Sun, smiles and a lot of waving
'What did you do in the summer holidays?' The infamous question that everybody hears at the beginning of every school year. A question that starts every conversation, with old friends and new. But what did I do in the summer? Well, where do you start? I normally begin with mentioning work experience, helping out in a junior school, or how I was teaching young kids to jump up and down on a trampoline without looking like Mr Messy. But the one story that people seem most interested in, or at least the most amused by, was when I worked for Domino's for a week.
But not in the kitchens, I can assure you that neither I nor my atrocious cooking skills went anywhere near your pizza. No, what I was doing was far, far more amusing. Well what was it then? You ask. Well, to put it broadly, I was advertising. You know, one of those people who stands with a placard by the side of the road dancing and spinning. Three hour shifts, twice a day depending on when you were available. Sounds pretty grim, but actually, I strangely enjoyed it.
A week or so after exams I volunteered for the job and started the next week, reporting for duty at the Domino's down Cosham high street at six thirty in the morning. I entered through the staff door at the side (which if I'm being honest felt pretty cool) and entered the small corridor by the side of the kitchens, where the chefs were already hard at work. A group of people were standing in the corridor, all looking around nervously, still with sleep in the corner of their eyes, wandering what the day was going to be like. We all got handed our cardboard placards, a Domino's raincoat and a spiffing blue Domino's hat to put on. We were told who we were being partnered up with that day and where we were going to be driven, and away we went, anxiously packing and re packing our giant placards into the back of the tiny cars so they could fit, and away we went.
When we were dropped off at our locations and the car drove away, we looked around tentatively, realising what we had let ourselves in for and already counting down the seconds until we would be picked up. Luckily, we were aloud to listen to music, so with my earphones and my newly updated iPod I set off to where I was to stand for the next three hours, avoiding eye contact with any driver or passenger who went by, completely, totally and utterly humiliated. For someone who is often too shy to even put their hand up in class, it was beginning to dawn on me what I'd signed up for, just how long three hours really is, and just how much I was in denial about that blue hat looking anything but hideous, not to mention the giant sign I was in, that's right, not holding, in. There was Velcro and everything.
Across the road I could see the person I had been paired with, headphones on, music up and dancing his heart out. Realising I was letting down the drivers on my side of the road, well to put it shortly, I went for it. I turned up the ABBA, and I danced. People drove past on their morning commutes, many doing double takes when they saw a dancing pizza box. Most smiled, many waved, and some wolf whistled, which is slightly more concerning because who finds a bright blue pizza box attractive? But there you go.
As I grew into my new role as a pizza box, my confidence grew, I began to wave back, then even to initiate the waving. Young children would press their faces up against windows trying to get a glimpse whilst waving as if their life depended on it. At moments like that, when you waved back and you would see a gleaming smile on a tiny face as the car drove away, I felt happy. That even though my feet were sore and my crazy dance moves were burning off my breakfast quicker than you could pickle a cucumber and the sun was beginning to warm your bottle of water, you had made someone smile. You had made their trip that day more interesting than yesterday, and certainly gave them something amusing to tell their friends or go home and tell their families that night.
During the week, I also got to meet lots of amazing people, who I would have otherwise have never known. The Bulgarian delivery man who had studied law in his home country and was obsessed with Helen of Troy, the girl who managed to dance the Macarena to whatever song was blaring in her ears, or the women who brought me out a cup of tea after talking to me and realising I would be there for three hours, and, probably my favourite, the man driving the bomb disposal van who honked, smiled and waved, completely in contrast to the bold printed words on the side of his van. Of course there were the not so nice people, the most amusing being a man who lent out the side of his van to yell 'Get a proper job!' And managed somehow to drive past again later the same day to yell once again that I should look someplace else for work.
I suppose my point is that although it makes for a funny story and some hilarious memories, I really benefitted from the experience, gaining more confidence as well as brushing up on my ABBA lyrics (because I was of course singing at the top my lungs by the end of the week also). Although it wasn't the conventional answer to the question what did you do in the summer? It certainly makes for a more interesting one, and one that I'm definitely glad I did.