IT’S NOT YOU GETTING THE JOB, IT’S THE JOB GETTING YOU…
How did I get this job? Luckily, mostly… If you followed a little bit, my state of mind wasn’t in good shape and I was having trouble getting into it and really looking for a job. I was in a state of “I don’t know what to do with my carcass…”
Anyway, one morning while passing in front of the reception, the owner asks me if I’m interested in a job as a gardener.
Yes, why not!?! Come on, I gotta call a girl named Sue. The woman on the phone is very nice and we agree to a meeting at 7:30 in the morning the next day!
Awake at 5h45, shower, breakfast and I take off for the station. 15 minutes of walk, I wait for the train a few minutes, with my roommate, and hop 30 minutes of journey.
Arrival at Seaforth. I don’t have to look long, the Riverside Gardens Estate sign is only a few yards away. Now all I have to do is find the front desk!
Reception found. Pushing the door. A woman in a black suit in her 60s opens it for me.
I expected Sue to be masculine, I imagined her a bit younger and in gardening clothes. She wasn’t. Sue wears heels, make-up and looks like Super Nanny with a few years on: fringe, rectangular dark glasses, and a stern look.
It’s funny, but on the phone she sounded nicer and warmer.
The interview’s going well, she really needs someone, I feel like she’s not being picky. I don’t have any gardening experience, but never mind.
WHAT’S THE JOB?
What do you call this place…
Riverside Garden… let’s say it’s like a big campsite, with only old people, living in big cabins / small houses… and sharing some common areas including a kind of big living room, a swimming pool, a boules pitch (no petanque, but a similar game… I’ll lead the investigation). I feel inspired by the place, I will soon write a small series of fictions that will take place there.
My job in all this? It will be to assist the “chief gardener” to take care of all the plots, common and private… mowing, pruning etc… As I understand it, there will be three of us.
I’m not scared 💪🏻! And it’s 37.5 hours a week at 26 bucks an hour… I’m not gonna complain.
The only downside is it’s 50 minutes from the hostel, and… I start at 7:00 a.m., it stings…
You don’t get something for nothing, and I’m tired of Uber! So let’s do it!
AN EPIC FIRST DAY.
So this morning, Monday, the alarm clock goes off at 5:20. I jump out of bed, shower, put on my work pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt (to avoid scratches from the branches) and the superb work shoes! No time for coffee, I run away.
It only takes me 10 minutes to get to the station, I wait for my train, I get settled in and off I go. Arrived too early at the station, I wait a little there. The appointment was at 5:45 at the office, I don’t want to arrive at 5:25.
It’s nice, the air’s a little cooler than in Perth, but it’s not cold.
So, what sauce am I going to be eaten with? Who will my colleagues be? The questions dance around in my noggin when I push the reception door.
Sue’s waiting for me there. She’s less pleasant and more stressed out than on Fridays. She forgot her smile at home. I’m filling out the last paperwork when my new colleague comes in a bit late.
My new colleague
I was expecting someone my age… uh, missed him, he’s in his 50s.
He’s a little strange, very relaxed. Sue doesn’t like him. She scolds him when he tells her he didn’t have time to fill out his paperwork. He’s shocked…
Atmosphere, atmosphere to start the day.
Then we follow Sue, meet our new supervisor, Frank.
He and Sue are an unlikely duo. He’s her opposite in just about everything. She’s a handful when he seems to be straight out of bed.
His hair is half long and greasy, he stuffs it under a cap from which he almost never separates. And his face has something of the mouse, and is lit by receding eyes. Ooh, his gestures are also full of nervousness, he is shy and lonely.
He and Sue are showing us our new place of work. Our HQ is just a big garage. In the corner there are two fridges, a sink, a microwave, and behind the lawnmowers, next to the tools, they have installed a garden table for the lunch break.
Anyway, we won’t spend hours there… Lunch break of 30 minutes maximum.
We have two “Utes” which allow us to go around the grounds of the 300 “houses” of the property. I’ll have to learn how to operate them, but it shouldn’t be too complicated.
First Mission: Veggie Park
After a brief briefing on the safety equipment, the tools available and the “Pruning” mission (Pruning all the trees and shrubs on the property), we get started.
I’m feeling a bit woozy… Uh… What do I do… All right, I put the rakes in the back of the Ute, then, ok, I take my gloves, my glasses and my noise-covering earmuffs… I get into one of the vehicles with Keiron, the other new guy. Phew, he takes the wheel, I must admit, I wasn’t very reassured to drive the car right away…
Today, our mission is to clear Veggie Park. In short, we need to clear the bushes and a large pine tree to clear the field. They want to put fruit trees… Good for them.
On the way to the plot, Keiron talks non-stop, he’s very upset with Sue. Oh, that’s all right, yes, he’s not going to let himself be treated like that by an old dragon… He goes on and on about Franck who seems to be scared to death of the boss (Here, yes, Sue decides!).
Once there, Franck is a bit confused about what he has to cut, he doesn’t even tell us what to do, and starts to make his chainsaw purr. Okay… good good good good…
Keiron has twenty years of experience in gardening (according to him, I couldn’t check…), he guides me. We pick up the cut branches and place them in the back of the van. And so on and so forth.
The day passes slowly
It’s okay, it’s not that hard… Honestly, it’s easy, I just walk arm in arm to the car. Keiron and Franck ask me to slow down… Uh, okay…
When the van is full, Keiron and I will empty it. No speeding here… It’s 8 km/h maximum, so you might as well say that everything is as slow as the residents… That could be the most complicated for me.
After two journeys, Keiron lets me take the wheel, he helps me get my bearings, manoeuvres the machine. I’m proud to be able to do it with a good hand at the end of the day.
All in all, it’s been a long day.
My colleague is nice and talkative, but he’s a bit of a redneck, a pure Australian. He’s a bit heavy sometimes and he’s on a loop about Sue. If we work together, I’ll learn a lot, but… I might find the time long. As for Franck, he’s in his bubble, he doesn’t talk much and doesn’t eat with us.
Another woman is coming to lunch in our little “Workshop”. Allison is about sixty years old, she is redheaded, a bit plump, and seems to be an old maid who is a bit uptight. She’s not likely to cheer up the atmosphere.
We finish clearing the field soon enough. We’ll be back at HQ at about 2:30 pm. There, Frank is confused. Tools stowed away, car parked. He doesn’t know what to make us do. He asks me to do the dishes, while Keiron puts gas in the tools (Wouldn’t that be a bit sexist??).
Very quickly, I understand why he looks panicked. 2:40 pm, The Boss arrives. Sue, with a frozen smile on her face, questions us about our day. She incites Franck to give us tasks until the last minute. I finish by cleaning out the freezer… Really?? Oh, right… That’s how it’s gonna be…
Keiron shakes his head, he won’t stay long. Three o’clock sharp, we can leave! Hallelujah!
After 8 hours on the spot, including two half-hour breaks, the day finally ends. I can’t wait to take a nap. I’m not used to this new rhythm, and I’m getting tired.
The balance of the day is mixed. I now know how to drive a utility vehicle, unload, tie up the load with a rope… Ah, and I also witnessed the felling of a large pine tree… Impressive… Yep Yep… But otherwise it’s long, it’s slow… But it’s not too bad.
Well, we’ll see.
At night, I’m exhausted. I take a nap and try to get to bed early.
I’ll be there around 6:50 am. I’m meeting Frank. He offers me a coffee. I wait for instructions.
Sue comes in five minutes later. Her eyes sweep across the hangar, a sly smile passes over her lips. “Keiron is not here?”, her tone is unequivocal.
Keiron arrives at 7.01, she asks him to follow her. I’ll never see Keiron again.
Allison tells me at lunch, that Alex, one of the guys from my inn is interviewing, and he’ll probably get in. Cool, I don’t know him very well, but he seems really nice. He’s French, we can talk in secret, niark niark.
Before we start the morning pruning, we’ll move the trap to catch the feral cat.
Two traps placed in two different places to catch the ugly tomcat roaming around. I can’t tell you how much energy they put into it. This is a serious matter, one that will come up every morning.
Missed him, he escaped again ! Should they change the brand of cat food ? Or put the trap somewhere else ? They’ll get it one day, they’ll get it !
The day of pruning
Well, for this second day, I find myself alone with Franck, he doesn’t talk much, he barely tells me what to do. All day long, he cuts and I pick up the leaves. The minutes go by slowly.
He seems happy with my work and allows me a little pleasure: to let me cut the leaves of the Bellini Palms, palms with small peaks at the root of the leaves. Watch out… Ouch, spike, ugly plant goes! But cutting the palm leaves relaxes me enough…
The tasks are repetitive and not very exciting, but I enjoy the outside air. My thoughts fill my day.
ALEX’S ARRIVAL, A BREATH OF OXYGEN
Gardening is fun, but with a buddy it’s better.
Alex started on Wednesday. It’s perfect, now we have our little routine. We go on the road together, late at night on the train in the morning, and off we go for the day.
The rhythm’s still going strong… or not!
Franck has relaxed and talks to us more since Alex is here. We laugh at this unlikely place, we wave to all the little old people who pass by. In short, we work in a good atmosphere, the hardest thing is to get up, after all it’s rolling.
Picking up the leaves, raking up the rake, emptying the van, life is sweet at Riverside Gardens. One post won’t be enough to sum up this place, and you’ll probably read many more.
MY FIRST TWO WEEKS ON THE JOB
Bush trimming: Not acquired
Frank tried to let us trim the bushes. Alex isn’t doing too badly, even though Franki comes back a lot…
As for me, I’ll let you appreciate the beauty of my first work… Gardening? Second nature.
Frank is one of a kind. Always agitated with nervous movements, he seems lost most of the time. He drinks an energy drink all day long and yet seems constantly stoned.
Sometimes it’s a sketch. Today, he knelt behind a bush, turned on the hedge trimmer, and then, after putting it on the ground, toasted a cigarette while winking at us.
Thanks to Alex, Franck is relaxing. He’s happy to share cigarettes with the kid. Sometimes, we have the impression that he’s the monitor of our day care center.
Come on kids, exceptionally, tonight you can take a ride in a Bobcat!
L’Autre Con dixit The Other Jerk’s
Sue’s married to Peter, says the other jerk! L’Autre con likes to arrive at 10am during the break and annoy Franck until the end of it. On Wednesday, Franck didn’t eat lunch because L’Autre Con made him go crazy.
L’Autre Con is watching, L’Autre Con is giving Sue everything he can. We don’t like the L’Autre Con…
Wild Cat: Still at large
Every morning, it’s the same sketch. Frank goes to check if the traps have caught the beast.
And every morning, he laments the absence of a cat. Does the cat really exist?
Oops… Some damage to my credit
It’s possible that on the fourth day I accidentally hit a small mailbox. I was backing up to pull over, two seconds before, I say to Alex, “I’m gonna hit the mailbox for sure!” For sure.
It’s metal, it’s fine, I was going slow… It’s just a little bent over now.
No witnesses, we straighten it out. Neither seen nor known… Except that… Old people’s village!
Two minutes, literally, after that, Sue calls Frank on his walkie-talkie! “What the hell happened? Did the new guys smash a mailbox?”
Oops. We’ll both fill out an incident report on the subject. More fear than harm, the box is fixed.
We’ll skip the rake I broke, the other SUV I gently rammed into, or the old one that Alex almost ran over…
News travels fast here.
The mailbox adventure has taught us that gossip at Riverside Gardens goes faster than fibre optics…
An hour after the mailbox incident, we’re working near a house. The granny asks me with a twinkle in her eye if I can hit her hideous mailbox too… At least she has a sense of humour.
Yes, yes, here everything is seen, heard and reported. Second day, I drove at… ten miles an hour. I didn’t have time to catch up with Franck, that he already knew about my speeding…
That’s the life I have in store for the next few weeks. I’ve probably forgotten a thousand details, I still have so much to say! I’ll save that for fiction…
In the meantime, it’s a job. If in the rain, it can be a little harder, right now it’s the easiest job I’ve ever had…