Thursday, February 19, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
The Price I Pay
I have, perhaps, the easiest, best paying job compared to everyone in and even around my age.
My boss, Amanda, is a true character. (I realize, however, that this is the pot calling the kettle black here.) She grew up in London, Ontario and received mediocre grades throughout high school, but passed by on her looks. As much as I don't want to admit it, she is pretty. (Although it is a little satisfying that she's aging quickly.) Her grades were just good enough to gain her admission into U of T, so she sprinted from her hometown. She had barely been in Toronto before her father died; and just as quickly as she had raced her she dropped out of university, going home to take care of her mother. It wasn't long before the Toronto bug bit her again. At once she moved back and found a job as a model and hostess. Working at the restaurant, she met people galore. One was an entrepreneur, Steve, who was at start of creating what has become a construction empire. The marriage came quickly, although (and a little surprisingly) out of true love, not simply because of the money that came with him. Her wedding took a full year to plan, and she was, as they say, a bridezilla. It didn't take long for her to leave her humble beginnings behind and transform into a money-spending, frivolous bride. Where she had at once stood at a size two, she took most of her betrothal year to whittle herself down to a zero. (This, when she tells the story, sounds almost as important as actually marrying the man she loves.) And while it was still fashionable to do so, she decided to have a kid right away.
A year later, Olivia was born.
Eight months later, Amanda had surpassed her pre-baby weight, and was a size double-zero.
Eight months later, Amanda had surpassed her pre-baby weight, and was a size double-zero.
Then, a month before Olivia turned two, I entered their lives.
The first time I served as a "nocturnal au pair" for Amanda, it was still called babysitting. It was a Friday night, and I asked how long she and Steve would be. She replied, "I don’t know, two or three hours? We're just going to grab something to eat and we'll be right back." I trusted her (there wasn't a reason not to at this point) so much so there was never a word about money. Around 8:15pm they left for their night out. It wasn't until two in the morning (somehow a few hours turned into 2am) when I heard the garage door opening. I didn’t get any apologies, but I did get paid. For six hours of work, I got $90. I'm used to working actual jobs where 'work' is truly involved, but to sit on the couch, watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, and eat, I earned just shy of a hundred dollars. It was the start of a slippery (on her part) and greedy (on my part) slope.
Six months later, having abandoned the "on occasion we might need you to watch Olivia when we go out" verbal contract, I was now what Amanda had job-titled me as a full-fledged, night-time nanny. It was her thirtieth birthday around the beginning of September and she was set to host a huge, catered event. To make sure she never had to check on the kid, Amanda had booked me from 7pm until 1am on the Saturday night, and 8am to 1pm the next day (it is hard to take care of your child when wildly hung-over, I assume). I showed up at seven thinking I would have to put Olivia straight to bed, but she was already out like a light (Amanda tends to give her one more than needed of children's Tylenol when she wants Olivia to fall and stay asleep). I made friends with the caterers, talked and joked around, all the while wishing that I was at the film festival with my friends. Around one in the morning I attempted the impossible, to bargain with a drunken Amanda to let me go home. Each time I asked when I could leave, she would try to dance with me. (It was probably hilarious to everyone sober there; unfortunately Olivia was the only person in the house close to that definition.) I felt like the parent at a kid's graduation house party, where everyone was too drunk to be reasoned with. An hour later, Amanda announced that she was going out to an after-hours club, ordering four van-cabs to move the whole party. It wasn't until 5am, more than four hours later than my shift was due to end, that Amanda finally stumbled barefoot through the door. A further three hours later, like the Employee of the Millennium, I was back, waking up Olivia, making breakfast, taking her to the park, and lending a hand to clean up. Around noon, Amanda and her posse woke up, all with terrible hangovers. For my fourteen hours, I was paid $320. I went home and proceeded to order a large pizza and wings from Pizza Hut (heck, one of us should at least eat with her money).
It didn't take long for Amanda and I to fall into a pattern of her expecting that I would never have a social life, and me expecting that she would want me to work at least five nights a week. Around this time, I lost my voice. On my first Friday night off in what seemed like ten years, I had planned to go see a movie with a few friends. When I was getting ready, around 8:30pm, my phone started having seizures. I was in the bath at the time, with my cell resting on my bed, so I couldn’t get to it in time. I assumed it was my friends confirming so I stayed in the bath for another half hour. After drying off, I checked my phone. I had eight texts from Amanda and thirteen missed calls. Instead of reading through or listening to them, I called her. "Where the fuck are you Gillian?! You were supposed to be here at 8pm! Don’t you ever write anything down? Steve and I have a very important dinner that we need to get to! Don't you have anything to say?!" I tried to respond, explaining that she had in fact booked me for the following night, but since my voice was shot it probably sounded like “Scratchy-scratchy, scratch SCRATCH!" "Well, just hurry up Gillian! This is really unprofessional." A little bit scared, a little bit guilty (even though I wasn't in the wrong), and a little bit hungry for extra pocket change, I texted my friend, cancelling at the last minute (which I hate to do), and proceeded to make my way over to her house with my hair still wet. When I got there, Steve was already in the car, and Amanda had grabbed her purse, storming out. Four hours later they came back and Amanda was so peeved that she went straight to bed without a single word to me (Steve paid me, apologising for her behaviour). That night, I went through the night's texts and voicemails, noticing that the very first one she left, long before the tirade, read "do u like William and Sonoma? Thinking of an xmas bonus 4 u!" Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you have nothing on Amanda Aqunio.
By the time Christmas had rolled around, I was still scrambling to get a gift for the family. Originally, I was going to find Olivia a pretty little shirt. But I knew better. I had helped Amanda unpack new clothes for Olivia before, and they were not cheap. When Olivia had started preschool, Amanda had gone to TNT Baby to stock up on "running around and getting dirty" clothes. This included plain t-shirts (at forty to fifty dollars a piece), four pairs of leggings (sixty bucks each) and a couple of new sweaters (every one around a hundred dollars). I did not feel like spending a ton of money to have Amanda ask for the receipt. I passed by a Williams Sonoma myself, thinking of what to get for Amanda and Steve. They had a princess cookie-cutter set, on sale no less. I thought it was cute, cheap(ish), and something the family could do together. I showed up for work that day and surrendered my gift, which was quickly thrown on the floor next to a mountain of gifts. Amanda told Olivia to go and get my gift from under the tree; it was a big, hot pink Holt Renfrew bag. I slowly proceeded to open it, revealing a key-holder from Coach (which after a little internet research I learned cost $110). It was not my style, but I was grateful all the same. Amanda went on to explain how it made her think of me with all my keys (I have four total) and how it was so 'me' (it is brown, ecru and shiny, and by my definition, tacky).
I don't think I will ever stop working for her. Somewhat out of fear, but mostly because of the money. That’s the price that I am willing to pay.
----Alright, so this is a little lengthy, and somewhat fictional but I had no idea what the hell my proff was trying to get my class to write. It started out as a personal essay, then it was a character analysis ( closer to screen writing) then it was a jumble of vignettes, then it was the apocalypse. All of that turned into this paper. ( or as I see it, jumble of words that took 5 hours of sitting in a crummy Timmies on my day off to write. blah)
Natural to Preternatural Through Rock Band
By: Gillian Frederick Date: February 3,2009.
December 31st, 2008 was the first time I played the game Rock Band. For most people, this would seem like an uneventful, dull experience, but for me it was not only memorable but life altering experience. For about two months prior to December 27th, I had been very sick, so much so that I barely had a voice. It was especially tough given that speech had always been my main source of communication, yet I was suddenly forced to find other means; I all at once felt pushed into a corner. It was harder still because I also express my emotions through singing quite often, but this outlet disappeared with my voice. My friends, in frustration, seemed to vanish as well. I felt as though I had been isolated from society, as if I was a balloon that a child had let go of for one minute and forgotten about the next.
The 27th of December was the day that much of my voice returned, thanks to a minor day-surgery.
By the time that New Year’s had rolled around, I didn’t have time to re-find my friends who had all seemed to react to my prolonged laryngitis as if I had been in some terrible, disfiguring accident and they were scared to see and be seen with me. So I decided to spend it with my family; my family being comprised of my mum, my future step-father Gerry, my stepsister Erin and my younger step-brother Fraser. Gerry, my favourite family member, by far, in a parental sense picked me up around 7pm.
It has long been a Stephenson tradition to eat bad M&M's food on new years so we sat down to a pre-heated oven feast. Things quickly slowed down as neither Erin nor Fraser are the most talkative brother and sister, so we all sat down to watch Revenge of the Nerds. Not long after, Fraser had suggested we all play Rock Band. This initially struck everyone in the room as odd, coming out of Fraser’s mouth, almost like an out-of-order escalator that suddenly springs back to life, but a welcome one nonetheless. So we all took our positions as the new band, “FEG” (Fraser, Erin, Gillian). Admittedly, it was not the most creative name, but then again none of us thought we would work well together at the game.
I was the first to take the mike. Fraser was on drums, Erin played the guitar. With the stage set, the game started. Singing that first song by Nirvana was an instant release. It was as if I had forgotten all about the two voiceless months, the friends that had left me behind, all of stresses that had compounded, all of the pressures of family, school, and health. Most importantly, and unexpectedly, we all worked as a team.
Most people describe bonding experiences as a heart-to-heart talk, or persevering through a father-son climbing expedition, but I have never connected so quickly or warmly with anyone as I did with my siblings that night. Sure, I had always cared for them. And in some form I believe that I had loved them, but things changed significantly for the better that night. We played into the wee hours of the morning, hoping to finish the entire game in a single night, a Herculean task which we did not accomplish. Now instead of mindlessly watching TV or silently seeing a movie, neither involving any social interaction, every other weekend when Fraser and Erin come down for a visit, we become the staggeringly talented rock band, FEG. And a true family unit.