I like my job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, actually. From both a job satisfaction and a financial point of view. Sure, I don’t love it so much that I’ll keep turning up if they stop paying me. And I’ll never be a millionaire even if they do. It is, after all, a job. That said, I like it. It doesn’t sound a particularly thrilling job. I sell train tickets. Sometimes I refund unused train tickets. And there’s plenty of other odd jobs around the station that need doing. Usually I work alone, but sometimes I work with others. It depends where I am on any given day.
I’ve completed three months of service in my new job and, as is the process of my employer, I’ve recently had my three month review. How did it go? We’ll get to that later. Firstly, I’ll give a three month review of my employer. Finding a job you enjoy is tough work. I’ve been trying to get my foot in on the trains for several years, and there were a three or four unsuccessful interviews before I finally cracked it. I’ve struck lucky with this job – it is the best of the bunch that I’d applied for. I’m a relief ticket office clerk.
In short, this means I cover shifts across a stretch of line when the normal clerk is on holiday or sick. I like the variety. I like the early mornings too. Some days I’ll need to be out of the house by 5am. I’m not a fan of waking up that early. But once up, it’s nice to have the world to myself for a couple of hours.
I enjoy the face to face interaction with customers too. It’s a significant improvement on dealing with them at the end of a telephone, as was the case at my last employer. Of course, you get the occasional upset customer. But most are happy to have someone help them through the confusing minefield that is the rail ticketing system.
I like the pay too. It’s another significant improvement compared to my last employer. Well paid overtime combined with various allowances meant that I got paid more in ‘extras’ last month than I’d have previously been paid for an entire month’s worth of labour.And of course, I’ve joined the union. I’m probably a little bit to the right, politically speaking, of most of my comrades. But I do reap the reward in pay and terms that comes with working in a unionized industry. It’s only right that I contribute my dues.
My employer runs a tight ship. But they are realistic in their demands. There are no threats or scowls when an honest mistake is made. There’s recognition that we’re all human. Mistakes happen. Just don’t make the same mistake over and over and over again. That’s a fair request and one I can deliver. It’s a tightly run ship and my ship mates act as a team. Once more, an improvement over my last employer.
Then there are the travel perks. And they are truly bountiful. Not every clerk makes full use of them. I shall. It works like this. I get free travel on the network I am employed by. I also get free travel on another network that is also owned by my employer. I also get a coupon allowing 5 lots of free travel over a 48 hour period on a third network that is majority owned by my employer. The other networks? I have a card which entitles me to a 75% discount on all other rail travel. After a years service, I’ll also get discounted travel on Eurostar and around much of the EU. Best of all, whatever I get, Mrs P also gets, as my spouse. Although she is limited to leisure travel only.
We’ve already been to Edinburgh for a weekend away. I’d never been to Scotland before and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Edinburgh is a magnificent city. We’ll go back next summer. We shall take the Caledonian Sleeper up to Fort William via Glasgow and return via Edinburgh. In between time, we have trips to York, Axminster, Exter, Birmingham and Liverpool planned. I shall make the most of my travel perks.
I’m very happy with my new job, in case I’d left any room for doubt. The good news is that my review suggested that they are equally as happy to have me there. Sure, the overtime, extra cash and many places to see does mean I have less time to do some other things – such as blogging. Such is life, it’s a small sacrifice. If you’d like to see the full set of photos from Edinburgh then, as usual, just click here.
My first visit to Mexico City, way back in 2003, was an eye opener. The poverty really struck me. Sure, there is plenty of wealth too, but coming from the UK that didn’t ‘stand out’. Seeing beggars with mutilated limbs and open sores lying on the pavement, and kids begging for pesos in bare feet – that does stand out to a foreigner stepping off the plane. I’d seen worse poverty before, it has to be said. But it still hits you.
It can be a hard life for those born nearer the bottom of the ladder in DF, and I’m convinced that it’s only the traditional, strong family unit that prevents there being more unfortunate citizens begging on street corners for a few pesos. That, and the admirable work ethic of most Chilangos. I read a report not so long ago which claimed Mexicans are the hardest workers in the world. Which makes a bit of a mockery of their ‘lazy and feckless‘ reputation on this side of the Atlantic.
So what was I struck by upon my return to the *UK? Sure, there is poverty. Of sorts. Not the Mexican sort though. Plenty of people live from pay check to pay check. There are lots of people who are skint. But what struck me was how many people manage to waddle around Bournemouth slurping from a can of Special Brew before it’s even noon, later retreating to their taxpayer funded flats, safe in the knowledge that a fortnightly state hand out will keep them going and that the NHS will provide for their health care. Life in Mexico is too hard. In the UK it can most definitely be too easy.
Where’s the fine line between too hard and too easy? That’s Mission Impossible for any government I suspect. But both Mexico and the UK are currently moving towards it, albeit from different directions. It’ll probably still be a while before they meet. But I can’t help but feel Mexicans are the more admirable bunch. Along with their long hours, the Mexican has an astonishing ability to improvise, mend and make do, recycle and repair. Second hand goods keep their value much more as well.
There’s a lot to see on the streets of DF today that might well be a lot more common in the UK and US of tomorrow. That may not be such a bad thing. The video below is one of a series produced (I assume) by Creative Blends, who have a number of interesting videos offering a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Mexicans in the less glamourous parts of the city. You might need to click the Annotations button for English subtitles.
* My comparisons are from personal experience in DF and London/Bournemouth, and my personal experience doesn’t include living in the poorest areas of either country.