It was my first evening out with the managers after work. I’d been really nervous about going along as I didn’t know if I’d be out of my depth but I wanted to impress and get to know my peers better after only one month that I’d been working with them. I thought it would be in my best interests and so pushed my nervous self on to meet them at the pub around the corner.
I was fresh out of college and working as a trainee manager in Wendy’s burger joint in London. Not the most glamorous start to my ‘would be glittering mega successful’ career but with my self-confidence just hovering over zero I didn’t believe I could go for the BIG jobs so I decided I’d start my career with something easy.
It was all very American. The uniform, the training book with easy to follow diagrams on how to make your special square Wendy burger, how to cut your iceberg lettuce to perfection ensuring maximum usage and everything from cleaning the floor to laying up the salad bar was written up in easy to follow directions in my training managers book. Each task got ticked off as they were covered and I was allowed to move on to the next exciting challenge.
I was still wearing my uniform of navy trousers and white shirt as I crossed the road feeling the butterflies whizz around in my tummy. The overall manager greeted me by name in his American accent and went back to his conversation with the other Big Cheeses sitting around him, I didn’t know what to do with myself and opted for the table with my store manager and a fellow trainee manager who’d been working there for a few months, Sandra.
I went into the bar and ordered half a pint copying Sandra’s choice of drink and came back out and stood around half listening to their chat about nothing. She was joking crudely with our manager who was Asian. They were getting increasingly ruder and I was smiling and laughing along as I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do and figured to go with the flow.
I promised myself I’d get to the end of my drink and politely leave as there was nothing in this for me. They were obviously on a different level to me and I wasn’t interested in joining in. Not that I’m a prude, I can hold myself with the best of them but I was uncomfortable.
The question came like a bullet out of nowhere as my attention had been on people watching whilst I sipped my beer in the late afternoon sun.
‘Do you fuck Paki’s? My manager was asking me with an intense, steady look in his eye.
It was just me and him. Sandra had turned round to talk to the Big Cheeses and I lost my tongue. What the hell was he asking me? Was he being serious? Was it part of a joke that I had missed?
I did one of those stilted disguised laughs that come out too loud and distorted to be real showing my immaturity and naivety. I so hoped he’d pass on to someone else and pick on them as I didn’t know how to reply.
‘Do you?’ he insisted. ‘Do you fuck Paki’s?’
He said it again. It was so obviously crude by choice of the ‘f’ word, he was out to frighten and belittle me putting me on the spot for reasons unknown to me.
‘No, I don’t’, I replied in a croaky voice that didn’t sound like mine the no resounding louder than I had intended.
I didn’t know. I mean, Do I? I had never been in a situation that could possibly lead to sex with anyone other than the guys I met at school or college and they were mainly white or black. The fact that he referred to himself as a Paki, also threw me, I mean it was an expression that I had been taught not to use ever and here he was using the word himself to refer to himself and to embarrass me.
What was he trying to prove? Why was he doing this to me?
Sandra butted back in the conversation and I downed the rest of my drink and said my goodbyes.
As I made my way to Oxford Circus tube station I felt confused. The enormity of the situation was only slowly starting to register. What had I done to deserve that?
This guy (I can’t remember his name) was married with two small children, his wife had come into the store one afternoon. Had I given him the impression I was an easy lay? I don’t think so as he didn’t interest me in the slightest. Was he trying to pull me? Blimey crap technique! Or was he just being vicious, born with a huge chip on his shoulder and taking it out on me?
Millions of questions burning in my mind for hours after the event
Who knows? Fact is I handed in my notice shortly after unable to work with this man any more and the funniest thing is years later on a return visit from Italy, I was sitting on the tube minding my own business and as the train came into a station, I looked up to check where I was and noticed the man opposite staring at me.
Now I can’t be sure but I swear it was him but I held his stare. He looked away first and not one word was spoken. As I stepped off that train I knew I was in so much a better place than he was.