(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.
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)..