For the first time in a year, I’ve cleaned the bathroom. This happened as a result of the discussion with the flatmates last week, when views were aired and various agreements were made about how to share the space going forward. Robert and Ethan will be keeping the noise down; I’ll be doing my fair share of housework, to keep up my side of the bargain. The bathroom is the part of the house that I once thought would be the easiest to keep spotless, which is why I originally agreed to look after it when we moved in here. For the past year I’ve avoided it and let it get into a bit of a state, all the while knowing that one day I’d have to face the task of cleaning it because no one else was going to do it for me.
As if I wasn’t daunted by the challenge at all, I found myself in the bathroom at 11 o’clock this morning, scrubbing surfaces, spraying detergent and making it into a much nicer space for all. When I’d finished I had some sense of pride: the bathroom looked cleaner than it had looked in months. After that I decided to treat myself to a long walk across London. It was a beautiful day outside and I had hours to kill. I got the tube to Camden and from there made my way at a moderate pace across to Soho, via Camden Market, the Regents Canal, Regents Park (which looked stunning today), Marylebone, Baker Street, and Oxford Street. It was a walk I used to do a lot, in my unemployed days when I didn’t have money for public transport. Living in Islington, I’d stroll down Camden Road and cross Regents Park to get to AA meetings in town. As I crossed the park in no particular hurry today, I realised that it had been a long time since I last did this walk. In my mind I was taken right back to those days, and although there was poverty and depression, I will always think of it as a spiritual time in my life. Being reminded of that today felt spiritual in itself. Once again the beauty of nature allowed me to be at peace with the universe, and the confines of time melted away so that I was no longer just 28 years old, but 28, 25, 18, and 7 all at once. I came to understand that the reason I love the park, why I have always loved it, is because it reminds me of childhood. It was the highlight of my childhood, the place I’d go in the summer holidays to escape my worries at home. I felt like that again today, even though my present worries are nothing compared to those of that child.
An opportunity presented itself to me at work this week. Kat and Justin are both leaving next month, because, as they both refuse to admit, they can’t stand it any more. The retail promotions team has been understaffed ever since I left it six months ago, meaning that their workload has been constantly unbearable for months. Now that they’re leaving, I see an opportunity for me, because I know what their jobs entail. There’ll be two openings, giving me twice the chance of success. The pay would be far better than what I get now in customer service. Having started in the promotions team last year, I’d be sure to get preferential consideration for one of the roles. Still, I can’t decide whether to go for it or not. Kat and Justin aren’t just administrators like I was; they’re sales people, selling the website to retailers who would offer us fabulous discounts and incentives. Could I do that? I just don’t know. When I left retail promotions I thought I was relieved, because I finally knew my place in the company. Customer service – helping the customers – it seemed to be what I was cut out for. Now, six months down the line, I’m bored of it. But I can’t bring myself to return upstairs to promotions. As well as better pay there would be creativity, prestige, respect in the new role. There would also be a much bigger work load, as well as the need to smile all the time. I’d be selling the company, after all. I don’t know if I could do it. I hated the fakeness when I was in promotions before. More than anything, the bubbly disingenuousness of retailers as they bombarded my e-mail inbox with offers and competitions and banners to go on the website. It always seemed a bit meaningless. I’d be applying for the role mainly for the money, and the elevated status in the company too. I’d be able to travel, talk to potential partners in other parts of the country and abroad (the company is taking baby steps towards international expansion).
I’d miss the camaraderie in customer service though. After all the painful teething problems in my relationship with Jan, I have come to like and respect him as a manager, and in our team we are about as solid as any team in the company. We are soon to be joined by Rolando, who has been waiting for months to hear whether he can become our full time assistant. Now he will be, and our team will be even better. Rolando is one of my favourite people in the company; one of the nicest straight guys I have ever met. I’d miss working with him.
So I can’t make up my mind. Leaving customer service would be a radical move; already I can sort of see it not happening. Opportunities for progression in my part of the company are, needless to say, much less frequent than they are upstairs, so I may have to put up with being an invisible customer service operator for the next few years. I’m getting bored with it because it doesn’t require much brain power any more. Then again, Jan seems to have realised my dilemma, as he has started to produce tasks for me that involve statistical analysis and pattern-spotting, something that no one in customer service has ever done before. Maybe I could force my way down that route, and demand a new job title. Customer service analyst. Maybe it has a slight ring to it. We’ll see.