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Bonzer Words!: Fired!

...One day, to my total embarrassment, Mrs Batchelor said to me, 'I'm letting you go at the end of the day. Pick up your wages at the wages office. You're not fast enough at doing the job.' I stared at her flabbergasted...

Shirley Henwood recalls the day she she was fired from her first job.

The first time I worked outside the home, my father arranged a job for me in the sock department at Korma Mills, where he worked as the Manager of the Woollen Finishing Room.

When I started the job, I was very shy, and the girls and women who checked the socks were down-to-earth people, with whom I seemed to have nothing in common, and having a sock in one's hand all the time, all day, inspecting it for any defects, did not give one any time for idle gossip. I couldn't believe how boring this job was. Pick up a sock, pull it down over your hand and as far down your arm as it would go, look carefully back and front, then pull it off, and put it into a bag, throwing out any that had flaws.

Mrs Batchelor was supposedly a friend of my father's. In what capacity, I never found out. I didn't like her at all. She seemed bossy and brassy to me. I worked part-time because of my weak chest. I suppose my father did me a favour in getting me out of the house, as I'd been helping my mother sew labels on underwear at home, also as part of outwork for the mill, since I'd left school at 16. I had no wish to go to work, the world was always a frightening place to me, and the people who inhabited it made it worse. Working nine to three, I managed to do five bags of socks. The full-timers finished seven.

One day, to my total embarrassment, Mrs Batchelor said to me, 'I'm letting you go at the end of the day. Pick up your wages at the wages office. You're not fast enough at doing the job.' I stared at her flabbergasted. I could think of nothing at all to say, but I remembered my manners. 'Yes, thank you, Mrs Batchelor,' I said. Then I thought about my father, how was I going to cope with his reaction. Fired! I finished the day in a sort of daze.

'Has she fired you?' asked one of the women.

'Yes,' I answered.

'Well, I wouldn't worry about it, she's an old bag. She probably doesn't like you because you're too quiet.'

'My father will be so angry,' I managed to say before Mrs Batchelor told us to get on with our work.

That day, the day I was fired, everybody was nice to me. I didn't like people feeling sorry for me, so I was relieved when it was time to go.

I think my mother was pleased, although annoyed at Mrs Batchelor for firing me. She knew I'd be at home for a while with her again. When my father came home, he already knew. Mrs Batchelor had rung him and told him, and he'd gone to see her.

To my amazement he was not angry at all with me, he was angry with Mrs Batchelor.

'The bloody woman's mad,' he said. 'I asked her how many bags you did part-time, and she said five, is that right?' he looked at me for confirmation.

'Yes, but the full-timers do seven,' I said.

He then proceeded to display to us his mathematical genius, to prove that it was impossible for me to do the same number of bags as the full-timers, working fewer hours. According to him, I was doing the right amount.

This argument had not carried any weight with Mrs Batchelor. 'I expect my part-timers to work harder, and do the same amount as the full-timers,' she told my father.

'Don't worry about it, you don't have to work for a bloody idiot. Bloody woman shouldn't be running the department.' I gathered that Mrs Batchelor was no longer a friend of my father's.

For once, my father wasn't told off for swearing in the house.


Shirley Henwood

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Shirely writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au

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