Thursday, 2 August 2012

Feeling different ...

'' Why do we have to deep clean every single room Annabelle?'' asks the intern

I explain that places like us, that are a bit different , with a family , relaxed vibe have to work twice harder to be taken seriously!

'' But we are serious!'' she exclaims

'' Yes but The world does not know we are , though. Not everyone can see it' I say , with emotion.

Now Am I talking about the place or about ME.

That's always the question innit.
I go get a another cup of coffee and sit in the lounge before I start work. There's a couple of guests I know from the day before, a few new ones ( how did they get there?)

I start joking about Australians and rowing with the girl from Melbourne I checked in a few days ago.
She does not seems to be laughing at all ( it was a really bad joke indeed)
She's staring at the public computer . Oh dear. I exactly knew what was going on. .
I wait , counting. in my head . 5 , 4 , 3 , 2 , 1 .... she burst out crying.
'' I don't know where to stay tonight , I haven't booked anything , It's so scary. I should have planned it all I feel so STUPID''

STUPID : the way we feel when we're trying out a new way of Life amongst people who are NOT.
Numbers of day I felt stupid this year ( I'm currently counting ALL days since the beginning of this year. It could take a while)

Flashback Melbourne January 2012.

I'm in a car with that stranger who gave me a lift from Sydney . 10 hours and a night in a tent in the middle of nowhere later we're now approaching Melbourne.
'' So where do you want me to drop you off then?'' He asks.
Oh shit. I did not think that one through. It's dark, raining I ve never been here before , I don't know anyone and I haven't booked a hostel.
I feel so STUPID. How I can do this???

He finally drops me off at that local hostel he knows. It's called '' The Nunnery'' I don't know if they have a bed. I feel so unsafe and stupid, this is not funny.

The receptionnist gives me the last bed. And he also gave me his dinner too. Instant connection between us 2, he's a traveller. A few hours later I was helping him clean the kitchen talking about England... and Kipps. '' Sorry I don't work here, I checked in 2 hours ago'' I would say to guests coming to me. Yes, I am made for this job.

This had become my comfort zone in Melbourne. I went back to when I got dumped, sad, happy, lost a job... He made me feel safe again. After all , what I'm doing is not that stupid. ?

'' Don't worry you're Home here'' I tell the Aussie girl after telling her all about my Stupid moments ( it took a while I'm almost late for work)

'' I'll book you in for another night We'll make you a cuppa and pancakes tonight. If you want to visit somewhere else we've got family in Brighton ( oops I meant hostel)

'Oh and who's stupid by the way, you who are on the other side of the world visiting England and about to study in Spain or the people who are stitting on their sofa watching telly to forget they're scared to lose their 9 to 5 job? . It would be stupid to miss the opportunity of doing this huh''

I'm now shouting with so much passion that the whole lounge is staring at me, silent.

I clear my throat , wishing very hard to not look ''stupid'' , put my staff badge on to look more professional . Me and my dignity are off to work.

3 hours of happy cleaning. dancing to Dutch music like a teenager one minute and acting like the toughest manager the next. The interns are used to my multiple personalities now. Sort of.

We're now talking about sex and relationships (why always that) and she tells me.

'' This bed looks good enough right?''

'' We don t do good enough here WE ONLY DO PERFECT'' I answer with a tone that no was no longer joking , re making all beds, checking the bathtub for hair.

Oh dear. The monster is back.
2pm the first guest arrives.

I check her in. She tells me she lives in London and she's currently trying to extend her visa.
I told her about renewing my visa in Thailand. I just had to take the boat to Myanmar give the immigration a 10 dollar note and I could happily go back to the country for another 2 weeks.

'' Have you tried doing this over here? It might work'' I say to her.
I show her around . the dutch intern is throwing me strepsils because my voice is gone , the manager is cooking a huge lunch for everyone, the rest of the staff is happily joking in the kitchen , I 'm now taking her upstairs . That's when she told me the thing that makes me the happiest in the world. Success for all my efforts ,the coronation for months of '' Stupidity''... THE thing.

'' Are you guys family?''

I was moved to tears and wanted to throw myself in her arms and tell her what it meant to me. But I remembered the voice in my head

Places like us have to work twice harder to be taken seriously..

'' We are a family of the world indeed telling her where we are all from while politely showing her the toilets to your right hand side , always clean bcause we check all the time. Same as the dorms, very clean ( hoping to NOT find the pigeons there today)

What are you trying to prove with this forced BBC accent Annabelle?
Whatever I was trying to prove worked , she loved the dorm.

A few hours later
'' I'm giving you unlimited powers, big jumps , and invincibility and you manage to DIE ANYWAY , Annabelle?'' The dutch intern tells me later.
'' What fun is it if you can't die?'' I answer after shouting for 10 minutes.
The guest at the computer finally turns around to se what the hell we're talking about. It was the now infamous '' guest with the comb''

I'm playing with the intern's Nintendo DS. My invicible Mario just fell into a big hole and died for the 4th time.
'' I'm playing because I'm not on duty '' I say to the guy who had no idea why I said that.

He stares, as usual and goes back to playing cards on the public computer.

I start my shift at 4pm and the event staff start theirs at 6pm. Basically they have to make sure this place feels Home to everyone and I have to make sure that this place is a workplace. Tonight we're doing free pnacake and xbox for our lovely guests. What a nice place I think , still in love with my job....

'' There is a problem with the toilet's door in the dorm I think''

There he was, still staring. The guest with the comb.

Oh dear. There is no bloody problem with that door. Oh well, professional, I go with him so he can show me.

'' See you can get in...... he starts , as I was getting in.

Yeah I can see that as I was sliding the door shut behind me.

'' But you can 't get out'' he continues.


'' Can you open?'' I ask him , as I'm trying to get out.
'' Sorry???'' he asks.

'' OPEN THE DOOR'' I now shout.

He finally opens. I tell him politely that we will take care of it. I then put a very polite, apologetic poster telling people they are welcome to use the other toilet on the same floor for the moment being''

Everyone happy.

6.45pm 15 minutes before the event is due to start. A very polite lady comes in to reception

'' My son is really interested in taking part to your pancake and Xbox night but.....''

Oh dear, I expect any problem , judgement , health and safety issue.

'' But he s autistic. He's very different''

'' Who is not nowadays I joke . Look around you here, we're all a bit different... aren't we? . '' I said realizing that is ZE wrong thing to say.

'' He does not cope with people being LATE,he does not understand the concept and gets bored. that really sets him off. So I just wanted to ask you if you were starting at dead 7pm.

'' Of course we are '' I say obviously faking it.

She leaves and I'm running around the hostel telling the story to my manager in French so no one understands ( I obviously forgot that we have a group of 18 french teenagers in the building who don't speak ENGLISH ) , she translates to Romanian to the staff . I don't understand Romanian but it was something like

'' You d better be on time or I kill you '' because he ran to switch the Xbox on and we got the 2 interns playing. One of them is off today but hey, we're a big family.

2 hours later as I'm being my professional check in lady who also deals with money / washing/ checking toilets / bookings in I remember

'' Shit , Xbox night. See how the interns are doing.''

I go to the lounge. It is packed with people of all ages, nationalities happily playing some crazy game together.

'' Annabelle, she's cheatiiiiiiiiing '' says one of them accusing the other.

'' So pass your turn then '' I say , while checking my Deep cleaning planning sheet for the month.
'' So who is that autistic guy then?'' I ask the Dutch intern telling her to be careful and professional.

'' He's Dutch , he 's cool!'' she says running back to playing with random guests like she's known them all her Life.

No, I could not see anyone ''different'' from the others that night. They were all laughing /cheating/ stuffing themselves with pancakes THE SAME WAY.

10pm that same polite lady came in to reception again.

You know, my son had fun tonight she says. If there is one thing autism does to you is the feeling of loneliness. And tonight he did not feel it. Thanks.

'' Ok thanks '' I say briefly hiding my emotion. ( yes I can do that sometimes)

A few tears later I thanked God ( or whoever) for Kipps.

At 10.30pm all my duties were done and I was in the kitchen finishing to clean it, being very careful not to leave anything undone.

The French group of teenagers was in bed and 3 exhausted leaders were standing in front of me.

'' They are awful these kids Annabelle. They have no gratitude whatsoever. All we do for them.....''

Right. I directed them to the garden telling I ll join them after 11pm . We all know it's NOT about the kids.

That's how I ended up speaking my own language sharing a cider with french people talking about education and blaming our government for it ( shit, don't we have a socialist government now?. Ok We'll blame the parents )
They had exactly the same questions as me.

Why can't other people see what we see?

Your work is your passion , money is something you use for your passion and other people , why is it so difficult for people to understand that? Why are we, the ones with the passion for our job,   ALWAYS the ones stuck with credit card bills and mistaken for lazy clowns . WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO PROVE THAT WE"RE SERIOUS AND PROFESSIONAL TWICE AS HARD AS OTHERS ?????

These guys have big passion for kids but little money and little credibility from anyone. Kids, Who cares about them?
We always have to fight so hard to be taken seriously...

Breathe Annabelle, breathe.......

An idea comes to my head. How about WE stop thinking we're different?

They complain about the lack of support from their hierarchy.

I'm silent. can't relate to that. Because we have it, in Kipps, the support.

It starts with Kipps..............

I explain how the world is gradually changing and how the ''right'' people now get to the top. I explain what sort of person used to own Kipps 2 years back and how the right guy got at the top in the end , the one who allowed us to have free pancakes tonight, free cake tomorrow night and free pasta next week.

210 . That's the number of days I felt stupid this year. Today seems different though. I can see things differently now that I write about them.

Yes, the world is changing and yes, it's worth waking up at 6am EVERYDAY to write about it.
Spread the word.

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