Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blubbering in my birthday suit

The phone rings just as I am about to turn on the shower tap.

Naked, I dash out of the bathroom to answer it. We don't have an answering machine and it could be one of eighteen agencies/employers/UN departments/email contacts/referrals/freelance company/tutoring firms I've recently applied at with a job offer.

Nope, it's Carol. "How's Milly going, Kath?"

Carol and John very kindly looked after 'ol furry face while we were in Luxembourg. Having left their beloved fifteen year old pound pooch back in Australia with their grown up daughters, they were keen to have access to a dog for a while again.

Milly was given full run of their house, taken on the bus, on outings to Chillon Castle and Nyon and enjoyed lots of walks and attention. You couldn’t find two nicer people to leave your dog with – she had just as good a holiday as we did.

Therefore it was merely bad luck and unfair timing that Milly developed a bladder infection and no matter how many times I tried to reassure Carol, she was acutely apologetic. “It’s OK, Carol. Milly is likely to have had it before you looked after her. She’s happy and she’s eating, so it can’t be too hard on her.”

And it isn’t, really. Her basket, mattress, covers and blankets seem to rather effectively impersonate a Carefree advertisement because of their ability to ‘draw away moisture’ so she can ease her creaking body out of the bed and not be aware of the gallon of wee soaking through to the floor.

Or the carpet.

Or the puddle on the kitchen tiles that Sapphire slips in barefoot.

The apartment is festooned in just-washed dog clothes, making me marvel at how much gear a twelve kilogram animal requires. There’s a frequent lapping sound in the background as she drains her two water bowls before sitting on some enormous white dog toilet-training mats, her nose clearly dry.

Milly’s eyes widened in alarm when the vet took her temperature yesterday. The reading showed that she had a slight fever and a yellow puddle was left on the stainless steel examination table for emphasis.

The vet retaliated by injecting her twice in the back of the neck: firstly with an anti-inflammatory and then an antibiotic. With Milly’s paws back on the floor and a bill for 400 CHF in my shaking hand, he also gave me some liquid medicine that I was to syringe down her throat twice a day. “And please phone me tomorrow and tell me what her temperature is.”

My shock at the bill was temporarily forgotten. “Er, how am I supposed to do that?”

He grinned, enjoying my discomfort. “You have a thermometer, don’t you?”

“Well yes, but it’s for Sapphire and----“

“You can clean it afterwards,” he interrupted, laughing. “And yes, you slip it into her anus and not her mouth.”

“Uh huh,” I smiled in apparent agreement and said goodbye with absolutely no intention of doing that to Milly. I’m already in awe of how well she stands being probed, bled and injected without complaint, staring at me as if to say, ‘well you seem to be OK with this, so I trust you,’ so there was no way that I was going to be the one to do those kinds of things to her.

Four hundred francs. Straight onto the credit card and three weeks of hard-won freelance writing income gone quicker than free beer on a Friday.

The days’ mail wasn’t much better: a further 5750 CHF (on top of the several thousand we’d already paid) from the hospital for Sapphire’s stomach treatments late last year, 250 for a blood test done by the GP and a bill for 1000 CHF from the school to ‘reserve’ her place for next year. A thousand francs to type a kids’ name into an Excel spreadsheet.....?

I added them to the ‘Bills Due’ pile that was starting to buckle the solitary little paper clip holding them together and put them on the top of the printer. They’d just have to wait.

Emails were due to be read – what was going on in the Gillard V Rudd stoush? Did my folks have any preferences for holiday bookings when they arrived here? What were those LOLdogs up to?

Oh. Despite fulfilling all of the selection criteria and the manager agreeing several months ago that I’d be ideal for the job, they’d ‘omitted’ to inform me that, due my husband already working in their organisation, they were not permitted to offer me work. Not even from-home, two hours a week.

Same goes for a role in a different section to LC’s, editing a newsletter for roughly four hours a week. An enormous conflict of interest apparently.

UN vacancies now. Part time jobs are rarer than a supermodel with a sandwich and most require overseas travel for a third of that time. How does Burkina Faso, Mogadishu or Basra sound?   But today there was a part time job – an admin assistant on the lowest of the lowest classification level, two days a week – perfect! 

Maybe.  I would have to demonstrate a ‘thorough understanding of UN administrative procedures (via an examination) and have at least five years experience working in the UN. English and French are the two working languages, with priority given to applicants who also have German and Spanish/Arabic/Russian as a fourth language.’ Oh, right. 

Wait – wait – someone saw my freelance advert and wants me to edit their research report!

I then spent an hour reading through the ‘how to’ documentation and the attached Literature Review chapter before deciding that yes, I can do this and do it well. It’s obviously a PhD thesis and a very, very poorly-written one. He says on Skype, “I’ll pay you for an hour to see how you do, and then, if I’m happy, we’ll set up a contract for another ten hours.”

Fine by me. The hour is measured by the freelance website time-tracking device so he can see that I’m working solidly; mostly with ‘track changes’ on.

I waited for Skype to burp itself on again. ‘Oh,’ he wrote in an email ten minutes later. ‘I really like your editing, but I actually wanted you to write some stuff for me, you know, fill in the gaps so that it’s not so patchy.’

No wonder he cowardly emailed me instead of speaking to me directly. My response: ‘Peter, dearest, it’s YOU who supposedly read all of those articles and are now summarising your learnings and findings, not ME. There is no possible way I can write linking sentences or expand on studies, theses or books I’ve never read.’ I wanted to end with, ‘Unless I can share your doctorate with you?’

No response back, except the one automatically generated by the freelance company exactly three minutes later. ‘Your contract with Cheater BoyXYZ is now terminated. Total payment earned: 18USD.’

So he even went so far, as my ‘employer’, to deduct two bucks from an already bargain price.

...............“Kath? Kath are you still there?” Carol sounded concerned.

I started to blubber. “Carol, I’m sorry for crying on the phone but apart from prostitution or nannying, I don’t know what else to try to earn a few bucks here and even when I did apply for a nanny job looking after two small boys for a ten hour day, she only wanted to pay me thirteen francs an hour so that she could do her diplomat-level job." 

Milly nudged my leg. With her bladder infection rampant, I didn’t dare risk fobbing her off any longer. Besides, I’d run out of dry towels. “Gotta go Carol, Milly needs a trip to the Dog Forest downstairs.”

I de-nuded myself, grabbed The Fratman-Approved apartment-friendly kit of Wellington boots and towel and took her downstairs to relieve herself. We entered the bike storage room afterwards for me to wipe her feet clean and to change out of my boots as well as dump some papers into the communal recycling bin.

–ooooh, the edge of the squashed cornflakes box scornfully slashed a cut across my palm. It wasn’t particularly deep but blood dripped freely. “Damn!”

And this has happened before and it’ll happen again but I bent down to unclip Milly’s lead and give her ears a scratch at the exact moment she leapt up to sneak a slurp across my nose so that
CRA-A-A-CK, her rock hard head smacked into my nose.

“Poo Bum Bugger Shit Fart!” I screamed, staggering blindly about the room in pain before getting my trousers caught on the mudguard of a bicycle.

When sight was restored, it was a gruesome scene that appeared before me. Blood spatters all over the floor, the edge of the skip, the plastic bag holding my boots and Milly’s lead. Had Dexter snuck in to visit?

It’s amazing what two wet wipes can do and, fifteen minutes later, we exited the bike storage room.

On our way to the lift I saw The Fratman pushing his wheelie bucket and mop across the foyer. “Bonjour Monsieur,” I called out cheerily, idly wondering why he didn’t respond with his usual “Tres Bien” at the sight of my boots-in-a-bag and Milly’s foot towel. He seemed in a real hurry.

Back upstairs, I put off having a shower before compulsively checking my emails again.

Good news at last. No, not kids to tutor, an article to research, paper to edit or administrative work to undertake but our spare car parking spot was now officially rented to a neighbour.

I had to laugh at the absurdity of a ‘win’ that required no work or skill of my own, yet roughly equated to two hours of freelance writing. Then I had to wipe the keyboard clean - my cut was still oozing slightly.

I laughed again in the bathroom when I saw my blood-smeared face in the mirror and realised why The Fratman scuttled off so quickly...... Perhaps he does deserve a bottle of plonk or a tip this coming Christmas after all – if we can afford it!


drb said...

Oh Kath,
V sorry abt the bad day. Karma will be waiting for the mean PhD (Permanent head Damage) candidate. Carly's medical bill coming in drips and drabs? Geneva is definitely not as efficient as I imagined. On seond thought, it WAS my naivety to expect a place full of bureaucrats to be efficient.
DEfinitely a win for renting out the spare car park! :-)
Hopefully by now, you are cheered up by the big-night-in (described on FB) and M had recovered. xo

Kath Lockett said...

Love that - Permanent Head Damage, drb!

Sapphire's medical bills are indeed coming in dribs and drabs which is very frustrating and a sneaky way of continually adding up the total cost.

And yep, once I saw my face in the mirror and had a good laugh, I realised that my First World Problems were pretty minor. :)

Anji said...

Just when you think it can't get any worse...

I hope when you read this you have had a better day. Job hunting is hard. I had a great time delivering telephone directories one spring. The pay was shit but I chose my block of streets well and met the most amazing people

Pandora Behr said...

Glad you can see the humour at the end of a bad day. I'm sure things are about to turn around. Courage! Glad everybody is on the mend too.

The Elephant's Child said...

What a truly stupendously rotten day. Lovingly recreated for us in all its horror. We had a cat who, when having his temperature taken, stuck his head between his legs to see what was happening. It was very clear that 'he wasn't that sort of cat.'
I really, really hope everything improves. Quickly.

diane b said...

You sound like you are going through a bad patch in life but you can remarkably still inject humour into your post. I hope poor Milly is improving. I had that happen when my German Shepherd lifted his head to lick me as I was bending over him. He hit under my chin it smacked my teeth together with my tongue caught between. They sure have hard heads. I hope you get work soon to help pay those ridiculous medical bills. Do you have insurance?
Please turn off that pesky word recognition. Takes ages to decipher it correctly.

Ann O'Dyne said...

I had to skim over a lot of that because I am an animal sook, but a big ugly hurty pox on that slimy PhD FAKER I hope he gets a disease.
How may fake PhDs look down their noses at me FFS.


River said...

I hope you disinfected that cut (from a cornflakes box? are they made of metal over there?)before you did anything else.
I hope you have more luck soon with finding some part time work from home.
Could you put some kind of plastic liner under Milly's bedding so she doesn't soak the floor? And maybe open out some disposable nappies or Depends on that, but still under her blanket?
I'm concerned that Fratman didn't ask about the blood on your face, at the very least "are you okay, there's blood on your face?"

River said...

P.S. I love the shocked look on the face of that Koala. You want to put what where?

Kath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kath said...

Thanks Anji. It's me who worries; LC is just happy that I'm here, doing my best to keep The Fratman on his toes!

Pandora, everyone's on the mend which is a relief. I just tried to extend a hug with LC who said, "I need to clean my teeth - go hug Milly, that's what she's for." !!

E-Child, you have a curious and a brave cat there. Milly's eyes just widen for a second, her ears flatten and then she looks at me to see if I'm OK with it. If I look calm, she's reassured. It's amazing the trust they place in us.

diane-b that sounds agonising! LC has just helped me find the 'old' version of blogger and switch off the comments verification requirement thingy, so life here in this corner of cyberspace should now be slightly easier.

Ann O'Dyne, I think the same - I'm still shocked at how many 'Write an essay on ABC by Friday...' adverts are included on the freelance websites. Maybe there's something to suffering through a hand-written, closed book exam after all.

River, the box was just your usual cardboard but it must have been neatly cut and at the right angle to slash my palm. Milly's bed mattress is wrapped in garbags and lined pretty securely now but every now and then we have a puddle somewhere unexpected. She's worth every moment of inconvenience though.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Poor you :-(

These things are meant to try us. That's what I always think when such things happen.

Loved the picture at the end.




Jayne said...

If that twit can't write his own thesis and is forced to resort to falsely advertise for an editor to do it for him, then he's no loss.
Hope Milly is better again soon and peeing freely in the Dog Forest!

Kath said...

Thanks Plasman. I'd like to have that on a t-shirt, but it's probably a tad too confronting for Genevan society....

Thanks Jayne - I agree and will be a fair bit more forceful in my remarks if any other Permanent Head Damage doofus wants me to 'write' their thesis! Milly seems to be on the mend; fingers crossed.

4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle said...

Naughty PHD Wally! I love your just keep swimming attitude. What a day! Thinking of you all the way over here in the desert. Kirsty xxx

franzy said...

I cannot BELIEVE the gall of that PhD student!
And wtf is with this freelance observing website software? I’ve never heard of such rot!
Sorry, but I’ve been editing theses for years and I’ve never heard of someone so blatantly cheating and scutinising th eprocess so YOU don't cheat HIM!!
Just find out what uni he's doing it for and dob the fucker in.

Email me - I'm up for a chat.
Google me at my work email. You'll even find my pretty face somewhere there too.

Kath said...

Thanks Kirsty - I just hope that he doesn't get his PhD any time soon...

Franzy, I've dobbed him in, rest assured that the freelance site won't be putting his 'editing' advertisements up any time soon.

Jackie K said...

Hi Kath,
What a day. Thankfully well behind you now by the time I write this.
That guy will not publish his thesis and won't get his doctorate. So there.
I am sure as Pandora said, things are on the verge of turning around. It will only take one good thing, and things will change.
Bon chance!

Red Nomad OZ said...

However much a 12 kg pet requires, I'm betting a 12 kg human requires WAAAAAAAY more! Apologies for not commenting on your Lux posts, but I'm on the Yorke Peninsula (rubbing it in) and my internet access has turned to shit. Maybe something to do with the massive monstrosity that passes for a beach 'shack' that's just gone up next door?? I'm now on the balcony madly typing comments before the sun goes down ... Have a great weekend!!