Why I miss working for minimum wage

Getting by on minimum wage

I was 16 years old when I got my first job washing pots at a local eatery in my Lancastrian home town. I spent most hours unclogging sinks with my hands, washing soiled plates with my fingers and thumbs and being mistakenly called George by my seniors. I was too shy to correct my new moniker but it didn't matter anyway, you see I was better than this.

Fast forward seven years and I'm in exactly the same situation again, except now you can substitute the kitchen for a till and I have to pay my own rent, bills, and food. It's a struggle to mix an active social life with these responsibilities.

There's also the added embarrassment that I'd attended university, gathered my degree and now had to sit back and watch my friends earn their keep in their dream working scenarios.

Every time we would meet, awkward stares and glances came my way when the subject of employment was raised, and I often found myself quickly sending my gaze over to a lonely corner of the room, hoping that they would either forget about me or negate my response entirely. It was horrible.

But why was I made to feel like this? Why did it matter how I paid my bills? Just like them, I would carefully plan out my monthly spending, but I would be thankful for just £30 a week to survive on. And I was always wary of any debt that I took on, fearing the slippery slope to the abyss of bankruptcy if it wasn't paid.

But now with hindsight, having found a job that not only satisfies me but stimulates, I speak of this period in my life as a time of bliss.

It was a rite of passage that helped to create a realistic imprint of life's foibles and triumphs. When I'm frustrated in my work, I transport myself back to the till where I sat and scanned baked beans, tomato puree, muffins, cling film, eggs, shower gel, cigarettes ...

I also look back on these days with a tinge of fondness and pride. I constantly reminisce about the store and the countless times I attended work hungover, the moment I asked a customer if they would like a "poo" rather than a bag and the many different ways I would covertly fall asleep for an afternoon rest.

The money wasn't great, but the camaraderie among the staff was genuine and void of the pretentious blow hards that come hand in hand with other areas. You could walk through the door after your shift and know that you didn't have to give another single second's thought to the job until you returned.

Some people move away this scenario and look for more from their careers. Others embrace it and decide that living for the weekend is life's passage for them. It's not up to us to decide who is right or wrong.