The Magnificent Seven #4: A Bog Standard Job
Just four days left of CLIConline. To celebrate the end of #CLICstory we present The Magnificent Seven: seven articles that have been read more than all others, or inspired people to do great things.
This feature was originally published on 1st April 2010 by Michelle Davies. Now 26, married and living in Cardiff, she says:
"Toilet cleaning was a means to an end at the time - something to help me pay my way through uni. Now I'm a feature writer for a national press agency. I gained so much confidence from working with TheSprout and the support of CLIC. Really appreciate the fantastic work of everyone involved."
Warning: This article describes what it's like to work in a nightclub toilet. If you're not comfortable with blood and vomit, stop reading now!
I got to a point last year (my first at university) when I desperately needed to supplement my income: my second overdraft was being extended monthly and the first was maxed out just after freshers' week. No problem, I thought; what could be easier than finding a part-time job to supply my beer money (and food and study essentials if you're reading this, mum).
So I started by applying for the classic student jobs: bar work, waitressing, shop assistant... all with no luck. I moved on to the slightly less conventional as I became more desperate for cash: dog walker, hot dog seller... but still with no success.
I spent three months applying for more and more jobs and hearing nothing, and handing in CVs "just in case anything comes up", until I came across a job advertised on one of Cardiff's more 'obscure' recruitment websites: to give you an idea of what I mean by that, consider that the site also serves to publicise vacancies for pretty young ladies willing to send their 'worn' knickers and a photograph to a 'well-off older gent' (read: pervert) for £50 a pair. So as you can imagine I did not have high hopes.
The particular job which caught my eye was offering successful applicants £10-an-hour to work a four-hour shift in a nightclub, three times a week. On £120 a week I would have paid my rent with just two weeks' work. I was sold; I phoned up and was offered a job, starting that Saturday. Valentine's Day.
What could be more romantic than spending the evening in the company of five to six hundred sweaty and drunk rugby fans (having been roped into spending the day watching the match myself). When I rang home to tell my dad (who'd been nagging me since my first day at uni to get a job) that I was finally starting one I might have glamorised the job title a bit... I told him I was going to be a 'Water Closet Monitoring Executive', in charge of overseeing the nightclub's facilities. If you haven't guessed by now that meant I was starting my first shift as Tiger Tiger's toilet cleaner. Or 'attendant' as the job advert said.
My trial was a quick walk around the club with the manager who taught me the gist of the job: if it's empty, fill it up (toilet roll, soap, hand towels) and if it's spilt, clean it up (drinks, glass, blood, sick, tampons, discarded knickers, snot, spit... THE WHOLE LOT).
Six months down the line and I had worked enough disgusting shifts to fill all our nightmares.
I'm not really sure how much I should say. I didn't sign any sort of confidentiality agreement so we should be alright. I will apologise now if you are the girl that slept for half an hour before we discovered you all cosy but with your knickers around your ankles, impossible to wake. She was perfectly upright, assuming the peeing position but fast asleep. It took me, a manager and a female member of security to convince her that the loos weren't the ideal place for a nap and could she please go home now that we'd all seen her private area!
Another girl fell asleep after regurgitating the night's alcohol into her lap and then slid like Amy Williams when she tried to leave the cubicle. When we got the door open she was slumped in a pile on the floor having covered herself and the four walls in vomit. I did have to clean all that up after she was removed from the club but I honestly think her night was worse than mine
"You wan me tuh break sumit, laav? It'll give you sumit to do" was one particularly scary punter's shout to me when she saw I was reading and not mopping up. "I'm not smoking" was always my personal favourite. Usually said whilst a cloud of cigarette smoke made its way out from under the toilet door and I made my way to get security.
Far from running to the job centre I enjoyed the drama that the ladies' loos offered. I was the first to know whose boyfriend had been with who. Who's a bitch and why blondie was sobbing into her clutch bag.
I didn't realise I had such a strong stomach. Although mostly horrifying, the really gross incidents I saw were in between the hours I spent reading or bored in the toilets and could also be quite funny. Not for the toilet users, unfortunately, but definitely for me.
If anything is an advert against the binge drinking culture it's a job in the loos. The amount of girls convinced by eight Smirnoff Ice that their voice is just as good as Duffy's or Celine's is unbelievable. I learnt early on that an iPod was essential if you didn't want to hear constant calls of "(Insert girl's name), ARE YOOOOU IN HEEERE?"
As well as this to contend with I was constantly told "you're not paid enough, laav" or "you must hate your job." I overheard one particularly huge woman, with a front tooth missing and both her bra straps down by her elbows, tell her friend I should "get a real job."
When one girl asked me, with her "Daddy-bought-me-a-pony" accent, "Oh dear, how much do they pay you for this?" I told her and the response was a delicate hand on my shoulder. With sympathetic eyebrows and an overly sincere look, she said: "Well that's good for you, then." And, cock-headed, she walked away, maintaining intense but 'understanding' eye contact; like this was my career choice and I didn't know any better.
Not having bar experience in Cardiff meant that the competition for another job was pretty solid. My dad congratulated me on my new job by telling me that he was sure it will be a "pathway to greater things." I'm hoping this is the case and if anything my job in the loos inspired me to share my student job experience in this article. As well as paying my rent for the best part of a year so it couldn't have been all bad. I left after Christmas: the staff parties who came in to the nightclub for their one trip out a year and redecorated the loos... I have never seen so much sick. They usually ate a big meal beforehand and it hadn't even had time to digest.
Equally, the boredom and loneliness that comes with a job where you sweep up wayward toilet roll alone took hold and so I left in search of teamwork and found it at Pizza Hut. It's day three there and I can already feel the difference. No longer do I pray that on the way to work I'll trip on Cathays' ridiculously pot-holed pavements, scoring both a compensation payout and a night off. Instead, I smile for tips, laugh with the staff and clean tables, not toilets.
Chris Strouth 'The Very Filthy Toilet'
GorillaSushi 'How We Roll'