What’s mundane, and what’s freedom, can really depend on your point of view.
By Amy Brandon
For The Enlightened Award
For The Unenlightened Collection
Andy Kim did not change her life with a bang.
The opinion of her staff and colleagues at The Factory, was that Andy simply moved on. People do it every day. To them, the daily aggressions and grievances that had caused her to leave, were as imperceptible as the movement of the minute hand on a twelve hour shift.
Andy’s work situation was atypical. Like other young professionals, she worked 50-hour weeks on 40-hour contracts, the unspoken arrangement favoured by all of the most financially successful businesses. However unlike other young professionals, who scrolled Facebook on their morning commute to their nine-to-fives, Andy’s work day began at 4pm, and she clocked out, exhausted and dehydrated, around 3am.
The Factory was a live music venue and bar, and Andy Kim was the manager. The promise of the alternative workplace had been enticing: sleep-ins! jeans and t-shirts! a non-corporate, creative environment! with Andy at the helm! She had been thrilled and accepted the job – the first contracted salaried position of her life. With sick leave!
It didn’t take long for the reality of the role to reveal itself. The financial considerations of running a profitable venue were far from non-corporate. She was still very much in the business of making money. After one Monday-morning email from the ‘higher-ups’ about wages and cost cutting, Andy had decided to save money on staff by working in the venue’s bar: running around frantically as a glassy, or fumbling her way through cocktails she never quite mastered.
This work was physically demanding. At first she joked to her friends who worked in the towering offices of the CBD, “I never have to go to the gym! I lug buckets of ice up three flights of stairs for my cardio!” But after a while she became too resentful to attempt humour. Her friends had the choice to jog, play basketball, cycle. Andy was frequently too sore from her nightly routine of performing drop-downs to the hip-high bar fridge to attempt any physical recreation.
Then she stopped seeing her friends altogether.
While they celebrated “TGIF” weekly at riverside bars, Andy was still at hump-day, setting up the bar for her busiest night. As they BBQed on weekends, taking turns at warming their new flats and two bedroom houses, Andy was sleeping, sweating profusely under the tinned roof of her oven home, the temperature turned up to High Noon.
It took only months of this routine before the isolation proved too much.
Andy lay in bed, mid-afternoon, another long shift looming before her. She had woken to a text from a university friend – “ANDY! We all miss you, come to dinner tonight @ Ricccardo’s. Booking is for 7:30pm.”
She read it again: “ANDY! We all miss you, take the night off your job with almost zero notice!”
Andy began fashioning a spiteful reply – “Oh no, I would love to but have work. Why don’t you meet me for breakfast tomorrow at 4am?”
Her brain started to spiral. It wasn’t worth sending – nowhere in the whole city would be open for breakfast at that time. Most mornings when Andy finished work she would resignedly drive-thru McDonald’s in lieu of any alternative. She wasn’t even able to fix something at home at that hour – her thin, frantic neighbour complained about the noise of the pots and pans. Even turning on the taps in her kitchen caused an apparent plumbing cacophony in the semi-detached bungalow.
“I HAVE TO WORK IN THE MORNING!” the neighbour had yelled, considering this a valid justification for her sensitivity to Andy’s basic, existing, noise.
Remembering this was another sting.
Andy started to well up, resentment choking at her throat and curling in her fists. She imagined yelling at her lithe neighbour to shut the hell up while she ran on the treadmill at 8am, her feet slapping against the whirring belt, the rhythm just uneven enough to rouse Andy from her tenuous hold on sleep. She pictured hurling abuse at the gardener who lived behind her for whipper-snippering his paving edges on a Sunday morning; shaking her fists at the cars for daring to drive down her street before her alarm went off at midday.
“I HAVE TO WORK IN THE EVENING!”
* * * * * * * *
“Would you scoot over?”
Andy Kim was nestled in a booth seat at the local street guide’s “Most Exciting New Bar for Friday Cocktails!” Empty martini glasses and a plate of half-eaten ‘Cheeseburger Spring-Rolls’ covered the table. Around her sat bankers, lawyers, receptionists.
“I am so glad it’s Friday,” said the financial planner sitting beside her. “This week has just been draaagging on.”
“Oh god I bet, end of financial year right?” Andy replied, finishing off her third espresso martini.
“Right! Oh I am just going to sleep ALL weekend. Oh! Are you coming to Mac’s housewarming tomorrow night?”
Andy answered that she was, excused herself and made for the bar. She had been working in the city for a month, managing a tele-company call centre. It was dull work – complete with three breaks a day and weekends – and Friday now meant strength in solidarity and vodka lime-sodas.
“There’s your change,” the bartender said, passing her neatly stacked notes. Andy smiled her thanks, then folded it into the glass vase on the bar labelled “Tips”.