Sometimes, jobs sound to be all my life. I went through not a lot of them but enough for the carcass I’m.
My best experience was the first one. I was 18, just coming from Reunion island. I’ve stopped going to the uni because of some personal problems and I had to find a job. Fortunately, social services in Paris found me this job in the suburbs. It was for a national employment agency (ex-ANPE, now Pôle Emploi) in Villejuif. I was greeting people.
Because of my mixed features, people could think I was from North-Africa, South-America, India, etc. They could interpret it as they wanted. It was not always easy; some people could be very aggressive, so anxious and waiting for some money. At this time, the ANPE was not in charge of paying allowances. But some people didn’t know and didn’t want to know about it.
We had a free phone at this place. One day, people had an argue about it. A man just headbutted a woman. She was bleeding and I ran to find a man. A woman stopped me and said ‘But you should do something!’. Funny woman…
Another day, a homeless man was ready to kiss my feet because the agency gave him a new life.
I finally left the job. Not because of people but because of colleagues. It was so hard to work on a permanent tension. It was filling the air.
The second more interesting job was helping elderly people at home. I was cleaning their places, doing their shopping, sometimes just talking with them. I was exhausted at the end. Because of cleaning and emotions.
I have not really knew my grand-parents, on both sides.
One woman was very nasty. A real ‘Tatie Danielle’. For those who have not seen this movie, just run and watch it. I was cleaning her flat and she was trying to make it really hard, always complaining, doing some sabotages… I really felt like her ugly domestic. For me, her face was showing all her anger. But at the end, she was crying to see me leaving. She told me ‘ I really hope to find someone as nice as you.’ I was very surprised by it.
My real heartbreak, my emotional earthquake, was a man. Pierre. He couldn’t move a lot, couldn’t speak clearly. I was preparing his lunch everyday. Chocolate was forbidden for him but he really wanted to get some. I failed, it was so hard not to doing him this favour. And everyday, he was hiding some chocolate in my bag. I couldn’t accept because it was an order of the agency. Because you could be in trouble after that, some old people thinking you had robbed them (and unfortunately, it happened in some cases).
I was quite intrigued by this man. All the walls of his flat were covered with posters, postcards and every kind of pictures from all over the world. What kind of life this man had have ? Who was he? Once, I dared to ask him about his past life. He was translator-interprete. He had a stroke and lost almost all his memories. I felt so sad for this man who must have lived so incredible things!
I’ll always remember the last time I went to his place. I was crying, washing his dishes. I was attached to him, feeling so sad and angry to see him alone. And when I closed this door for the last time, I thought I could me the last person to see him alive.
Another old woman stayed in my mind. The agency gave us kind of ID cards of your customers; recommendations, special needs, etc. This one was something like ‘bad mood’. And she was ! I had to go through her 7 floors with shopping by walk because her lift was broken and she was complaining so much.
I’ve seen her two times. The second time, she was completely different. She was quiet, almost nice and talked a lot about her life, how she came in Paris so young, her expectations as a young woman. The day before, she died.
Then I had other experiences.
I’ve been working as hostess of reception for a big event agency in Paris. It was quite strict and the simple and sometimes masculine girl I was (is) arrived in a very different world. I had to wear high-heels shoes (which were destroying my back and my feet), make-up and a uniform and to tye my hair.
Going in the metro dressed like this was quite annoying. To break the too woman-like thing, I was wearing flat shoes.
Some men were so confident about how easy it was to seduce an hostess of reception. But dear men, the truth is you’re so smug. Neither your wavy eyebrows, male looks or gold rings impressed us. They (men and women) also thought we were brainless. And they didn’t know that we were mostly students in architecture, business or whatever. And even made of plastic or other non-organic material. Once, in winter, they made me standing outside at the Louvre in a freezing draft. I think I just had a scarf.
I’ve started a song about this job…