The other day I was reading a “day in the life” feature in Stylist Magazine (page 18, Issue 103) about a glamorous lady with my dream job. She was a wedding planner with a well known company organising overseas weddings, with astronomical budgets and fantastic event briefs. It made me want to weep. However, what upset me more was reading about her glamorous “working day”. She even made menial tasks like visiting the gym or ordering takeaway sound thrilling. Now, I realise that these features about the subject’s working day are a bit more Hotel Babylon (i.e. an amalgamation of numerous different scenarios and mashed together in to one 24 hour period, rather than every day being that exciting) than reality, but still – it made me think about my working day and I realised that, no matter what job I have (and, having done some bl00dy awful jobs in my time, I now actually have a very good, interesting and varied job at a rather important company,) I’ll never be that glam, together or fabulous. And here’s why….
A day in the life of Victoria
I wake up after sleeping through a structured pattern of four alarms and snoozing two further alarms (strategically set to surprise me. They don’t), and make myself presentable for the day (some days I’m more presentable than others). I run to the end of the road, only to see the bus drive past me Saved by the Bell-style, five minutes earlier than the scheduled time. I then wait for 25 minutes until the next one arrives (it should have been only five minutes behind the previous one, but we all know buses operate in a parallel time universe). Of course, two arrive almost at the same time, so I look at the capacity. One is full to bursting and the other is almost empty. I choose the empty one. Obviously. 2.5 minutes later I realise why it’s empty. It veers off at the roundabout to head through all the little windy residential streets… and pauses to pick up about twenty OAPs at each stop and, what looks like the entire mailing list for the Chelmsford WI Christmas party. They all seem to know each other and I realise that I’ve just caught the Senior Citizens express coach on OAP discount day in town. They all jostle in calling out “mornings” and “wotchas” to their friends, and me. I then sit wedged between Aggie and Flo as they bellow up and down the bus, much like the school kids and college student on my usual bus, in fact. I cringe at comments being yelled about by slightly deaf old ladies, including: "Janet, what you wearing to Dot's 90th birthday party on Saturday?" and "Joan, are you going straight to Tesco?" (Joan isn’t, she’s: "got to pick up some brown silk for [her] hedgehog at the market first ” and she brandishes a half-finished piece of tapestry at her mate three rows back). They crack some old-people jests back and forth, whilst Flo nudges as if I'm in on the joke. I consider buying eye cream – she clearly thinks I'm her contemporary.
I finally reach the station, and I fling myself off the bus, negotiate the ticket barriers with the skill of a British Olympic relay baton change (so not great, then!), sprint up the stairs, jump on the train (bit of long jump action), but before sitting down I double check that it’s calling at my stop. I discover it’s not just as the door alarm is going. I throw myself off the train and on to the platform in a manner that can only be described as Indiana Jonesesque. I wait for the next train, chatting to the station master he feels sorry for me, and offers me a cup of tea. I decline as I already have a grande soya latte on the go. Also, what is it with people treating me like I’m about to start drawing my pension? Finally my train crawls in, I board and spend 25 minutes catching up on emails and the day’s GroupOn discounts.
On arriving at Stratford I disembark and head, with Commuter-Style purpose, towards the Jubilee Line. On seeing me walk with such intent, I’m stopped by various tourists, looking for the entrance to Westfield, damn these shoppers getting in the way of commuter time. I act out various scenes from the Benny Hill show walking backwards and forwards between platform 14, 13 and 15 with increasing levels of fury, before repeating the Indiana Jones move to board a tube (this could be a post all on its own!), which then gets stuck in a tunnel due to a “person under a train” at the next station. I avoid pulling a Jeremy Clarkson and just return to my book.
And then I hear a funny scratching sound.
I look to my left and on the seat next to me is a cat. In true London commuter style I had my Tube Blinkers on and hadn’t noticed my feline commuting companion until now. Another standard tube journey.
I reach my destination, sprint up the stairs (at which point someone I don’t know points right in my face and says to her friend “that girl works in my office” – I choose to take the word “girl” as a compliment after the morning’s WI invite) and in to the office.
I spend the morning eating kid's cereal (today it was Coco Pops) straight from the box (no time for bowls – I’m busy busy busy), drinking tea, answering emails, doing work stuff (I do do some work!) and try not to make my boss wince with embarrassment, shake her head in disbelief or cringe with mortification as I tend to do something embarrassing at least once a day. Until now, my embarrassing moment highlights include:
· Asking the most senior person in my firm (a man who is on the Prime Minister’s speed dial, who has met the Queen, was quoted daily in the broadsheets and regularly rubs shoulders with world and business leaders) whilst at a high profile event, in a high profile building, if he’d “found the hidden beaver”. Now in my defence, there is a perfectly logical explanation, and I’m entirely innocent of any ill meaning. Unfortunately my boss, her boss and various other senior industry statesmen, did not see the well-intended meaning… There was a lot of wine pouring out of noses I recall.
· Accidentally hiring a stripper for one of the team’s Christmas parties (again, it was a complete misunderstanding!), when our new global director had only been at the firm for four days. Needless to say, he’s always going to remember my name… and the look on my face as I implored the poor girl to keep her bra on – just before she pinged it across the room at me.
· Offering my shoes to our general manager to smell. Again, it was entirely innocent (they were Vivienne Westwood Melissa Lady Dragon PVC shoes, scented with strawberry), but I’m not sure the sentiment came across in the way it was intended… he also has sons, and so wouldn’t have understood quite how important they were in the shoe world anyway, even if he had had a sniff.
Lunchtime arrives and I make my way to the restaurant where diligently avoid the healthy and grown up food – heading straight to the ”build your own” fish finger sandwich on the “credit crunch lunch” station, and tell myself that the healthy eating plan will start next Monday. As will my visits to the gym. For definite.
We are lucky enough to have a free gym and swimming pool in the building. I am however not lucky enough to have the body of a super model and so I choose not to get in to a bikini in front of my colleagues. I stopped going to the fully clothed parts of the gym as well when I had to dry my hair next a person who was using the adjacent hairdryer, wearing nothing but a pair of black court shoes (hygiene first – no one wants a verucca, do they?). I later saw her in a meeting.
The afternoon then consists of trying to get done everything I didn’t do in the morning (i.e. most things) and striving to be the best “making problems go away executive” I can be (joke: that’s not my job title, it’s just what most of my internal clients think it is!).
Hometime quite often sees me do the Canary Wharf Dash – a well navigated route around a pre-defined number of shops to collect all the things I need for that evening’s food/entertainment/sofa surfing and then, if I’m not heading in to the City to meet people for cocktails (I like to do this a LOT) or attending/running some kind of event, I will do my earlier commute but in reverse, and at a slightly slower pace, and with slightly less patience. I flick through a magazine and come across a write up about a person who has a job/coat/bank balance/complexion that I envy and I slump in my seat like a sulky child.
When I finally make it home, whether it’s straight from work or late at night after an event I am OCD about the day’s make up coming off. Even if I’m painfully drunk and end up asleep in the bath… which doesn’t happen often, but has been known. If I’m lucky Mr G will be there for snuggles. If not I fall asleep fantasising about winning the lottery, opening my own vintage tea shop/wedding planning business/florist/make up salon/global five star hotel reviewing consultancy and the days that teleportation will be invented so I can transport myself to work and back in the blink of an eye. However, with my current ongoing eye-twitch, I probably wouldn’t be spending too much time at work, so maybe that’s not a good thing!
And if anyone was going to get splinched (my HP buddies will understand that one!) whilst teleporting to work, you know it’d be me!
So there you go. A standard day in the life of Me. No matter what job I have, the promotions and projects that may come my way, I will never be that glossy chick who commutes in heels, pops to the gym for a 5k run at lunch before snacking on oat cakes and homemade sushi and then ticking off everything on her to do list and leaving work on time to head back to her immaculate home to make her husband something wholesome and intricate for dinner. I’ll always be a bit dishevelled, out of breath, sweaty, missing some part of my (originally well thought out) outfit and definitely not glossy!
I will however work hard, deliver the best I can, at what is actually a bloody good job, as things go, these days! I will have fun whilst I’m doing it and I will be grateful for everything that I have. I might look harassed and I will say something excruciatingly embarrassing but hey, if I was perfect what would I have to daydream about when I get stuck on the train?
And I’ll leave you with this thought: Recently I was signed up to be a mentor to a gifted student from a local college.
That’s probably not going to pan out quite as she hoped, eh? ;-)