Arriving in the cold air. The door to the depot is scratched and faded, the combination key pad is icy to the touch. I turn off my music, push the headphones in the pocket of my garish, hi-viz storm jacket and traipse up the stairs. The air in the corridor is also cold. Ahead of me is a "Women only" staff room, to my left is an old uniform store, now fallen to neglect with only a few old, battered cycle helmets and some boots littering the floor. Lights flicker in the sub corridor that room is on, a strobing effect. With the exception of the staircase I'm on (which has nice, shiny new surfaces) the corridor, banisters and handrails are ancient, faded and grim. As old as the building itself, which goes back decades.
I make it into the main area. One saving grace is that I am on a later start time. The majority of people are gone when I arrive. The best analogy is that it's like that bit in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly when Blondie and Tuco chance upon a town, bombed to buggery in the American Civil War. It's peaceful but there are signs of the chaos that's gone on for the past 4 hours since business started. Bits of paper are scattered, along with rubber bands and trolleys pushed together in one big corner.
I find out what I'm doing for the day. One of the supervisors is a cute, female in her early 20s and having her as eye candy is one of the very few perks of this job.
I start to prep what I'm supposed to do. The cleaner is nearby, mopping and sweeping. His face is set in a curmudgeonly grimace. He faces each day with that grimace. It never changes.
The area I work at is cracked and broken, bits are missing. Years old coffee stains act at some kind of camouflage to what the depot may once have been, or intended to be.
The usual arguments with the supervisors about the work load being achievable within my 4.5 hours (5 hour shift, half hour break). We yet again agree that I will take it all and bring it back if I can't finish on time.
The van I'm issued with is filthy. The fuel card is valid for diesel, oil and a car wash but supervisors go bug eyed if you mention bunging it through a car wash. That 10 minutes could have been spent out working, even though the van may have anything from grime to mud to birdshit all over it. The side door is jammed, the lever that makes the seat move back and forth is broken. Footwells are littered with grit, rubber bands, muddy water and unnameable monsters. Behind the seats are a mixture of coffee cups, sandwich boxes, old food and soda bottles. A few hi-viz waistcoats are stuffed behind the head rests.
I drive out, there's no water in the screen wash tank. Bird crap in on the windscreen, beyond the reach of the wipers.
I set out on my shift. Five hours of boredom, pain and monotony. In winter I will eat about 4 candies per shift to keep my blood sugar up. I wolf down fruit and meat sandwiches. I gulp down hot tea or coffee. When I started this job I would sometimes come home and crawl up the stairs, shrug off my storm coat and fall asleep on the bed fully clothed. It took over a year before I came home in anything approaching an energetic state of wakefulness.
Nearly 3 years ago I got dumped by my ex girlfriend on Skype. A woman I had wanted to marry, have children with and spend the rest of my life with. I took this job for 3 months, to save up enough to be with her. I had already borrowed £1000 from a friend to pay for my beloved's plane ticket. 5 days after her flight landed, she told me she "didn't know" if she loved me any more. A short while later she argued that she shouldn't have to pay me any of the money back and, as I was still in love with her, I agreed.
I never heard from her again.
Doing this job in an English Autumn, Winter and Spring can really distract your self pity from the reality of a broken heart and take it in an entirely new direction of wallowing grief.
Nearly 3 years.