Friday, June 24, 2011

Hot Dogs, Marquees, and Keeping House

I set out again with a handful of CV’s and a positive attitude. I stopped at restaurants, retail shops, bars, and even walked out to the local vineyard trying to encourage someone to hire me. The general consensus was that nobody was hiring yet, but come back in a couple months and I should be sweet. Sometimes employers wouldn’t even take my CV to give me a false sense of hope.

Through the job agency, I arranged to do a shift at the hotdog stand during the A&P (Agricultural & Pastoral) Show that weekend. To translate, that means working the food cart at the county fair! While I was in the job agency office arranging it, I also heard the lady on the phone struggling to find “guys” for a shift on Sunday. I asked what the shift was doing – emphasizing my past experience doing stage/technical crew work, and explaining that I can hold my own around “strong guys.” After some hesitation, she gave in and signed me up to help take down the marquees at the conclusion of the A&P Show. Sweet as. I was only in town for a few days before I already had two random jobs arranged to earn some income!

I left my couchsurfer host (Tony)’s place early enough to walk all the way downtown and found the main gate at the show grounds. I was stopped at the gate and asked to show my staff pass, which of course I didn’t have. They insisted I would instead have to pay to enter the show grounds, but I wasn’t about to pay in order to earn money. I called the contact number I was given, and waited for one of the hotdog stand chefs to come retrieve me. 

For the next 8 hours I was thrown into the trenches, serving up “Kiwi-style” hot dogs on a stick (dipped in batter and deep fried), “pottles” of hot chips ( buckets of french fries), burgers, whitebait patties, “American-style” hot dogs, sausage sammies, “candy floss” (cotton candy), slushies, and cold drinks. At one point right before we began serving, I asked what the huge bowl of tomato sauce sitting on the counter was for. I was given a fairly terse answer about dipping the hot dogs(!) and learned not to ask too many questions of the somewhat jaded staff. We had long lines at times and ran out of water to quench the parched patrons. The trailer was hot with the fryers and grill, and by the end of the day I was ready to go jump in the lake. 

Sunkissed mountains behind Lake Wanaka

After the long lunch rush quieted, I was asked if I had gotten anything to eat yet. Let’s just say that after smelling the fried food all day, I wasn’t too interested in eating any of it (or anything remotely similar for a very long time). I wasn’t too sure about the dairy content of the various items either, so chose to abstain. Instead I grabbed a Powerade and continued working until I was sent home at the end of the day. It was a long day on my feet, especially considering how long it had been since I did any proper work! Despite the intensity of my day, it was nice to be interacting with people and working hard to earn a little cash!

The next day started bright and early back down at the show grounds. I was told they were looking for 8 strong men to help take down the marquees, so was fully prepared to “prove myself” as I so often find I have to do in similar situations. I found that jumping right in to help as soon as I saw a need was a good place to start. We went around to all the big tents and deconstructed the siding structure, untied the panels from the frame, removed the roof, and deconstructed the main frames. We folded all of the paneling, and loaded all the bits and pieces into a big flatbed truck before moving on to the next tent. The only times I really struggled to keep up were when I couldn’t reach something, and when the piles on the truck got too high for me to lift heavy objects up to.  I held my own, and didn’t notice too many people questioning my abilities. There were certainly moments where I was expected to do the folding instead of the heavy lifting, or where I was told to carry various smaller objects rather than loading the truck, but for the most part I was treated as an equal member of the team. When she hired me, the lady at the job agency told me they were looking for 8 guys for a full day’s work on Sunday, and to be ready for about 5 of us to possibly return on Monday to finish the job. Apparently she got the numbers wrong as there were more of us than the boss expected and we worked efficiently enough to be knocked off before lunch on the first day! Although slightly disappointed in the lacking hours, I was a bit relieved that the day was cut shorter than expected.

Deconstructed marquees

I returned to Tony’s place and got some lunch while I rested a bit. He lives at a hotel apartment complex and when not working at reception or at his other job, he does some housekeeping there. Because the A&P Show makes for a big weekend for accommodation places in town, there were about 13 rooms to turn over after all the guests had left. Tony had mentioned how he wished he had help, so after lunch I offered to give him a hand if his boss was okay with it. We went through; turning over each room in about half the time he said it takes him by himself. During a brief break in the afternoon, I passed out on the couch but was able to re-motivate to finish out the day with a few more rooms. The next day I helped out again, and we finished off the 13 rooms by the end of that day. I was not too keen on the idea of cleaning up after other people, but Tony was nice to me and did the bathrooms while I took care of the kitchens. We worked together to make the beds and the whole process went pretty smoothly. Though housekeeping had been something I was trying to avoid I discovered it actually wasn’t that bad.

After my busy weekend of working three jobs, I scrapped the search for income and focused more on a place to stay. I reread The Messenger searching for housing rather than jobs, and started making some calls. One of the first ads I responded to was a guy named Simon and I arranged to see the apartment that night. It was actually just up the street from where I was couchsurfing, and advertised great views from the queen room. The room was nothing special, though had a queen-sized bed, dresser, closet, and enough floor space to do a bit of yoga. The common area was not the cleanest, but the flatmates seemed nice and there was a friendly pooch to boot! Simon even mentioned how he might have an extra set of sheets for my traveling self, and I could probably use one of his bikes if I needed to! All of these factors, combined with the fact they said short term was okay and it added up to be cheaper than staying in a hostel, meant I was sold. I told them I would come around to move in the next day!

I may not have had a job, but having a place to call home made me feel a lot more settled! I decided I would be able to continue the job search from my new flat, and if nothing wound up coming around, could always leave since the length of stay was flexible. Finally something had fallen into place and I was ready to find my niche in this town!

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