Tuesday, 21 October 2008
The Hilarious Adventures of an Italian Working in Germany -- Part I
Oi oi oi! How's it going fellas?
(ahem. Let's get serious. The guy above us is already frowning).
I've posted a couple of things about my past: my origins-story for how I became a man who never speaks the truth except, well, when it is completely and utterly inconsequential (aka: academia). My legions of fans on this blog will therefore be wandering what I am doing now. So I thought I'd devote a blog post to this: my current occupation.
I am presently working in Germany. I've got a few applications going for several interesting jobs, but while I wait for those to give fruit, I decided to sustain myself for a couple of months as videogame translator rather than suffering the shame of sitting on my ass in my parents' house. So when one of my many more modest applications gave fruit and got me a place for Nintendo in Germany, I took the offer at once. Apparently the translation project had already started by the time I applied, so I booked a flight for two days after I got the offer, and flew down.
I had been told that I'd get some help for accommodation and everything, so I needed to take a bus from the airport to Frankfurt, and there meet up with the guy who was supposed to show me around and who will be my future boss: Frank.
So I get off the bus at Frankfurt, half expecting a meek-looking, formally dressed old man to greet me with a smile. What I find is rather unlike my expectations: one of the ugliest men to have ever walked the earth is walking towards me from the other side of the walkway. "Who is this troglodyte?", I think to myself as he approaches. And he truly is unfuckable: aside from his mass and gait, which would be notable in the waiting room for a liposuction clinic, and aside from his horrendous pony-tail hairstyle which is all but highlighted by his iconoclastic bandanna, he also happens to have a face which suggests he has been beaten up the day before and could not be bothered to get medical attention. Grisly black patches stretch from his eyes to his temples, and his skin flabbers in the wind like a dead umbrella. I thought this was just a bad day or something - maybe the guy had been out the night before and was hungover like a beast, though by the looks of him he must have been drinking with a Grizzly bear or something - but as I discovered later, his appearance turned out to be chronic. All things considered, if it hadn't been for the lack of scales I could well have mistook him for a Stegosaurus.
So he took me to a bare-bones, mostly unfurnished apartment and I settled there for the night, looking forward to starting work the next day.
I was really rather enthusiastic about beginning the job, given how little work-experience I actually had. Nonetheless, and as the days went on, the local contingencies seemed to be doing every damn thing they could to suck away this sentiment from me. I'm not saying they succeeded - I still walked into the office most days with such a smile you'd think I was sitting down for a picnic (though that's partly just my natural charm) - but they did dampen a few of the most positive sentiments overall. For one thing, I'd been convinced I was going to work in Frankfurt, but it turned out the offices themselves were in Großostheim - a shithole of a town where the closing-time of the bars was so early you'd have thought the entire population consisted of garden-dwarves. I remember walking one of its roads one night at eight and wishing to God I'd see at least some rats on the street to keep me company. (As long as I was entertaining negative desires I could always have prayed for someone to mug me, of course, but that would have been wishful thinking. The most that could have happened to me in Großostheim would have been getting attacked by the lampposts).
Then there was the working site itself. Considering this was a German company managed by Japanese people, one was led to expect a staggering level of organisation, with employees doing one-handed push-ups inbetween office-work and the bosses coordinating the endeavour like a family of Jean-Luc Picards. Instead, the place looked like a war-camp. There was a single massive office where more than a dozen translators were packed around the cables of their own computers and the window gave direct view onto a mountain of garbage. This is not an exaggeration: Fußner, the company for whom I worked, only provided Nintendo with translations as a peripheral activity. Its main business was a thermoelectric station which - only too conveniently - happened to be located on the immediate outside of our office and which produced massive amounts of waste, all of which was deposited at approximately 500 metres outside of our window. The pong when we walked in was enough to double-up and start vomiting. We could always keep the windows closed, of course, in which case the glasses acted as greenhouses and the temperature on sunny days became magmatic. It got so hot on those occasions that even the flies started evacuating the place in great hurry.
The flies were, for the record, constant companions of ours during work. There were always four or five of them roaming around our airs, even when we kept our windows closed. The times that someone fainted and we had to surrender to the heat and open the windows, we'd get a fucking festival. Swarms over swarms of flies would bang their heads against each other in an effort to get into the office first. If on a very reduced scale, I was convinced I was witnessing Woodstock. All of this lasted for a while until, on the second week that I was there, Frank came in there beaming and claimed that he had 'the solution.' Placidly he produced two small green cylinders and stuck them to the ceiling. He then proceeded to unroll what were basically two gigantic boogers from them and he left them hanging over our tables.
It was fly-paper. I'd never seen it in person, but that stuff is simply disgusting. It consists of a brown string rolled up on itself and covered in muck (only an animal that eats shit could be attracted to that thing). It became no more salubrious with the passing of days as flies started getting stuck to it. For two days there were at least five flies wriggling right before me as I tried concentrating on the translation process. For the previous few days I'd been killing the flies myself by swatting them and throwing them off the right side of the table. The floor had become a common grave for flies of course but I still think it was better than this.
As days went by, I began getting accostumed to work. The hours were long, but after the mental rollercoasters some of my academic essays had forced me to take, I'd be hard-pressed to call it anything but incredibly relaxing. It was so pleasant that even my writing temporarily exploded, and I found myself throwing down sonnets and short stories almost every day when I came home.
There is so much more to be said about my insights into the world of work, but it’s going to have to wait until next time. I need another chapter!