had been fulfilled. When I went to sign in I noticed that they had for some reason switched my day to the Sunday. The fear that I felt when I knew that I had to make the boss aware of her 'error' struck through me life a bolt of lightening. I was convinced that she would sack me. Fortunately all she did that day was send me home (which did mean that I earned NO money that weekend) and I considered myself lucky. However, after all nine months I didn't care what people thought. I knew my parents wouldn't be let down because they knew how upset I was, my friends would congratulate me and my teachers, the people who I really wanted to respect me and take me seriously, wouldn't even know. So I ended it.
5) How to confront a fear. This is the best lesson I learned from my first job. The day that I went in to quit I knew exactly how I was going to do it. This was the day that I had practised for weeks, months even. I did not go to my boss. Oh no. I went to her boss. In person. And when I stated, 'I just wanted to let you know that I wont be working here any more,' he asked 'Oh, Gabriella! But why? You are one of our most committed members of staff!' It took me mere seconds to justify what was going on. 'My boss is a bully and I have too much self respect to work beneath her any longer.'
And it is for this reason that I got three A's at A Level, am now reading English Language and Literature at the University of Birmingham and are destined for great things, whilst she is still doing a Saturday job for a living.
So if even I can come out of such a terrible experience with so many positive life lessons then I can only imagine what my readers can learn! The things we do right now will shape our lives forever, create our CV's and mould us into the movers and shakers of the world. So no matter where you want to go or what you want to do, remember that almost every doctor, actress, accountant and recording artist out there started as a fast-food server, bar-maid or car-washer. So get out there and learn some of what they DON'T teach you in school!
See you in your successful future!