Saturday, 20 September 2014

A Librarian of Life Stories

Wow, we're actually here again. It's the weekend and I'm writing a post on my new schedule. This is exciting, I've actually managed to maintain a respectable schedule.
So, what's on my mind today? Well, for my Certificate III in Hospitality, I've been learning how to make coffee, how to serve alcohol, how to stay safe and clean in a working environment and how to deal with conflict amongst workmates and/or patrons. But that's not all very interesting at the moment, because I'm not even a proper bartender yet, so I can't tell you some of the fun stuff right this moment.
However, in my classes, I've been having an interesting time with some of the other students in my class. See, in order to work in hospitality, you need to be a hospitable person. You need to be kind and considerate and conversational, so as a result most of the group I am with aren't afraid to have a fun, and they're willing to have an in-depth conversation with you at the drop of a hat.

I think that's a necessary talent with someone in this industry. If you want a coffee, you ask for a coffee, you get a coffee - fair enough. But if it's a slow day, a customer might want to chat a bit. This is meant to be a friendly environment, so do you think they'll happily be coming back to your establishment if they ask something like "What coffee should I get?" and you curtly respond "the menu's there"?
Hell no.

So, I've managed to ingratiate myself with a group of really fun people that like to share their jokes, ideas and experiences. And it brings to mind an idea that I sometimes find floating around my head, which I'd like to share with you today. The notion that, in a way, people are like books.
The Word of the Day is: 'LIBRARY'

Library /'luybrəree/ n. 1. A room or building containing books and other material for reading, study, or reference. 2. Such a place from which the public may borrow books, etc. 3. A collection of books, etc. 4. A collection of films, records, music, etc.

When I walk into a library, I often get a sense of reverence. I mean, think about it, every single one of those books was written by someone; although some of them might have been written after a drunken binge on the weekend, most of them took a lot of effort to compile together, perhaps a few months of a person's life. Someone has gone through an ordeal to bring these words to you.
I can respect the effort that went into those books, and the fact that the writer wants to share it with others and has compiled it for easy access is a sweet gesture.

Now, once or twice, I've worked at my mother's nursing home. Usually it's dull work, just do the job, file the paper, shred the out-of-date forms, clean the floor; that kind of thing. But once or twice, I would talk to the old folks. The residents appreciate it when you talk to them, but more than that, I would appreciate them talking to me, because they've lived whole lives and they've learned a lot, and more often than not they are more than willing to share those lessons, jokes and experiences with you. After a while, I started to treat the nursing home with the same reverence that I would treat a library.
These people have all of their stories, and they went through quite the ordeal to bring the story to you - most of them had to live through it for themselves - and they are willing to share it, it's a kind gesture.
Of course, they're still humans, I didn't start putting them in shelves and browsing through them all, hunting for good stories. Of course not, that's taking the metaphor too literally. I just mean my attitude of respect, I started to see that not only are these all individual people with their personalities, but they also have a wealth of stories which they've lived through.

But, it didn't stop there. See, where my Mum works, there are a lot of migrant workers and nurses. See, nursing is one of those jobs which the government wants staffed, so they give visas to those willing to nurse here. As a result, most of the staff at my Mum's work are from overseas, many of them from places that they - and most people - would really, really want (or need) to emigrate from, often Oriental places with sexism, violence, social inequality or just tyrannical family. When I worked at the nursing home, I spent my lunch hour in the staff room, and as a result I would talk to these girls, and they all have stories. I'm sorry to say, most of them had quite sad stories for the most part, but they had that same, happy ending. "Then I finally came to Australia, and got a good job at a nursing home with a caring boss".
These were real stories of life, some with tragedy some with comedy and many with hope. And it wasn't just the foreign nurses. I don't know why nursing seems to flock these tragic back-stories, but many of the other nurses came from divorces or they had to balance their work life with three kids, or they struggled with the number of residents that died on a monthly basis, working in aged care. Everyone had a story to tell, so rather than just "Oh, another nurse" I started to see the workers at the nursing home with that same librarian's reverence. They hadn't lived as long as the residents, of course, but they still had stories. All of them had stories.

I didn't have a job, after that. Up until now, I've been nothing more than "unemployed" for two years, so I didn't get out much. But now that I'm in this training course, I've been mingling amongst this new group of people and many of them are around my age or younger.
Despite that, because this is a government funded course for people out of work or looking for a qualification they can't otherwise afford, everyone has another one of those stories. Lots of us have stories like mine, they went to uni' and didn't do well enough, so then tried to get work somewhere, anywhere, but were disappointed with what they could find. Some people came here to better themselves, with more education; Some people came here because they didn't think they had the smarts to work in a more technical or paperwork oriented industry.
But no matter what the reason is, there's always this in-depth story behind it. This driving purpose . . . but that's just the simple stuff, the obvious question of "What brings you here?". When you really get to know someone, they have more and more details of these fascinating personalities, these intricate details of what makes them who they are.

When I was younger, I was much more nervous when it came to talking to people. I have introversive tendencies, and so to me, the potential of learning more about a person was outweighed by my own discomfort. But now that I'm older, and I don't worry so much about that kind of thing, I've come to learn that it's not just the oldest and wisest that have stories.

I firmly believe that everyone has a story. Someone like me, although I've never travelled overseas, had a fascinating job or even kissed a girl on the lips, I still have a story. I'm a bit like a storybook.
But there are others, who are really funny or they have a twisted sense of logic, and they're more like a jokebook. There are others more akin to a reference book or a dictionary, some people are like romance novels and some, dare I say, are like unwritten notebooks.
But most people are some form of anthology, a collection of ideas, stories, lessons, sayings and cliches, romances, tragedies, comedies, historical fantasies &, so often, jokes.

Now, when I walk into my classroom, the function room at the GPO, I'm not only walking into a room full of nice people, many of whom I call my friends; but it's like I'm walking into a hall full of history, a reliquary of fiction and fact & a storehouse of story. I respect this place, and its people, like I would a library.
The only difference is, you're a fool if you stay silent . . .

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I'm having a shitload of fun at this course. If you live in Australia and want to try a career in hospitality (bartending, waiting, baristi training, catering, etc) I cannot highly enough recommend KOOPS Training & Employment Solutions, all of the trainers and staff have been warm, caring, fun and really enlightening. Especially our trainer, Ryan, he's a top bloke.
Until next time, I hope you all treat others with the reverence and respect they deserve, and aren't at all afraid to share your story with others; meanwhile, I'll be learning how to mix a cocktail and pour a macchiato, catch you later.