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The Wagie Diaries [Part One]
The Depths of Wagie Hell
From Monday to Friday, I jolt awake to my ear-bleeding iPhone alarm.
Already exhausted. Already on edge.
I can’t even relax as I lay in bed, mentally preparing myself for the day ahead of me. Every minute looms over me, adding to the stress and tension of my day. I reluctantly roll out of bed.
There is never enough time in the morning. Not enough time to eat breakfast. I'd wake up earlier, but my body desperately needs the rest. I don't think I can cope without the rest.
I set a second alarm to make sure I allow enough time to make it to the train station. I have a strict start time for my shift in the office, and I don't want to be told off by my managers.
If I’m late, I won’t be yelled at. I’ll be humiliated by being pulled aside to a meeting room. I know exactly what I’ve done wrong, yet I’ll have to endure the punishment of being told off multiple times until any semblance of my dignity is crushed.
Back to reality. Scalding hot shower. Scrub my body with soap that leaves my skin coarse. Change into business casual. I hate my wardrobe. My pants are too tight and I keep cycling through the same shirts.
Somebody's going to notice someday. Who cares? I don't like or relate a single person I work with. I genuinely despise a few of them.
After I struggle to find parking at the station, the gut-wrenching stench of my minority-packed neighbourhood overpowers my nostrils. As I hold my breath, it brings me to a whirling storm of hatred.
You vermin have no respect for your surroundings. I've seen you take off your sandals and place your filthy, brown feet on the train seats. I've been forced to endure your pungent curry stench and breathe the same air as you in the carriage. You are sub-human scum that don't deserve to live. I cannot wait for the day I never board a train again.
I loosen my shoulders. The carraige is full today, I should be grateful that I even got a seat. I close my eyes and try to squeeze in a quick nap, but the fluorescent lights above me are too overbearing.
I scurry to work to make it in on time. I call out a quick good morning as I rush to my desk and load my shitty, underdeveloped laptop that takes a good five minutes to boot all my programs.
The headset goes over my ears as I push 'Available'. For the next eight-and-a-half hours, I'll be leashed to my laptop through a cable. And I'll be on alert, ready to answer phone calls.
That's exactly what I spent years studying at university and putting myself in tens of thousands of dollars of student debt for.
There is no time to react. A quick 'beep' and I'll be on the phone call with a customer, which is recorded for ‘quality and coaching purposes’. In other words, so my manager can scrutinise my performance to get a few hundred dollars more for a bonus.
I will get two short breaks throughout the day, which I also set alarms for. My whole life revolves around alarm clocks and timers at this point. I'll go on my lunch break and buy an overpriced meal that chews into my minimum-wage salary.
I can't starve, but a filling meal costs me about an hour's work. I limit eating out to once a week and try to pack lunches the other day. I'll also make an instant coffee in the office kitchen which tastes awful, but I need the caffeine hit and it suppresses my appetite. I've started pricing everything in how many work hours it takes.
The phone calls were particularly mundane today. It's been back-to-back boomers, with most of them wanting me to reset their online accounts. Repeating their passwords back to them over the phone, character by character, is beyond mind-numbing.
Don't you know how to open an email and click a link? Do you really have to "speak to someone"? Does that someone have to be me? Anyone, and I mean literally anyone, could do this mind-numbing job. Why did I have to get a three-year degree and interview multiple times to land this job?
The whole time, my manager is sitting within a few metres of me. Silently observing everything I'm saying and lurking over my shoulder, seeing what's on my screen. I turn down the brightness as I play a game of sudoku between calls, the only thing keeping me sane.
My manager is a pathetic, scrawny manlet. I would rather die than live out my life and turn out as mediocre, as mid-witted as he is.
I fantasise about following him home and slashing his tires. Or putting on a balaclava and beating him senseless with my bare fists. He would show up to work the next day, with a swollen eye, a torn lip, and the taste of blood in his mouth. And I would have to restrain myself from laughing.
Revenge fantasies aside, whether I check the time or not, time has basically come to a standstill. If you want to prolong your life, work a customer service job. Every five minutes feels like an hour, and you become so satisfied seeing the digital time in the corner of your screen tick over.
I keep small talk with my colleagues to a minimum. They’re all normies, no exceptions. I find their conversation insufferable. It always involves talking about plans for dinner and drinks. Netflix shows. Sportsball.
After what feels like an eternity, I finally clock off. Thankfully, nobody called at the last minute. I'm technically meant to answer it, but I've just given up and started hanging up on people. If it was really that important, you could have called earlier.
I step outside of the office and it's dark. Fitting that I've lost my whole day to this job, and it's still not over. I'll have to endure another cramped train ride home and lose another hour and a half of my life.
When I finally get home, my shoulders are tense.
"How was work?" my Mum calls out to me.
"I hate my job and I want to quit." I say with full seriousness. The polite thing to say in this situation is the ironic "living the dream" phrase. But I was burned out from being polite to rude and arrogant strangers on the phones today.
"Everybody hates their job. Get used to it, it's called being an adult." My Mum laughs.
I slip into casual clothes and crash out for an hour or so, utterly exhausted after the day I endured. I awake to finally have a few hours to myself, to re-heat some leftovers and spend an hour looking at memes, before I head to bed to do it all again.
This is my life. And it's hell.
There is no end in sight. No light at the end of the tunnel.
The weekend exists only to catch up on everything you couldn’t do during the week. Sunday night is a write-off, where you have to set your alarm and get ready for a marathon of suffering: working five straight days in a row in a soul-crushing job.
The only way to get promoted is to go into work earlier, stay back later, and to do more work. Which I mentally can't bring myself to do. And even if I get promoted, I'll be doing more of the same kind of work. Just earning slightly more.
I get paid monthly. I separate my life into two weeks at a time to make life bearable. When my paycheck hits my bank account in the middle of the month, the dopamine rush I get is beyond fathomable. This is what heroin must feel like.
But just as quickly as the rush kicks in, it all comes crashing down. It’s going to be 30 days before I get paid again. Which I don’t even know if I can survive.
So I motivate myself by saying I’ll get an extra month of ‘work experience’ if I can make it to the end of the month. And now, I’m more qualified to get a better job.
I go through this same logic, month after month, for thirteen months straight. With a promotion ahead of me like a carrot on a stick, always within sight but never within reach.
I need an escape. I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this without going completely insane.
And then, all of a sudden, I can begin to see the light.
Against all odds, the tides have begun to turn.
The nightmare is coming to an end. And I can see my way out of wagie hell.
To be continued.
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