toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

November 17, 2006

the 4am alarm call job

Jody is 28 and was thrilled to pieces when she told her friends about a fabulous new tourist industry job she had been offered, but when she added, very reluctantly, that it required a 5.30am start and a 4am alarm call they laughed their heads off.

"They said that no job was worth waking up at 4am for and that if I accepted it I was mad and wouldn't last a week," laughs Jody.

Undaunted by her friends' taunts, Jody accepted the job offer but a 4am alarm call was not going to be her only problem.

Poor Jody's car fell to pieces three days before she was due to start her new job.

Faced with the option of getting to work by cab - and giving most of her pay to a cabbie - or going by public transport, Jody chose the public transport option. She consoled herself by saying it was only going to be for a short time until her car was fixed, or until she could afford to buy a new car.

In a last minute flurry she called the information services for bus and train timetables and received more bad news.

The bus service at the end of her block did not start operating until 5.30am - the time she was supposed to start her new job - and although the trains operated early morning services it was a 45 minute walk from her place to the nearest railway station.

Faced with the prospect of calling a cab for the trip to her local railway station, or walking it, Jody decided to walk. It was summer and she needed to lose a bit of weight. A 45 minute walk in the cool of the early morning of a hot summer's day sounded like a great way to save money and lose some weight.

"I dared not think what the walk would be like in winter," laughs Jody, "but I am a great one in crossing bridges when I get to them!"

And then Jody realized that 4am was not exactly early morning - it would be black dark!

Worse still, in order to do the 45 minute walk she would need to get up at 3am, not 4am! Jody had sometimes walked home from the railway station at 3am after a night out on the town, but doing the walk from her home to the railway station at 3am sounded bizarre.

It not only sounded bizarre - it sounded unsafe.

A call to the railway station to talk to the staff about the early morning train assuaged Jody's fears somewhat. It was perfectly safe they assured her. There were quite a few passengers on the early morning train, two guards on duty at the station and a guard on the train. She wouldn't be alone, trapped with a drunk or a rapist in the carriage!

But what about the walk to the railway station? Was that safe?

That night she decided to do a trial run - actually, a trial walk. No, she didn't get up at 3am. She cheated.

"I did the walk at 11pm which was late enough to give the effect of a 3am walk," says Jody, "but early enough to scream for help if I got into trouble."

Half way to the railway station, Jody decided that the walking option was ridiculous.

"I spent most of the time looking behind to see if anyone was following me," says Jody, "and I was terrified when I came to a stretch where the street lighting was poor or non-existent. To do the walk at 3am was totally out of the question."

Back to the taxi option. Could she afford it? Jody did some quick sums and realized that she really could not afford to either call a cab every day, or hire a car. And it was far too much hassle to beg friends to lend her their car.

The next day, Jody telephoned the company, told them her problems and asked whether she could start at 6.30am until her car was fixed or until she could afford to buy a new one.

Catching the first bus of the morning at the end of her block would solve all problems, and surely an hour later wouldn't matter.

"It did!" laughs Jody. "They said 'sorry, no go - even for a week or so - it was 5.30am start or nothing'."

"I then asked if they would reimburse me the cab fares to the railway station," says Jody, "and they said no way, that's my problem, not theirs."

The wonderful job wasn't looking very wonderful after all. It was almost as if her car had broken down for a reason. The reason being that this job was not going to be worth waking up at 4am for - and certainly not 3am - and realizing how she had been blinded by the glamour of the job, Jody opted out.

Later, Jody was to learn that nobody had stayed in the job for more than a month so she made a wise decision to quit before she started.

"The job didn't really require graduate qualifications," confides Jody. "It was the glamour of the job that appealed to me, but I guess those early starts took a toll on young women who weren't used to getting up early."

"Also," adds Jody, "the company paid scant attention to the very real fears and concerns that female staff had about early morning shifts. Had it been a good company, one that wishes to retain staff, it might have operated a free company taxi service for it's early morning female staff - guaranteeing their safety, avoiding the hassle of private vehicles breaking down and generally making the 5.30am start less of a miserable experience."

"Actually, the company ended up employing males only on the early morning shift," laughs Jody. "Apparently, males never complained about 4am wake-up calls and weren't fearful of traveling alone at unearthly hours of the early morning - but I bet they didn't look as cute as the women in their red and gold uniforms!"

"I know this is going to sound like sour grapes, " laughs Jody, "but I bet the company will lose money by hiring men rather than women. Businessmen want to look at cute women, not men - especially at 5.30am!

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