Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Basket Case

(This is an accidental post, it published itself whilst I was fiddling about with the "Echo" cloud, in my side-bar.  I am slightly mortified, as by the time I discovered it up, five folk had already been in to comment - and here's the kicker, it was only in the form of a rough draft, I'd been re-working it.  Arghhhhh!  Sooo, in an effort to prove I am not quite the illiterate Nincompoop I've just advertised myself as, I've decided the only damage control left to me, is to polish up the ruddy thing, and to re-post, and be damned!.  Apologies to those of you who have already read this, I never intended it to be up here in the first place!)     

Like most of us, it wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that my career finally began to shape up. Up until then, I'd found myself working more than my fair share of pretty mind-numbing jobs; some were at minimum wage, others were even below that, as in like the time I was a travelling door-to-door encyclopedia sales-woman.  Actually, that particular job turned out to be not quite as bad as it sounds, but I'm afraid it'll have to be a tale for another post, the one I want to tell you about today concerns how I found myself launching my first ever business venture.

I was twenty-three, fully employed and had just bought my first very own (albeit tiny, one-bed roomed) flat in London. Foot-loose and fancy free, life was good. I enjoyed my work as a recruitment consultant, had many like-minded friends there, and was discovering a wide circle of friends. When the first waves of redundancies hit, I managed to duck the bullet. I wasn't so lucky second time around. It was a policy of last in, first out, and my number was up.

This was more than a tad worrisome.  My industry had taken a hard hit in the recession, there were few jobs left on the ground, and I still had a sizable mortgage to meet, some lateral thinking was required.

Bear in mind, this is the Summer of '83, I have no dependant's, and although I have little savings to fall back on, aside from my mortgage, I am relatively debt-free, this being back in the days when hardly anyone saw the need to rely on credit cards. All I am  seeking is something that might tide me through until I can secure myself in regular employment again.  So, this is how I hit upon the idea of becoming a "Sandwich Girl".

I figured all I really needed to do was to find one or two large office blocks to hit before the lunch-time exodus began. Naturally timing was key. I'd need to get to folk before they hit the deli counters. Already having witnessed (hell, I'd even been part of) the endless queues winding around the regular sandwich bars at lunch-time,  I felt certain most potential customers would happily snap my hands off for the luxury of a lunch delivered straight to their desk.

Once committed, I threw fashion to the wind, investing in a sturdy wicker basket on wheels (the type that doubles up as a zimmer frame for 90yr old shoppers).  Focusing on health and safety, I vowed to move the cat dish off the work surface before preparing any food, to turn my back if I ever felt a sneeze coming on, only to smoke if I REALLY needed one, and to try to remember to wash my hands every time I went to the loo. I reluctantly drew the line at tying my hair back, it plainly didn't suit me.

Ever the polite one, I even rang ahead to inform the management of this wonderful service I was about to bestow. That's when I tripped across the first snag.. for some dumb, inexplicable reason, I kept on getting a knock back.

I was genuinely offended, what the hell was wrong with these people?

Everyone knows if you can keep your employees chained up to the building there's a far better chance they'll not only make it back for the remaining afternoon, but that they'll also do it whilst still (mostly) clean and sober too. It's not as though these companies provided in-house food or anything, I'd checked that one out already.

Darn, there's no way I'm about to troll door-to-door, up every street and down every alley to flog my wares. I needed maximum exposure to some prime, densely populated office space here, or I'd might as well call the whole deal off.   Having shelled out good money on this state-of-the-art transporter/zimmer, not to mention made an emotional investment to my new hippy lifestyle, there was no way on Gods green earth I was about to abandon my brand, new venture.

No one could say that I hadn't tried to approach this in an open and fair manner, but hell, if that's how they wanted to play it, well then, sod 'em!

So it was that I found myself in Fleet Street, the kingdom of all the national tabloid and broadsheet newspaper publishing houses. Each building merged in to one, the layouts are so similar they might as well have been cloned. You entered through revolving doors on to a large, usually marble, open vestibule. A bank of lifts lies behind the mandatory enormous circular mahogany desk, behind which one or two people live (usually a blemish-free, size zero young girl, with a uniformed, grumpy-looking middle-aged guy.)  A wide, curving staircase lies opposite, alive with people scurrying up and down. The entire floor area is busy, because everyone is on a mission. Men and women passing through on their way to somewhere else.

I pulled my trolley towards the lifts, giving a passing nod to the receptionist. No one gave me so much as a side long glance. Jolly good. I punched the button to the first floor and launched myself off on my new enterprise.

Just as predicted, my sandwiches sold like hot-cakes, in fact, my prices had doubled before making it to the second floor. Regretting not stashing a second basket behind the reception area (perhaps next time?), I found myself even picking up requests for future orders. Some of these requests were also for my telephone number. Whey-hey, this was fun!

Outside, the sun was shining, in an hour or so I'd be out to join it, leaving these poor work-slaves to crunch out the remainder of their afternoons.

Oh, wasn't I the genius?

The next day I set off with a light heart, and a second basket balanced atop my portable goodie-mobile. It was hard to recall which building I'd first visited, but it hardly mattered, all were the same for my purposes. Randomly choosing the first one I fancied, I sailed past reception and began dispensing my delights to the hungry masses.

In less than no time, I'd worked my way up to the fifth floor. My, but it was grand.

Disappointingly, there was no open plan layout anymore, and far less people to be found. Drifting in to one or two deserted offices, I finally tracked down someone to approach, but she turned out not to be too interested.  Floating about for a bit, I decided I'd be better off moving on to the next building, so hauling myself back to the lift, I waited for the carriage to arrive.

And that's when all hell broke loose.

(Here I am at 23, and yes, I've always had a hat obsession,
and, no - shock, horror, I am NOT a natural blond!)

The doors slid open, and I stepped back to allow the two security guys out. Being no body's fool, I knew the lift had reached as high as it would go. After less than a second, I suspected their staying put in the lift did not bode well.   It may have had something to do with the sour glares they were shooting at me.

"Come on, you're coming with us."


I give my brightest, most innocent of smiles, "Going down?"

They exchange grins. The lanky one reaches out, yanking my trolley in to the carriage, "You certainly are."

"Steady on, my wallet's in there!"   Having little choice, I follow it in. Ever the realist, I reckon it could be worse - an escort to the door made little odds, I was leaving anyway.

"So, have you boys eaten yet?" (C'mon, I had to try.)

No takers. The doors close, and the silent, broody one punches the button. Not the ground floor one. Huh? Why are we going to the lower ground floor? Ah, I get it, I'm exiting by the tradesman's entrance then, am I? Okay, that's cool, I'm not proud, that'll do. Sensing the heavy atmosphere, I decide to lighten the mood, reasoning it's a fair cop, and they're only doing their job (shitty as it is).

"So, did you really want to be in MI5, then?"

They seriously need to loosen up.

Following them along a dim corridor, we pass a series of grey metal doors, where I am led through a left, then a couple of right turns, before finally stopping outside of another anonymous door. "Broody" gives a sharp rap and enters, holding the door back for me to follow him in. "Lanky" takes up the rear, just in case I decide to  make a run for it.

What the hell is this? Where are they taking me? I hadn't reached the grand old age of twenty-three without recognising a potentially dangerous situation when I saw it. These guys weren't messing around,  Suddenly realising my vulnerability, I began to panic.

Ensconced around a wall of filing cabinets, squeezed inside a small, desk-filled cubby-hole, sat the large, pug-faced, scowling reason for my summons. I didn't care.  Relieved I wasn't about to be raped and murdered after all, he was nothing short of beautiful to me.

Lanky and broody slunk back in deference to the boss-man.

"Who gave you permission to enter my building?" (A typical Troll, he assumed he owned the world.)  In no mood to play his Billy Goat Gruff, with time marching on, and  still having half a basket of sandwiches to flog before the hour was through, I didn't mutter a single word during his five minute tirade.

Giving the odd shrug and raised  eyebrow, I left him to let it all fall out.

The man was seriously stressed, no doubt about it. Have you ever been sent to the headmaster's office for chewing gum, and been threatened with expulsion? That's exactly how it was - total over-reaction, if you ask me. But as he didn't, I held my tongue.

Then the penny dropped. I was copping it for his past mistakes. Apparently, I wasn't the only one to have flitted by under his neglectful nose this week. Worse, I'd committed the unforgivable crime of brazenly advertising this to the boss-man's own big boss, by dangling my tempting wares under her snotty nose. The rotten moo had never even said a word to me at the time, she'd simply waited 'til I'd left and then called security, giving him a right royal roasting into the bargain, if the one I was presently experiencing had anything to do with it.

His rant finally wound down, and I found myself about to be escorted to the pavement - but hang on, what's Lanky there doing with my trolley?

He can't up and do that! (Er, can he?)

The miserable, sucking-up little toadie has only gone and advised the boss-man to relieve me of my goods and chattels, hasn't he?   That's theft, that is, isn't it?

"You have a choice, we keep this here, or we call the police, what's it to be?"

"My wallet's in there!" (And my lunch.)

Lanky lifts the flap back and hands it over. Glowering, I snatch it back. "At least give me my trolley.."

"What, so's you can come back again tomorrow? Not likely. Say cheese."


An instant Polaroid goes off in my face. They could have at least let me comb my hair.

"That's for reception, just so you know."

Jeez, I wouldn't come anywhere near this place again, not for all the mayo in France, these security guys are obviously at least three sandwiches short of a picnic.  I remain dignified, as Lanky and Broody flank me on either side - mentally linking arms with them, a Dorothy sandwiched between the tin man and the scarecrow,  we skip towards the yellow brick road.

I could have bought another trolley-cum-zimmer, but dull, grey folk had taken the shine out of my brave new venture.

As it turned out, it was just as well, the Summer of '83 had only just begun, and I had little idea at the time that it would prove itself to be one of the best summer's of my entire life (Wink)..


Chantel said...

Smashing picture love! Idiots, I tell ya--having a dishy sammie girl about the office is ALWAYS good for business!

Akelamalu said...

Very enterprising of you, even if it did go wrong! ;)

TechnoBabe said...

Great adventure and wonderful way you wrote this. I was so engrossed in reading this that hubby was trying to get me to come see the dove in our back yard and I put it off till I could finish your story. Lovely pic of you too. I like your jaunty pose.

Michelle H. said...

*claps hands excitedly*

That had to be the best story I've ever read.

I mentally link arms with them, a Dorothy sandwiched between the tin man and the scarecrow, as we skip towards the yellow brick road. Brilliant writing!

secret agent woman said...

Good Lord, how inhospitable of them. But you look totally adorable in that photo.

Charlene said...

Multi-national corporations are launched when we are too young to know it's impossible to succeed.

Bravo for your efforts!

Anna said...

Hey Shrinky, firstly, nice blog make over. The google is really kicking in with some good stuff finally. Excellent story telling again. New venture, lol, that was good one. At least you were successful, too bad it was only for a short time, I would love to try your sandwiches. I was getting scared as I read it too, quite intense. These days I don't even trust policeman. Anna :)

Milton said...

Great tale! Admire your enterprising spirit.


Skunkfeathers said...

Those yokels give my profession a bad name! You were and remain "smashing", BTW!

Fletch said...

The 'heavies' are always the ones to blame, but consider that the only reason they did what they did (do what they do) is because the faceless crabby-lady upstairs sicced 'em on you!

We can always be smart after the event, but I wonder what their take would have been had you demanded that the POLICE be called.

Since there were apparently no signs saying something like "Sandwich Girls Not Allowed", how the hell could they get you for trespass?

Unlike the tale you told about the skirmish with the Mod-Plods, probably about the time you sold me those Encyclopaedias.

I am convinced it was you ...

Anonymous said...

What jerks!

Im sure your sandwiches were really yummy!!

And I love your picture!!

Kit Courteney said...

How wonderful! You tell it with such style and a very big smile... just fab!

Totally loving the new look.

Need to catch up with more of your recent bonkers(?) posts now as I've been a busy bee.

A breath of fresh air, madam ;0)

Suldog said...

I know I read another version of this some time ago, or at least an excerpt, and I was thrilled by it then, too. It's a great tale, and nobody outside of the trolls who inhabit security offices would be rooting against you.

(I was a security guard for a while, years back, so I know the type, believe me. Now, me, I would have let you by every day for a ham and cheese served with a smile from your lovely young self!)

Sling said...

Love the new digs..Love the fetching phot..Love the harrowing tale of budding entreprenuerialship!..It's a tri-fecta!

Fen said...

i'm hankering for a good sandwich now! Great story, finished or unfinished!

Shrinky said...

Haha, Chantel, you are priceless hon!

Ah, Akelamalu, if at first you don't succeed.. I got better in my ventures over time.

TechnoBabe, this was APALLINGLY written when it first went up, I wanted to die when I saw it there! But at least it's been given a polish now - and thanks for being so forgiving (grin).

Michelle, that is far too kind, I wish you had dropped by AFTER my corrections, but I sure am appreceiative of your support (grin).

Hi secret agent, aw shucks, you've gone and made me toes curl now..(wink)!

Hi Charlene, thanks for stopping by. There is much to what you say, I later started my company with little more than ignorance, youth and optimism to fire the engines! Today? I would never have the courage to do it.

Hi Anna, sadly, we grow much less trusting with experience, don't we? I look back and shudder now, at half the situations I placed myself in.

Hello Milt, life is often an adventure, you, out of all moggies, certainly know that!

Shrinky said...

Hiya, Skunk! Takes one to know one, as they say (grin).. thanks hon, the feeling's mutual,x.

She sure did Fletch, and how! Aw, they knew I wouldn't call their bluff on that, I was far too young and easily intimidated back then - today now.. hmmn, things might be a little different! And um, I'm taking the fifth on that set of Encyclopedia's (giggle).

Blue Zoo, I even carted around a selection of dressings for them, I took pride in those darn sandwiches they swiped from me!

Cheers Kit, it's great to see you back again - hope all's well?

You always were a gent, Jim, I'm sure I would have given you a free nibble on my sandwiches had our paths ever crossed then.

Oh Sling, very witty (grin), I thank you, kind sir..

Hi Fen, I'd gladly swap you a sandwich over for your slow cooker, any day (wink)!

Dianne said...

I thought you were you going to use giving out sandwiches as a means to gain an interview for a new job LOL

see how my mind goes

I'm trying to imagine doing this today when you can't even get into buildings if you work there without 2 forms of ID

what a wonderful idea it was

love the photo

Debbie said...

An excellent story well told.
I have accidentally hit that publish button before too and then panicked!

Shrinky said...

Hey Dianne, given half the chance, I may well have done, guess I'll never know now, huh (giggle)? And that's a very valid point you raise, in these days of heightened security, I wouldn't have stood a ghost of a chance slipping unnoticed under the radar!

Oh Debbie, I've just received an email through, asking why my post shows in their browser, but not on my site - and this is from ANOTHER draft I allowed to slip through. I thought it had only been out there a couple of minutes before I took it down, but obviously not (sigh)..

Calamity Jane said...

Oh Shrinky, you do make me laugh. The summer of '83 was awesome wasn't it? And '84. Ah happy memories.

Anonymous said...

(giggle) Proves you are a basket case. (wink)

Nancy said...

Geeeeze - what was the problem? You would think you were providing a much-appreciated service. I always like it when the sandwich lady comes by when I'm having my hair done around lunch time.

Can't wait to hear more about the year!

Kristina Hughes said...

I love that! Great story but makes me very glad to be out of the world of commerce - there was always that one jobsworth... Great writing as always xx Thanks for your comments on Dave's post too - he was really touched x

Sniffles and Smiles said...

You are a fantastic storyteller...whether you consider it a rough draft or not! How ingenious you are! What an enterprising young woman you were! Too bad they destroyed your entrepreneurial plans! Spoil sports! Can't wait to hear about the best summer of your life! Love, Janine XO

Shrinky said...

Hi Jane, sounds like you have more than a few fond memories yourself, of those times? Can we look forward to hearing some of them, perhaps (smile)?

Hmph, nice to know who my friends are, Chewy (slitty eyes)..

I know Nancy, what a bloomin' fuss over nothing, eh?

I know what you mean Kristina, I'm very glad to have left that world behind myself, too. I found Dave's post unsentimentally heart-lifting, honest and filled with love - you make a beautiful family (smile)!

Hello Janine! Necessity is the mother of invention, it seemed a good idea at the time (shrug), but it was only ever intended as a temporary measure, anyway. Wonder whatever happened to my trolley? (Giggle)

jinksy said...

Google hassle or not, I'm glad this post got through! :)

Thumbelina said...

You looked just as gorgeous at 23 as you do now. :)
And you always tell a good tale.

billy pilgrim said...

excellent story, the food racket can be a tough business.

Shrinky said...

Aw, thanks Jinsky, glad you enjoyed it!

Hi Thumbelina, wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said what a shame it was, that youth has to be wasted on youth? (Sigh..)

Hello Billy, it obviously wasn't the calling for me, eh? (Wink)

Tgoette said...

Great story Shrinky! Nice to know tight-ass bastards are universal and not just our problem. Oh and nice pic too! So adorable! Looking forward to the next installment!

Putz said...

i really enjoyed this profile of you, met you over at jinksys and even though an american, i have spenpt much time in london, birmingham, cambridge, salford,english ancestory>>>salford grand dad, but i do enjoy the english poople,yes i did speel that right>>>do not fear me, i am harmless

easybreathingfella said...

Nice one Carol, all the better for reading it a second time. Hows the book coming? I've finished mine.
I check in on you from time to time.

Shrinky said...

Hi Tgoette, yup, sadly there are plonkers everywhere, plodding around this sorry planet, eh? (Sigh.)

Hi Putz, thanks for stopping by! I am sure you truly are harmless, as well as quite funny.. (wink)!

Hey Keith, it's been a while, great to see you in here. I had no idea you were writing a book, how wonderful, and BRILLIANT you have actually completed it, too! I'm still plugging away (sigh), but am getting there - hopefully I'll finish it before I hit a 100.. (grin). Only joking, no, it's coming together, thanks.