By now I figure I've pretty much got the Western Ring road and it's major arterials licked. I've been to enough interviews, inductions, first days and false starts that I'm starting to feel quite confident finding my way around those parts that I haven't bothered to check where I'm going in the Melways and meticulously schedule my mornings routine. Also, a seven o'clock start is quite late by my standards and given the indignation I have experienced in recent endeavours of employment, I treat myself to a short sleep in.
The first alarm bells ring as I sit in my car and flick through the pages of the street directory. Gee whiz, this is further than I thought. Actually I have no fucking idea where I'm going, and as I realise that I face an unexpectedly long voyage and I am almost definitely going to be late I find myself ruing my decision and wishing that I was working at Wattyl today. That was the first indication I had that I was not about to have a good day.
It's just gone seven as I drive in to the carpark at Boral. I hastily throw on my safety vest and grab my bag and stroll through an apparently baron worksite towards a transportable building where I can see a man sitting at a desk. I knock politely on the door and enter.
"G'day mate, I'm looking for either James or Steve. I'm here from Integrated and I was told to report to either of them."
"Never heard of 'em. Your in the wrong place, you want masonry. It's down the road there", he says as he points towards a dirt track.
"Thank you", and with that I get back in my car and head further down the road.
By now it is ten past seven and as I walk briskly towards the masonry building I feel a strange sense of shame that I am running late. I am usually at least fifteen minutes early to an assignment and I have come to pride myself on this fact. I'm also usually the last to stop work for breaks and the first back, and the last to stop work for the day. It is this exaggerated dilligence and work ethic that helps to make me feel superior to others.
I am directed to an office where I can see a small group of other casual employees listening intently to a man sitting behind a desk. Once again, I knock politely on the door and enter.
"G'day, James? Sorry I'm late. My name's Ben, I'm from integrated...."
"Yeah, you're late. I've already got these boys started with the induction so you can just wait in the tea room over there. I'll come and get you when they're finished."
I have never before smelt such a foul and offensive odour lingering about in a small room that is designated for the purposes of storing, preparing and consuming food and drink.The tearoom is fucking disgusting. As I sit there patiently another late comer walks in and also takes a seat. I avoid eye contact and retrieve my phone so as to appear busy and avoid a conversation. Of course, it doesn't work.
"Are you from Integrated?" he asks.
"Is this your first day too?"
"Why are you sitting here?"
"Because I was late so James told me to wait for him here, same as you."
"Do you know how much we're getting paid?"
"Twenty five dollars an hour."
"Are we getting payed twenty five dollars an hour?"
"How do you know that?"
"The agency told me."
"Did they tell you we're getting paid twenty five dollars an hour?"
"Yes, twenty five dollars an hour."
"How'd you find that out?"
I am a patient man and I understand that speaking to people to whom english may be a second language can require a little more patience but mine was rapidly running out. I looked him in the eye, raised my voice and lowered my pitch, and spoke quite slowly and definitively. "I SPOKE TO A LADY FROM THE AGENCY ON THE TELEPHONE. SHE TOLD ME THAT THE PAY HERE IS TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS AN HOUR."
He continued to speak, but I discontinued to listen or respond. Over the next twenty minutes or so several other latecomers came into the room and they chattered amongst themselves in dialects unfamiliar to me. I noticed that one of them had also been at the induction for Pacific Brands on monday and it pleased me to see that he had not recieved work there today either. By this time I'd been in there for a while and had grown thirsty. I didn't know how much longer I'd be waiting so I decided to make a cup of tea. Sitting on the sink were four putrid old coffee mugs. Certainly not acceptable for my standards. I looked around for some disposable cups to no avail. I checked in a cupboard. Empty. That's ok, a drink of water will suffice. I went to the water cooler. No cups. Not one single cup to drink from in the entire room! It was at this moment that I began to seriously doubt my ability to stay there for the duration of the day.
After waiting for almost forty minutes we were all summoned back to the office and presented with hard hats and safety glasses. James addressed the group.
"Ok guys, you need to wear this PPE at all times. You don't have to wear gloves but I'll give you each a pair just in case you want them. I'll tell you guys straight out we've got about a weeks worth of cleaning for you's to do. You're just gonna be sweeping and weeding and cleaning shit up all day, so if anyone has a problem with that and doesn't want to be here tell me now."
"I have a problem with that and I don't want to be here."
My response came without hesitation or consideration. It was absolutely honest and definite. The other casuals looked at me blankly and Jame's blinked at me incredulously.
"What? Didn't the agency tell you what you'd be doing here?"
"They told me it would be general labouring and housekeeping duties. I'm happy to do heavy lifting and a bit of sweeping, but I won't sweep all day and I certainly won't be doing any weeding outside. I'm sorry if I've caused you any inconvenience but this seems like a really shit job and since you asked I just have to be honest. I'm leaving."
So with my ego slightly bruised but my pride precariously intact, I went back in to that disgusting tearoom, took my two ham, cheese and mustard sandwiches out of the refrigerator, grabbed my bag and left.