I have many long memories of the workplace. I could tell you about that time when I was 10 years old and it was another Saturday at the IT company where my father worked, and I was so bored I photocopied every page of James and the Giant Peach. And The Witches. I hole-punched all the pages (on the long side) and assembled the novels in a binder.
Or maybe when I was about 14 and I was playing in the carpark of my father's own IT business, and a man approached me and quietly spoke to me for a few minutes. I never felt threatened, and nothing happened, but looking back, I'm glad my father didn't witness the innocuous encounter.
As far back as I can remember into my childhood and adolescence, I spent a lot, A LOT, of time in workplaces. At my father's places of work. As a single parent who didn't want to leave me unsupervised at home, there wasn't really a way around it. Well, there was daycare and after school care, but that still left Saturdays and the years after I was too old for both.
There were adults and almost-adults in these spaces who left some sort of groove in my memory. Shaped my perception of the world, of myself. There was the woman who took me bra shopping – unsuccessfully, but with good intentions, in seeing that I had no mother figures or guidance in any of that sort of developmental area. There were the two technicians who worked for my father for maybe 8 years, who served as surrogate older brothers; one in particular. He shared food with me, took me for rides in his souped up green Hyundai Excel, told me about his girlfriends.
They watched me grow up from an awkward high schooler into a slightly less awkward uni student. Neither of them came to his wake. Apparently there'd been some sort of falling out towards the end that I still don't have any details on.
There was the salesman my father kept on for about a year, who seemed hopeless at selling anything but himself. He drank endless cups of Nescafe and would stand at the entrance staring out at the brothels across the street. At 15, he was my introduction to misogyny, and his excellence in that area has yet to be exceeded. His remarks on T&A, his crude comments about his own girlfriend, embarrassed even the techies.
Living with a family business carried by one person made me frugal. Profitability was quietly celebrated. Downturns hung grey and somber over us both.
I had so much time to myself, most of it lived in front of others, and much of it wasted on Jetpack and Shockwave games. My upbringing was a lesson in overtime, honest practice, and in how to be as undisruptive as possible. I will never, if I can help it, run a small business. And I don't look back on all that time fondly. But I shall carry with me an appreciation of the monotony of sacrifice and hard work.