Workplace harrassment is the pits

Gather around kids, I have two stories to tell you today.  After reading William Lloyd’s intimate post about his bullying experiences, I decided to add my own.  Luckily I was never bullied in school, but out in the work force is a completely different story.

The Girls from Hell

There I was, a fresh-faced 14 years and 9 month old starting out on my first day of my first job.  I had met the boss and he was a lovely man, instantly putting my overly anxious self at ease.  So it was with only the faint sensation of nausea that I walked into the café for my first shift.

The boss wasn’t there.  A giggling group of three girls were.  I walked up to them, all knocky-kneed and trembling, to introduce myself.

One looked at me with faint disgust and asked, ‘What school do you go to?’

‘Ah, CLC.  You know, Catholic Ladies’ College,’ I replied, well aware that outside schools called us ‘Catholic Lesbians College’.

She screwed up her nose, her mouth twisted and she said, ‘Oh,’ before turning back to the group, effectively shutting me out.

So began a year of being pushed around to do all the work, being ignored when I spoke and laughed at when I did anything wrong.  It was a shame that the boss only worked during the week.  I worked Sundays with those girls.  They tried to get me fired four times.  Once for working too slow  I was told I needed to polish the chair legs and metal on the table until my face shone back at me.  That takes a few hours when they are caked in grime.  Another time for eating a sausage roll out of the warmer.  The girls told me I could eat anything I wanted, which they did also, but they neglected to tell me not to do it in front of the boss.  In fact they told me the boss was okay with it.  Third time they said I was bullying them.  Should have punched them in the face for that one.  Lastly, apparently I was taking money from the till.  Please, I’m way too much of a pansy to do that.

When I finally quit, they replaced me with another CLC girl and when I came back to return my uniform, the boss was working.

I thought it was odd to see him on a Sunday, until he asked, ‘Did those girls ever pick on you?  It’s just that, the other girl from CLC has complained.’

‘Of course not,’ I said and walked out of the café, trying not to notice the new girl standing hunched over the bench as though she were protecting herself from the other girls, who were standing around laughing.

Biggest regret of my life.  I left that girl to deal with what I had endured for a whole year.

Managers Have Loud Voices

I had moved on with my life.  I worked at a supermarket, got on swimmingly with everyone and then I was promoted to assistant manager in the deli.  That’s all good, I can handle it.  But then the store manager left.  The deli manager left.  And I was left facing the most aggressive man I had ever met in my life.

This man became the store manager and I was required to take on the deli manager position until someone took over.  I had been an assistant manager for two weeks.  I barely knew the computers existed, let alone how to use the systems for ordering, rostering, waste and the how-to guide for being a manager.

So I made mistakes.  Perfectly acceptable mistakes for someone who hadn’t been trained in the slightest.

And I got absolutely destroyed for it.  This manager called me an idiot on several occasions, yelled at me in front of other employees and wouldn’t talk to me in the deli.  He chose to talk to the only male deli assistant, who would then have to come to me and tell me everything that the man had just told him.  Which I could hear because I was standing a metre away.

Other times, he would be the friendliest person in the store.  He would encourage me to tell him everything that I needed help with and would promise that there would be more help for the deli.  Then he would turn, use the information I had just told him against me, to make me feel worse.

For that whole month I was manager I would go home crying every night, questioning my whole stupid, pathetic existence.  In the morning I would drive to work, hoping that I would get into a car accident, or an elephant would fall on my car, or anything would happen so I didn’t have to ever go back into that awful store.

A week after the deli manager finally came back to take the position, I quit.  I walked out and didn’t look back.  And once again, I did nothing.  I could have torn that man to the ground.  If it had happened now, I would have.  Back then, I was a touch on the meek side.

So what have I learned?

1) A good manager is essential to keeping a workplace happy.

2) Sometimes people will hate you for the stupidest reasons, or no reason, and that sucks.

3) Screw being liked in the workplace.  If someone’s picking on you, they’re never going to be your friend, so stop trying to do anything possible to make them like you.

4) Sometimes it’s better to just leave.  Nothing is worth making you feel that unhappy (also solid advice for relationship dramas).

5) ALWAYS SPEAK UP!  Don’t let that person get away with what they’re doing to you.  Because when you leave, they just turn on someone else.

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One for the crazy cat ladies

Missing your daily dose of kitty disregard now that you’ve moved into that one bedroom apartment that forbids your feline companion?  Why not check out the cat café in Melbourne!catcafe

I had the chance to visit it on the weekend and am still struck by all the adorableness that I found within.  The café has several rules including no flash photography and no sitting in the way of the cat escape hatches (I broke both and was told off by a charming Irishman who then proceeded to guilt trip me into buying a drink), but this doesn’t stop you from having the whole kitty experience with several rooms full of toys, beds and couches.

Appropriate cat disregard.

Appropriate cat disregard.

All hail the kitty overlord

All hail the kitty overlord.

If you get bored with the kitties (really?!) there’s also a room with a Wii to avoid polite conversation with people you’ve never met over kitty cuteness.

Now, behold fat cat Lynx!

Fat cat Lynx trying to decide whether he can be bothered cleaning himself.

Fat cat Lynx trying to decide whether he can be bothered cleaning himself.

Fat cat Lynx trying to figure out whether he will be able to fit through cat flap. *Note flash photography and blocking cat access to escape hatches.  Do not follow my example.

Fat cat Lynx trying to figure out whether he will be able to fit through cat flap. *Note flash photography and blocking cat access to escape hatches. Do not follow my example.

The birds…they keep talking to me…

Tweet tweet!

I finally succumbed and signed up to Twitter.  It does exactly what I thought it would, which is good, because I don’t like things to be too difficult.

If you go to my blog, you’ll see it just there, just to the right.  I’m not just writing words so that the arrow below lines up to my satisfaction.  I’m not that pedantic.  Alright I’m a liar, you caught me but please now move your eyes to the right.  Yes, right there =>

My first tweet is truly inspired.  Now please excuse me while I immerse myself in social media.  Let’s hope I can swim!

Note: It took me seven edits before I successfully lined up that arrow.  What does that say about me?

Good news everyone!

goodnewsI have been given my first writing job!  It may only be for a day and may have possibly been given to me by my very own mother, but darn tootin’, it’s paid!

I should also point out that it is environmentally focused and legitimate work through her organisation, so that’s something for the resume.

Huzzah for writing!

Description, or where the bloody hell am I?

As a reader I have come across a problem that pulls me out of the story so irrevocably that I’ve put down the book and nudged it away with my toe.  I’m sure you’ve encountered the same problem, but you may not have as much of a melodramatic reaction to it.  I’m talking about lack of description.  The lack of description that is so bad that you’re not quite sure whether you’re in Middle Earth or New York City.

gandalf

I recently read a book that was supposedly set in an ancient Chinese culture.  It’s funny though, the only indicators that it was set in China were the character’s names.  Otherwise it could have been set in any old medieval world.  There was no effort to show how this place that I was reading about was any different from the classic English fantasy world.  Given that the Chinese culture and technology was vastly different to the English equivalent of the time, I expected a little bit more in terms of description to wrap me up in this world.  Needless to say I got bored.

As a writer, you need to make sure that your reader is grounded in your world as quickly as possible.  The best way to do this is through description, and consistent description as well.  If your book is set in Ancient China, show me how it is different from everywhere else.  If it’s set on Pluto, I expect some mention about the ridiculously cold temperature.  Make me believe the characters are freezing their butts off.  Unless, of course, they are evolved to handle that kind of temperature.  But that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

Another failing in the use of description is changing haphazardly or unbelievably.  I call this the ‘characters are standing inside talking and inexplicably it starts raining on them’ phenomenon.  Or ‘first draft’ phenomenon.  That’s perhaps a bit easier to remember.  It’s fine to have these happen in the first draft, but if they make it into the published copy then I’m angry.  I don’t like reading inconsistent description.  If someone has left the room, then starts talking to the protagonist out of nowhere it gets confusing.  If no trees exist in the world but the main character’s house is made of timber from the finest wood in the region, then there’s a problem.  Remember what has come before, otherwise you’ll be creating inconsistent description and unnecessary plot holes.

But what about too much description?  When does it become too much that the story is lost in the describing of the world?  I must say, early on I was guilty of writing far too much description.  It wasn’t until a reader pointed out that they really didn’t need to know how many petals were on the purple flower that tapered off to amber at the tips that I figured out that maybe laying off the description can be a good thing.

There are articles that suggest the only description that should be put in is that which relates directly to the story.  I think it also depends on the genre.  Description about the world isn’t as necessary if you are writing a romance set in present time, as readers can draw from their own knowledge.  However, if you’re writing a sweeping fantasy completely set in an alternate world with magic systems and differing laws of physics, then description is necessary to embrace the reader into your world.

It must also be remembered that readers have different tastes.  I absolutely love the A Song of Ice and Fire series and a lot of that has to do with the amount of description that is placed within the story.  Other readers would quickly grow bored with seemingly endless descriptions and names of boats, armour and food.  Fair enough, but if George R.R. Martin wrote about the comparison of soil composition between Westeros and Essos I would lap it up and beg for more.  When articles tell you that too much description equals no readers, just look to George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan.  Their success tells you otherwise.

Please don’t make me ask where I am when I’m reading.  I get lost enough in the real world, I don’t need it to happen anywhere else.

Conversations you have as a wildlife rescuer

Random Citizen
Wildlife Rescuer

‘Oh I’m so happy it’s not a snake.  He’s actually quite cute when you see him up close.’
‘I’m glad you like him.  I’ll just put him back in his home.’
‘Wait, what?  I want it gone from my garden.’
‘I can’t take him from his home unless he is injured.’
‘Well, could you at least put it in the neighbour’s garden?’

‘So, how much do you get paid for this?’
‘I’m a volunteer, I don’t get paid for it.’
‘Why the hell do you do it then?’

‘If you could just go on the roof and block up the chimney, that would be nice.’
‘I’m not comfortable with doing that.  My insurance doesn’t cover that if I fall.’
‘How am I supposed to stop possums getting into my roof then?  Aren’t you supposed to help me?’
‘I’m helping the possum not you.  Call your husband.’

‘Oh look a kangaroo!  HEY KIDS LOOK AT THE KANGAROO!’
‘Ma’am, if you could just lower your voice and stop your kids from…too late.’
‘Oh for the love of all that is holy, Gerald!  Gerald, why oh why did this happen to you?  That awful kangaroo should be shot.’

‘I won’t let you shoot it!  We’ll take it to the vet, it’ll be fine.’
‘The kangaroo has two broken legs, a broken spine and is bleeding out of its ears.  Vets aren’t wizards.’
‘How would you know?  You’re just trigger happy!’

‘I wrapped up the poor possum, he’s much happier now.’
‘Yeah…that’s a rat.’

Kate, where have you been?!

It has been a while hasn’t it?  Quite a change from the daily posts I had been putting up.  Time to get back to it!  So what have I been doing instead of sitting in front of the computer this last week?

I visited five new bookshops and frequented the local a couple of times.  I may have acquired a few more books.

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And one notebook. A writer can never have too many notebooks.

I went to a primary school fete, shot Daffy Duck off his perch and won myself a dragon.

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Could AshCat BE any more cranky?

I checked out the Practically Green Festival in Eltham and dodged this lovely lady.

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I even went out with friends (shocking, I know).

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Alcoholic beverages are sparkly these days. How times have changed.

And now it’s time to hide back in my shell once more.  I’ve used up my social quota for the next year.