Mum and Mike were going strong, and decided to take things to the next level: moving in together. Would this be a repeat of the Nathan thing a couple of years earlier? Did Mike have a poxy little unit we’d be crammed into until one or all of us went insane? No, it turns out Mike had quite a sizeable three bedroom townhouse in the suburb of Nundah.
Nundah isn’t exactly an inner suburb of Brisbane, but it was way closer than Taigum. Mike had been happily living in his surprisingly large home with two boarders. Between their respective amounts of board, Mike’s own rent payment amounted to about twelve dollars every week. I won’t see he was fleecing the boarders. I will simply imply it by not elaborating any further.
When we moved into Mike’s house I was, sadly, still unemployed. (Just to clarify: the boarders moved out, so it’s not like we all piled into the house together. Normally this would go without saying, but considering we once ended up living with a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman, I felt it was important I be as specific as possible). It had been two months since Games R Us had closed its doors. I had now been unemployed for long enough to make me really question my usefulness, both as a member of the household in which I resided, and also as a human being. The money provided by Centrelink’s Youth Allowance barely covered my weekly tuition at The Actors Conservatory, and mum and I had more than one giant row (like, seven or eight) about the practicality of me sending myself into bankruptcy so I could continue learning how to embody the characteristics of a stick (an actual thing that took up several weeks of tuition). But I was resolute. The Actors Conservatory was, to date, the greatest thing that had ever happened to me, and I was not about to give it up. I would do anything it took to keep my place in the school.
But I did accept that I could not continue the way I was going. I needed a job. Any job. Even the worst job I could think of. Even the worst job anyone could think of.
Which is exactly what I found: I became a telemarketer.
Not just any telemarketer, mind you. I didn’t sell booklets of vouchers or cleaning products or even fancy encyclopaedias. Nothing useful like that. No, I sold glamour photography sittings to women in non-metropolitan areas around Australia.
While we sat in an un-airconditioned office in Woolloongabba making appointments, a truck would tour the country, packed with bolts of tulle and satin, tubs of mascara, and row upon row of permanently unfocused camera lenses. The truck would descend on a town and give every single citizen who’d responded positively to one of our phone calls the exact same glove-wearing, collar-holding, sprayed-for-the-gods-hairdo headshot. Sitting for the photos was an absolute bargain, but as they stumbled out of the mobile studio, blinded by the hot lights and dizzy from the hairspray, they would be coaxed into parting with significantly larger sums of money to buy the actual prints.
For a company that promised such unyielding arseloads of glamour, it was a pretty unglamorous place to work: spartan, grey, and overheated. But hey, they offered me thirty hours a week, paid a guaranteed hourly rate, and were nice people. This preposterous company (which, I might add, is still in business to this day) saved me from bankruptcy and allowed me to continue my studies, so I can’t shit on them too heavily. But still: it was telemarketing. It meant that at least forty-seven times a week, I’d have the following conversation:
Person: So, what do you do?
Me: I’m an actor. I’m studying acting.
Person: Oh. Acting, huh? But like, what do you really do?
Me: I work…for a place…that…um…sells…things…over…the…uh…phone…
Person: *punches in face, slashes tyres*
A normal person would eventually learn the easiest way around this would be to just lie, but I was too honest for my own good. I couldn’t just make up a fake job on the spot like some kind of common CRIMINAL. (No, I don’t know why either. Ask my oddly specific moral compass.)
So I found a loophole. Or, specifically, Rebecca came to my rescue again (just like she’d done with the Games R Us job five months earlier), and found a loophole for me.
Rebecca had also been exploring volunteering in her free time, and had recently started working at B105, Brisbane’s Austereo-branded radio station. She helped to man the phones on the “Community Switchboard”, which listeners could call to ask for information about upcoming events, weather forecasts, traffic reports; anything Brisbane related.
The Community Switchboard was like a human-operated, locally-specific Siri. And because the labour was unpaid, positions came up frequently, and I got one.
So while I spent thirty hours a week calling the unsuspecting people of regional Tasmania, asking if they’d like to do themselves over, daytime soap opera-style; I spent four glorious hours on a weekend in the newsroom of “Brisbane’s Hit Music Station”, telling people where the best markets were. And when people asked me what I did? The smarmy hair toss flourish I added to the end of every “ACTUALLY I WORK AT B105” caused neck damage I’m still working out fourteen years later.
The best part is this massaged-truth turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as within two months I was actually employed at the radio station, as a part time receptionist. I was able to quit the telemarketing job, and instead of spending my days making calls and stressing over sales quotas, I had the much more relaxing task of taking calls and abusing the power I had over the PA system.
Because I feel like this moment needs marking: This is the address I had when I turned 21. A huge, momentous occasion marked by yet another incredibly modest party, attended by perhaps fifteen people. There was no hired party yacht, no catered venue, no new car as a present. One of the party guests did give me a copy of the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, and at the time it felt like it was the kind of heavy, pivotal moment I would describe years later when being interviewed by Oprah, but nope. I can’t even remember if I finished reading it. But I do still have the book, and technically I am describing it years later. So bullseye, I guess?