To whom it may concern,
I badly needed a summer job. The difficulty with this is that my parents live in Melbourne, my home for 3 of the warmer months, I landed on November 27th and pretty much every employer had filled their Christmas roster before I even had the chance to lie about my experience in making coffee.
On a scorching Saturday afternoon, my parents decided to experiment with some Indian food. Nothing screams “wild summer” like curry. Our waiter spoke only slightly above a whisper and when my dad asked him what the mystery curry on his plate was, he responded with “Just try it, Sir”.
When the manager, Rohit, came by to check on us my kind father asked if they had any job vacancies for me. Rohit took one look at me and said he could definitely use me as a waitress. I was jazzed. Rohit handed me a menu and told me to learn it and return the next day for training. “Two hours of your training is unpaid, the rest we pay on a fortnightly basis”, he said.
No contract, not even a handshake to prove I was an employee of this fine establishment but I didn’t care. when Rohit said they pay $13 per hour, a whole lot less than the minimum wage of $22 which casuals usually earn in Melbourne, I was less jazzed. On the other hand, I had no other options so who was I to complain – I was officially an underpaid, exploited brown girl. Fantastic.
My mother spent the afternoon testing me on the menu which not only served Indian food but had a Chinese section also: Gobi 65, Paneer 65 – your usual Asian suspects (wot the hell). Nothing makes you feel like you’re fulfilling all your Pinterest dreams like when you’re mates are graduating from Medical school and getting sworn into the Bar and you’re learning the Indo-Chinese menu for a place that won’t even pay you minimum wage.
I arrived at the restaurant the next day and was introduced to Charlie. Charlie is from India and has been in Australia for 6 months, has a tattoo that reads “Mum & Dad” on his forearm and is studying IT. His experience working at Taco Bell, an Italian place which “taught him the basics” and as I soon discovered, being a male, made him my superior.
“We’ve had some dumb females here in the past. We don’t want any more donkeys,” said Charlie.
Charlie had been there a week. While Charlie ranted at me for 20 minutes about the importance of loyalty to an establishment, each of the chefs took it, in turns, to step out of the kitchen and hold eye contact with me for a little too long. Uncomfortable does not begin to describe what I was feeling. Finally, one chef wasn’t a weirdo and actually introduced himself to me and let me know I was welcome to any food I wanted. This offer alone almost made it worth it – the food was out of this world. Each time I entered and exited the kitchen there’d be a low wolf whistle and I just want you to know that wearing an all black, baggy outfit, in a kitchen as hot as satan’s balls was not my hottest look. Also, they’d run out of caps and there may or may not have been a hairnet involved.
I finished the 4-hour shift with my sanity intact but my feminism a little bruised. Aside from Charlie’s sexism and the chefs’ sexual harassment it had been an easy shift with pleasant customers. And then I received this from Rohit.
FYI: Although his compliments of my display picture were somewhat appreciated, Rohit never did pay me for the 2 additional hours I worked and thus ended my brief career as a waitress.
I, however, am not the unlucky one in this story. It’s Charlie – I have the option of refusing to be paid below minimum wage and to say no thank you to the harassment. My parents give me a home and food while the hunt for work continues. But Charlie and people in his situation have to put up with earning $13 and in his case, all of us dumb, nasty females.
Feature image via Wikipedia Commons