So, I am really feeling it for the young people at the moment. It is tough out there and it is getting tougher. I have no idea how they are going to find work. Linda has been applying for hundreds of jobs and finally got an interview in a local beauty clinic as a receptionist. The boss who interviewed her said they had 3000 applicants and they are interviewing 200 people! Competition is fierce. Evelina our ex lodger told me that she had applied for around 100 jobs and no interviews or even acknowledgements. And a friend’s son who is one of the Class of 2020 800,000 18 – 24-year olds who have just graduated has applied for around 80 jobs and also has received no acknowledgements or interviews. Surely there could be a better system to give these young people some feedback which at least might help them on their way. They are going to need all the help they can get. Boy did we have it easy when we started work.
On my mother’s insistence and my reluctance aged 16 I took a Pitman’s shorthand and typing course at a further education college. Absolutely one of the best things I have done, and mum was so right. “It will come in handy,” she said. “Oh yeah” I thought but with nothing better on the horizon I enrolled. And it did come in handy and continues to do so. Not only could I always fall back on temp work but as a journalist both these skills were invaluable.
Armed with my 70 wpm shorthand certificate and 40 wpm typing I signed on with Brook Street Bureau to work as a temp shorthand typist. I started off in a typing pool with around 40 other women all typing away producing letters and documents for faceless individuals and ruled over by what was usually a dragon of a woman, who herself had graduated from the pool and was determined never again to be back there. I was not the best. Actually, truth to tell I was probably just about the worst.
Which many of my unsuspecting bosses found out. I could get the letters down in shorthand with no problem but reading them back …well that was something else. Some of the squibbles were just that – squibbles – and I usually had to guess the gist of it and then make up the rest hoping my boss would not remember what he dictated. It was the days when one put carbon paper in between the pages in the typewriter to make copies. Erasing mistakes was hell. And I made lots of mistakes. Despite trying my hardest, the letters would emerge with smudges and sometimes holes where I had used the rubber a bit too frequently.
Then there was the audio letters. Sometimes one or maybe it was just me – had to listen to a sentence multiply times to decipher what was being said. I remember once after an hour of intense listening and near to tears I couldn’t decipher what sounded like frsh-pish so I gave up and asked my boss what he was saying. It was ‘fresh paragraph’.! Even worse — and remember photo copy machines had not been invented — you would just get to the end of a 4 page document and your boss would say, “please do me an extra copy of this document!!!!!! ” Aggghhh.
If you were on duplication duty it was the horrors of the Gestetner machine. For those too young remember the process was messy, loud and cumbersome and usually ended with ink stained hands and in my case clothes as well. It didn’t help that I would approach the machine with a defeatist attitude and like horses, they smell your fear and take advantage of it. 30 minutes on this machine and I would be reduced to a quivering jelly.
It was also an era when bottom pinching, wandering hands, innuendos and proposals were very much a hazard that we had to put up with. We learnt how to dodge the groping hands, cope with constant ogling, laugh convincingly at our boss’s terrible jokes and ignore inappropriate comments. We didn’t complain because it would have got us nowhere. It was how it was and continued to be – so thank you Me Too.
I guess somehow, we didn’t have the confidence to speak out and we accepted a lot more than we would do nowadays. Take the local flasher. Every area had one. Today it would be gross indecency but in the 50’s we just glossed over the antics. I remember — we called him old Jim — he would wait for us after school and then show us his ‘bits’ we would just laugh and run off – unscathed – and move on. If that happened now, I think it would be very different. Is it because we are more sexually aware and thus mindful of the dangers – I don’t know?
Apropos of absolutely nothing I watched a wonderful though provoking Netflix documentary series on autism Love on the Spectrum. It is not one of those stupid inane dating looking- for- a- mate- kind- of- programmes. This series examines what dating is like for people on the autism spectrum. They talk honestly about their feelings and why they want a partner. They have no grey areas it is black or white. And the interviewer mirrors this wonderfully – there is no ambiguity, he is sensitive and empathetic. I found myself smiling, laughing, and crying throughout the series. Their honesty was refreshing and made me realise that we spend so much time playing games, skirting around the issues and guessing what people think, we could learn a lot from them.
“Let’s be careful out there”