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From Wonky Hair & Soiled Shoes to Bookstore Dreams and Centrelink Blues

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

From Wonky Hair & Soiled Shoes to Bookstore Dreams and Centrelink Blues

Andrew Ryan

For six months I’ve been saying to myself (and anyone who will listen) that, BOY, am I tired of bar work, oh BOY do I dislike working in a bar. But for most of that time, despite the complaints, the pros of bar tending far outweighed the cons. Fun working environment, interesting people, easy conversation, free drinks after work, cheap drinks on my nights off, free entry to certain gigs, funny stories to tell, even better photo opportunities, bruises, scars, sexy times; and the worst thing to come it all was a fairly constant hang-over, and a lack of vitamin D. Sure, I wasn’t getting any painting done, and yes, I was great at putting off- or completely ignoring- all the real life stuff that adults have to do, but whatever, I had become a princess, I DO WHAT I WANT etc.

Then I had to take a week off work (which was my first full week off drinking in far too long) to help antibiotics heal my broken mouth. Would you believe it, I started to feel like a real human being again. I was inspired by beautiful mornings, started making plans to fix my life, was feeling love from some great friends, not waking up hung over; all the goods things you want when your living/phone/working computer situation is not ideal, you’ve just broken up with someone and you realise you’ve had a drinking problem since, ohhhhhhh, about March. It’s nice to have some perspective.

I planned on beginning to look for a day job, one in which I did not need to be boozy just to have a smile on my face at the end of the shift. Yes, I would find something out of hospitality! It may take a little while, but by golly I would be successful. Just put up with the bar a little longer Tahlia, keep your head down and your mouth shut, be completely subservient so your boss has no reason to take you aside and accuse you of not respecting him again. I was ready to go back to work with a fresh attitude, a big, healthy smile and get on with it…

But before I could even walk in the door again, I lost my job.

I didn’t see it coming, so I was not prepared. No savings, no Centrelink, not even a week’s worth of wages to get me through before I find another job or sign up for the dole. I was either totally screwed over, or I totally screwed myself, but either way, this week is another one of those tough ones.

So I’ve signed up for Centrelink payments, for the millionth time since leaving high school. But, for the first time in my career as a dole bludger, I would actually much rather a job. As a drunken friend of a friend said to me recently, I really need to start doing a few favours for the Tahlia of tomorrow. Corny, totally, but never before have I had a piece of advice that sticks in my head more.

With this nugget of corn bouncing around my thoughts, I’ve decided that a bookshop would be the ideal day job. I’ve always been a big reader, most often with about three books going at once (although this could be down to mild ADD). One of my favourite past-times, something that relaxes me completely, is to read away an afternoon while drinking veritable buckets of green tea. I believe a good science fiction novel is far sexier than any Viking vampire could ever hope to be. And the authors totally know it.

But with no previous book shop experience, and a resume full of bar tending, how would I go about procuring this shining light of an employment solution? The key, I think, is all in the image. Dedicated book nerds care little for the outside world, and in turn, the stylistic trends of the fashion-aware who reside there. Much to my downfall, especially in my future-dream-job-endeavour, it would seem I have lived amongst these externals far too long, indulging in the aforementioned favourite past- time only when I was too hung-over to do anything else. I look like a lazy artist/bar tender that I have been for the duration of this year through and through. No longer, I say!

I recently got myself a post-break-up hair cut on a whim. One side is pixie short, and the other is shoulder length, curly, and very unruly. It is almost the perfect bed hair. But what kind of good sales assistant in a book store cares for that look? Certainly only one that had lots of previous book store experience before getting that haircut. Step 1: find a vaguely conservative way to style this ridiculous haircut of mine, one which does not immediately bring to mind the words “Party Beast”.

As for clothing, I habitually cut the collars off every t-shirt I own, then stretch them, then let them hang nicely over my bag-of-bones frame, perfectly complimenting my tight black jeans with either paint all over them, holes in the knees/seat, or both. My shoes are always falling apart, and are dirty from spilt beer and spirits. To strangers, I probably look like a street urchin, or a burnt out stoner or something to that effect. Step 2: Invest in some skirts, of a subtle, conservative print, if not plain in colour, with a preference to high-waisted cuts. Team with tucked in t-shirts/not too revealing shirts, and some feminine slip-ons, or some clean, plain coloured canvas shoes. Step 3: Top it all off with my glasses (when I find them), and the look will fall right into step with the articulate, focused and nerdy side of myself that has been beaten down by late nights and excessive partying.

Oh, the difference in response I will get. Hot dang, I might just get myself employment at a place that shuts their doors before the sun goes down. And imagine all the painting I can get done at night! All the photo shoots I could arrange! All the video experiments I could do! Wish me luck readers. You know I’m going to need it. Oh, but I promise my frumpier exterior will in no way inhibit my excitable, cynical writing.