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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chapter 3 - part one

Chapter 3 Surviving Boot Camp: London to Paris

‘I’ll miss working with you,’ said Yvonne.

For the past three months I’d worked in a radiologist’s rooms at a central London hospital. In that time Canadian Yvonne and I had transformed the chaotic little office into a smoothly running administrative machine. We had to love the Londoners and their lack of a work ethic — it made those of us temping on working visas look superb. The best part was that I was able to get my work done with time to spare, and I used the afternoons to study about Europe.

‘Mind you,’ she added, ‘I don’t envy you all those clients.’

‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘I thought hanging out with other travellers would be the best bit!’

‘Oh sure! The fun ones. Don’t forget though, there’s going to be weirdos and assholes and you’ll be stuck with them too.’

Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.

‘Trust me. I met my fair share of them when I was working as a flight attendant.’ Yvonne had worked on a Canadian national airline. ‘Shall I tell you the story about the crazy woman, the 200kg man that wanted two seats but would only pay for one, the vomiting drunk, the masturbator, the mobile phone addict, the dead guy or the sex in a-cattle-class-seat-couple?’

She told them all. It would be two months until I had a flashback to this time and would realise that it had been important preparation.


A week later, I walked past the familiar brown brick buildings, low black wrought iron fences and black metal street bins of central London, full of trepidation. I felt like I was back at the interview all over again. The other candidates would be my competitors as well as potential comrades.

‘Act confident, don’t think about it being your Dream Job,’ I told myself as I descended the hotel stairs to a dreary basement room where I would spend the week.

I was welcomed by a cheery woman holding a clipboard. ‘Grab yourself a coffee. We’ll get started soon.’

Such a warm smile was at odds with my warder experience. Looking around, I recognised Sven, the relaxed Norwegian guy from my group interview. Relieved to see a familiar face, I walked over to chat to him until it was time for the official introductions.

Each candidate had to stand to address the group. For some reason I was more nervous than before the interview.

‘Hi I’m Mark, I worked at Corfu as a rep last season, and I know those three reprobates over there, who repped at other campsites.’

The site representatives or ‘reps’ lived for an entire season at one campsite and managed the food and accommodation for the non hotel tours.

‘Lucky buggers,’ I thought, as they already had contacts and some inside knowledge.

One candidate had tousled hair and clothes so crumpled they looked like they’d been scavenged from an Oxfam charity bin that morning, but he seemed friendly and easygoing.

‘G’day. My name is Jacko. I’m a farm boy. Oh, and I haven’t set foot in Europe before.’

In stark contrast, a handful of girls were overdressed to impress – the fashionistas. The majority were Aussies or Kiwis, a few had never been to Europe, but there was a Dutch girl who could speak about a thousand languages fluently, a 4 foot 11 inch girl from Iowa ‘home of potatoes and corn’, and a Londoner. I was finally going to make an English friend! There were many strong but diverse personalities. Some were loud, some gifted at spinning a yarn, some had a dry sense of humour, and some seemed too cool for school. This was only half the group. The upcoming road trip would combine us with the trainee drivers.

‘At least I’ll be able to say I’m a lawyer,’ I thought to myself as, one by one, the other candidates stood up.

‘Hi, I’m Shane, and I’m a lawyer from Sydney.’

Bugger. Oh well, I’ll be the lawyer from Perth.

‘Hi, my name is Marty and I’m a lawyer too, from Perth.’

Talk about feeling run of the mill.

(to be continued...)

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