My job, lost at sea.

Evenings on deck 8

For almost twenty years, I’ve worked in the catering business. Kitchen, service, bakery production lab, wine bar, trendy sandwich shop, organic local food lunch restaurant, hotel restaurant, Iranian British bistro… I’ve done quite a varied selection of activities. I’ve loved it all. My passion for food and for service has kept me busy for all these years and I never grew bored with it. I’ve never been properly trained for anything and always learnt my tasks with a sense of emergency. Loved the rush. Loved cooking. Loved the customers.

Then I moved here. And the restaurants look like nothing I knew. There are a lot of “restaurants ouvriers” – I couldn’t find the perfect term in English. They are eateries, mainly open just for lunch, and the targeted type of clients are workmen such as builders, and local farms working force. The food is usually filling and cheap. The decor is traditional and there always seems to be curtains to hide the inside from the street. No Liberty fabric cushions, no jazzy music atmosphere, no gluten-free option, no world food composition… And I don’t see myself working there. Hence I lost my mojo!

So last year I wondered how I was going to pay for my living – bare in mind I have never been able to do a job I don’t enjoy. So options such as working as a cashier at the local supermarket / at Burger King / in a pig farm was out of question.

I applied during the winter for a seasonal job at the ferry company which connects Brittany to England, Ireland and Spain. After a long recruiting day (undergoing psychological tests and interviews in two different languages), I was invited for phase 2 (a three-day security training to master the rescue plan used on board and emergency procedures).

In May last year, I became a stewardess. A sailor!

I did one season with them which ended at the end of September. It left me with quite a lot questions about my professional future. Would I stay there, knowing there will not be a long term contract before a while, meaning no guarantee, no work during the winter…?  Meaning there won’t be cooking anymore.

But… I have never earned that much money! We are far from the waitress minimum wage I was used to! And I get to speak English daily – my heart tongue language! And I get to enjoy some of the stopovers for an hour or two…

Having not found the answers to my questions, I decided to re-enlist for a second season. Last Friday I embarked for my first seven-day sail of the year. My first reaction was : will I ever stop feeling lost?

  • Lost in vocabulary :

Les sabords, la potasse, les coursives, la bannette, le bosco, la calette… so many words that meant nothing to me when I started this job. Some sentences seemed in a foreign language and I would only get the gist of it – if lucky!

  • Lost in the ship :

How do I go from deck 2 to deck 9 via door D when I have to stop on deck 3 which hasn’t got a door D? On the first day when getting on board a new ship, I would stay away from the passengers as much as possible in the stairways and aisles, too scared I’d be asked questions! I was happy enough to be able to get from my cabin to my job, via the carré (the crew area) unassisted! The transit to the information desk / account office / the bridge / any of the garages required so much concentration! It gets easier every day and each question help me to improve my knowledge of the ship geography. I still end up regularly at stairs A when I perfectly know my cabin is on stairs E!

  • Lost with my personality :

Rule 1 : if too strong, sweeten your personality! Living and working with the same people for 7 days in a closed environment is a tricky business. A part from the time spent alone in your cabin (IF you have an individual cabin!!) you either work / eat / watch tv / use the internet with your colleagues. I quickly realized my sarcastic sense of humour had to be toned down if I didn’t want to be rejected by la meute (the pack). Just like with wolves, the older ones or the dominants lead and you ( you, young 45 year old padawan!) should be careful before you speak. Especially if surrounded by females!

  • Lost with my diet :

Are you a big fan of homemade granolas, buddha bowls, healthy vegetarian slow cooked food? Good luck! Welcome to a land where meat + potatoes/pasta/pizza can be served twice a day! Guaranteed 100% non organic of course…

  • Lost in the world :

The date, the route… it takes me a few seconds every morning to remember which day it is and where we are sailing to… But what about the connection with the world around the ship? Whether you’re watching the news on tv or not, you may as well live in a space station! Yes the world still exists outside (the strikes, the conflicts between nations, the politics, the celebrities, the royal weddings…) but being at sea feels like living in a parallel universe. You are a citizen of the sea : half French, half sailor.

Where am I am again?

EnregistrerEnregistrer

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24 Comments

  1. Oh boy, This does not sound like the ideal situation for you! I do believe in times like this, you have to know it is a temporary situation to get through it! Think of the funny stories you will have to share with us!! Life is one big adventure, including the not so fun times. Right?? I too am sarcastic so I can related to your pain there!! Hang in there my friend.

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  2. Oh, I read the comment above and thought, do you not like it? From your text, I thought you were enjoying it, though lost! (Lost at sea like you described sounds perfect to me. I don’t want to know who is fighting whom or all the other depressing stuff in the news!) Of course the other crew members not being nice is one thing. I guess I’m used to that. I’ve had 17 jobs so I’m always the new girl and women can be so mean. I just do my own thing and don’t mind them. Sometimes I find a kindred spirit to have work lunches with. Sometimes I embrace the alone-time. Airline crew dynamics were often a bit like you described. And the jobs seasonal, always temporary, which is why I ended up doing other work finally.
    You went back though, after last summer, so I guess the sea was calling you? 😊💕

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    1. I have mixed feelings I admit. There are things I really like. But I’m out of my comfort zone for sure. Some people that’s where the fun is – I don’t! I guess I went back to see if I could make it fit in my comfort zone! Also the people I feel good with are generally the rookies (like me!) which means I hang about with girls in their twenties!! This can lead to quirky communication… Women my age belong to the dominant wolf pack gang most of the time. Out of my league!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ll go read it it right now!
        I am a shy extrovert! As far as customers are concerned, I love providing a friendly chatty extraordinaire service!!! But with colleagues, I don’t mind being on my own – I just don’t feel comfortable being excluded (self-confidence is not my forte!).

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      2. I am exactly the same actually! I looooooove chatting with customers, but making friends with colleagues is much more difficult!
        The only bit about being alone in a work environment that bothers me is me thinking, “are they all noticing I’m hanging out here by myself, are they talking about me…?” But as the years go by, I mind less and less. Which is a shame because it also makes me drift away further from the group(s)…. hmm.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh no, I’m still on maternity leave for another 6 months! (Yay for long Nordic maternity leaves! I always complain about Finland but finally I’m getting something back for all my tax money, yippee)… Right now I have a job in marketing which they promised me would be all about writing (which I love) and internet marketing (which I’m interested in), BUT… it turned out that most of the time I’m expected to do customer service. Been there, done that, now I wanted to do something different for a change, so I’m disappointed and feel betrayed actually! It’s a long story. Anyway, there are some perks, too, so I’m trying to hang in there. The babes need a mum with a steady job! And I have a nice kindred soul to have lunch with every day 🙂 (I have a master’s degree in marketing but because of my passion for travel, I never ended up pursuing that until now, and now I guess it’s too late…)

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      2. So sorry to hear that. Professional promises… very long subject indeed unfortunately. I would trust someone offering to pay you for writing. You are so good at it. I’m glad you have a kindred soul to have lunch with, but I guess it doesn’t make up for tasks you were not expecting to do 😦 Hang in there. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE! Hubby loves a saying that goes like that: “il y a un temps pour pêcher et un temps pour faire sachet les filets”… Maybe your fishing nets are styling drying… but soon you’ll go fishing again. Maybe now is just the right time…

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  3. Oh man (I mean “woman”), for a job you have! The first thing that really got my emotion was being surrounded by people. I realized even more how Nordic (and private space-seeking) I’ve become :)) the second is: food! Oh my oh my! I love home-made and vegetables meals, so eating meatballs with pasta for a week would make me a bitch (I know myself that well, yes). Hence maybe the mood of the crew :))) maybe, they all miss their granola and home-made breakfasts? (just a guess).
    Thank you for sharing an insight into your work! It is not often one reads the honest reviews of the working days. Good luck with the job, whatever you choose next!

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    1. Thank you Marina 😉 As Snow was saying that will give me plenty of stories to tell! The food is definitely an issue for me because it is one of my biggest pleasure and not enjoying my meals piss me off a little. But I manage and try to select items on the menu to keep a healthy balance as much as I can. As long as colleagues are concerned, I guess my age helps in some way. By now I know I am not a careerist! I have no ambition what so ever – apart from doing my job properly! So I am not a threat to anyone. But my temper might lead me to speak my mind freely sometimes. That might be a problem I have to work on!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, surely, there will be many stories, and that makes the life worth living and trying it all 🙂
        Doing your job well is one of the best ambitions I know. And a free speaking mind, well, it has its ups and downs too. In such a close environment it can come off as a minus, but we all need people who can speak their minds freely, we cannot be sheep all the time, no? so this problem of yours has surely some good sides too 😉

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  4. A fascinating story! I hope it gets easier for you – work can be rewarding, yet also so very difficult, finding the right fit, and nothing is ever quite right. 😉 Thanks for the follow, I appreciate it!

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