For the past year I have had a part-time job working for a husband and wife team in an art gallery/cafe/gift shop. At the interview, conducted by Mr & Mrs Faulty (not their real names, but if you are familiar with the BBC series, you will understand what I am up against!). Back to the interview - Mr Faulty seemed really nice and Mrs F was obviously trying to keep her craziness under wraps, but I wanted (and needed) the job so badly that I suppressed my instincts to lift my skirts and run and graciously and gratefully accepted the job offer.
In my first couple of days at work, the roles seemed to reverse, Mrs F was all reason, sweetness and a joy to work with, Mr F transformed into Mr Hyde, patronizing, cynical, rude and impatient.
Over the past year there have been many jaw dropping moments at work - Mr & Mrs F fight constantly, he quivers whilst she hisses or he throws thing about whilst she hides. During these episodes they are not shy about who witnesses their vicious domestic disputes. These set the tone for the workday at work, which is akin to working on a very this sheet of glass which hovers three miles above the earth - anything is likely to shatter at any moment!
At my interview Mrs F was insistent that all she wanted was someone to sell in the gift shop. Mr F seemed oblivious to her wishes and was insisting on a multi-tasking, computer literate wizz kid. I was so grateful to get the job I would have cleaned the toilets had they asked me.
Fast forward a year on - I have done everything but clean the toilets (thankfully), but under huge duress. They do not like spending money on anything AT ALL (I do the accounts, therefore am privy to the bank balance vs the expenditure. They have thousands upon thousands in the bank! Even if they did not make another sale for the next five years, they will be more than comfortable and no where near the red line!) Maybe wise under the current climate, but not at the expense and frustration of the employees. I am still on minimum wage, even though my daily task lurch from PRO to DIY to personal assistant to nanny for their kids to IT specialist, sales person, development project manager and all achieved in record time frames - we are always up against the wall when it comes to deadlines.
I have to sit on a broken chair that is too low for my "desk" which is in fact a storage cupboard ( I have to open the doors and put my feet inside to get closer to the computer) and now have constant back ache and sore knees from pressing up against the shelves in the cupboard. I am not able to staple papers together, am lucky if I even have a pen and sometimes go for weeks not being able to print anything as there are no cartridges for the printer. All discussions about rectifying the uncomfortable, chatotic working conditions are met with bolshy silences and shrugs of the shoulders or crazy grins. The work computer is stuck together with a wing and a prayer, one has to hold the power cable in with one hand (it is not the right cable for that computer) and type with the other - letting go means that the screen goes black and all is lost! Delegated tasks are quickly forgotten about and the goals and paradigms shift minute by minute.
Mrs F is really greedy - we shall rename her Mrs Shylock, no wonder she has so much money. She wants people - the community to use the gallery space for workshops, meetings etc, and she wants to charge them a fortune to use it. When the odd, poor unfortunate fly does venture into her trap, she treats them really badly and resents them being there and makes their visit a total misery.
In a moment of complete insanity on my part, I allowed her to convince me to get my yoga teacher to hold yoga classes there. I am mortified, part way through the class she sends her nine year old son to kick his soccer ball against the doors of the gallery, so that we will all rush through the class and get the hell out of there. What a terrible thing to do to a child - this is how juvenile delinquents are born!
This past week really stretched all control of dignity and decorum that I possess. I am not a landscape architect by any stretch of the imagination, but Mrs F/S wants a sculpture garden created in the field beside the gallery, and has cleverly secured public funding for the development thereof. On Tuesday she announced that the costings for the project are due to be handed in to the local authority by Friday of this week, and considering that I only work 3 days a week, I had three days to secure contractors, designers, builders, thatchers, sculptors, gardeners, tentmakers and architects, with costings/quotes complete by yesterday. Don't ask me how, but I achieved it all - on my broken chair, feet in the cupboard, with the phone that occationaly shocks me permanently glued to my ear! The most challenging thing of the entire process was not tracking down and getting all the quote in on time, it was Mrs S/F's refusal to co-operate. She would not give me any clear indication of the size and scale of the project and all the various parts of it! Nobody can give a quote unless they know how big or small they need to make an object or structure! When I was on the phone to people discussing the various aspects of what was required she was virtually snatching the phone out of my hands hissing that they did not need the information (vital in my opinion) that I was giving them! Mr F, very wisely too took a plane to Turkey - he obviously knew what was coming! Am I working with a mentally ill person here of just an extremely mean person.
When I got home yesterday, I snuggled my aching back into the sofa and poured myself a glass of red wine or two or three, which resulted in my husband loosing his temper with me as, at 1pm this morning I stayed up too late, sending my best friend an email!
I have now spent a day feeling terrible (I am not, thankfully working today), I feel like a plastic bath duck bobbing about in a big ocean - a bit lost and confused. I cannot afford to give up the job, but feel like a pushover putting up with all that nonsense (discussing anything with Mr & Mrs F is like have a conversation with two grinning, concrete gnomes! They will not discuss anything). Is this a case of people taking advantage because of the recession?
I am trying to start my own little enterprise, teaching art, hopefully my 'escape plan'. So far I have one night class a week, which I hold at the gallery where I work - very stupid, I need to move it but cannot afford the rent elsewhere. I am constantly taking big deep breaths, just trying to take one day at a time, hopefully I will get there inch by inch.
This is a long blog, but I feel much better for letting it all out!
Hubby remains grumpy. What a life!