Don’t look blackwells in anger

5 Dec
How beautifully contrived.
But I was thinking the other day about my first job. Admin monkey is not in fact my first job. Long before that, I spent 5 whole months of my life solidly working in Blackwells (other bookshops are available) as a till monkey. Or, to sound more impressive, a professional Bookseller.
At the time, I moaned a lot. I left the house at 8 and got home at 7, and ate dinner and went to bed, and got up and went to work again, for 5 months, while all my friends were off at university having adventures and making new friends (how dare they). I spent a large amount of my time staring at the clock, freezing to death in the unheated staffroom, cursing customers who wanted to place complicated orders, laboriously reshuffling entire cases of books just to squeeze in a couple more under "t" at the other side of the room, dusting, hiding from an irate boss… and all kind of rubbish things like that, for £4.55 per hour.
We did actually have a laugh too, in between all that. And the more I work in an office with professionally-minded 9 to 5 type people, the more I realise how cool the guys I worked with there were. They were…. me. They were 23, out of uni, and had no idea what they were going to do with their lives. They were almost all novelists, illustrators, and musicians, trying to get a break in every minute of their spare time. For 5 months, they were my only friends in Bristol, and being there kind of was my life, since there was no time for anything else. We went to the pub with great regularity. We went to their gigs. We had snowball fights in our lunch breaks. We played hide and seek around the shop. We crank called each other between the floors, and put each other on speakerphone just as the boss was walking past. We tried not to snigger at customers with very unfortunate names. We had prolonged elastic band fights/wars. We sent letters from our solicitors to each other in the lift and made settlements in mochas from the cafe. And I think that maybe they made me see that once you finish uni and once you are 23, your life does not have to be your work. Work for them was just something they did to pay their rent while they had a lot of fun elsewhere. Now, that’s not completely my ethos. But I wonder if I would have been a lot more uptight about the whole career thing had I not had that occasionally quite enjoyable stint in the bookshop.
Funny time, it seems like so long ago and such a different life. Wonder what they’re all doing now. Well, I know one of em has a book published, I’ve seen it in Borders…

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