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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 65 - A Full Time Worker

Gayle Woodward was getting ready for her first day of full time work when… Disaster! A wasp flew into the ear of one of her son’s and stung him!

Gayle continues her story of domestic life in New Zealand – a story which is delighting readers world-wide.

My first day of full time work began badly. Mark was up early, dressed in his new school uniform and eager to ride his bike off to school. He was using up time, until he could leave, by riding up and down our long driveway.

Suddenly a wasp flew into his ear and began stinging him. He dropped his bike and rushed inside yelling. I had no thought of my own allergy to wasp stings as I hooked the insect out from his ear with my finger and threw the wasp down so hard on to the floor that it would fly no more.

I made frantic phone calls to my parents and others and determined that I should bathe his inner ear with a baking soda solution. Mark was in some pain but did not appear to have followed his mother with an allergic reaction. He left for school and I drove to work in my car, feeling very shaky and stressed after the morning’s drama.

Jim met me in the Resource Centre as teachers crowded into the room with requests for pages to be photocopied and book sets needed for classes. He gave me a quick tour of the copier machine, including the need to clean the ‘wires’ and fill it with boxes of toner every now and then. Wires, I thought? I was aghast but no one in that room would ever have guessed at the turmoil inside my head.

The bell rang and it became quiet. I attacked the copying machine with gusto and wrote up class lists for book issues by hand as the machine clumped along. I noticed that the copier did not improve a bad master copy and instead repeated a not needed mark over and over. I determined that teachers would now get the cleanest copies I could make. I cut off ragged borders with scissors and twinked out unneeded lines and words.

I felt good about the clean copies that were emerging to be placed in piles for collection. I had to learn how to make double sided copies and use reduction and enlargement facilities. A hit and miss session followed until I had a foolproof method to accomplish these requests.

At morning teatime, a nice woman came into the resource centre bench to make tea and coffee for the women in the office opposite my room. She was immaculately dressed and invited me to go next door to meet the others. She was Jeanette and I met Ngaire, Pat and Colleen, the principal’s secretary, who took her morning tea break with us, up in the ‘Top Office’.

I relayed the story of my disastrous start to the day and found that amazingly, I had made it sound quite amusing. They all listened carefully and laughed. That was to be the start of my storytelling at morning tea. I was often asked to repeat stories again and again after that. The first morning I told them the ages and names of the kids. I found that they all had children of similar ages. I liked them all. They seemed friendly, they laughed a lot and I was certain they could become my new friends.

The room I worked in was large with wide windows down one side. A waist high bench was built down the window wall. At one end was a counter to which students would be sent with requests from their teachers for sets of books to be issued, or whiteboard markers, or staples. At the other end was a sink bench with cupboards underneath the full length. Bulk stocks of copy paper, OHT film and other consumables were stored in these cupboards. The wall opposite the windows was taken by storage cases for textbooks. Two were for books belonging to the English department, two for Social studies, two for History and Geography and the final two for Science texts.

When asked for book issues, I had to make a copy of the appropriate class list and hand-write book numbers beside individual names. Where books were missing, another book had to be made available to that student. It was a busy day, punctuated by bells that rang to mark class changeovers. I had never worked in a secondary school before where children moved from class to class. Nevertheless, I felt at home and thought I would enjoy the job.

At four pm I was back at home where Karyn needed her school books covered in plastic and Mark had long stationary lists to peruse and I had homework to supervise.

Karyn was to have a key to get into the house after school before I got home. I urged her to follow safety rules and told her to phone me at work with any problems. She wanted to go to other girls’ homes to play. Would I collect her from there on my return from work? It was becoming clear that after school was going to be extremely busy. I wondered how other women workers performed their mothering duties as well.

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