Autumn in Sydney

When the wind changes and brings a new season, it also brings me my memories.

When it goes from hot to cold like this, it reminds me of nights out clubbing at 19, short skirts, stompy boots and knee-length dread falls that I used as a scarf. Daytime cold reminds me of early mornings, walking from Wynyard Station to Chifley Tower in that same year, my too-small work shoes digging into my feet, feeling very awkward and naked in normal people work clothes, rather than my goth uniform.

I would order a coffee from the cafe outside Chifley Tower, and savour its warmth in my hands. Leaning back into the chair and my woollen coat, buttoned up to the neck, I would read Harry Potter and chain smoke until I had to walk in the doors, to the bank of elevators on the left, and acknowledge but not disturb the rest of the passengers making their way into their 9-5 hells.

My footsteps would echo on the marble floor as I made my way behind the reception desk, to the employee room where all our bags, coats and souls were kept.

My first job every morning was to go to the bathroom and fix any windswept hair or travel-ruined makeup before taking a comb and brushing the tassels of the waiting room rug.

I would restock the communal fridge, by removing all the cold items first, to put the hot ones at the back. Then I would deliver the mail to all the offices on our floor. The IOC offices, boutique law firms, Marketing companies, Stock brokers. The type of people who used our company were either:

  • rich and worked for themselves/with a small team; or
  • rich and needed a Chifley Tower presence

They were all very nice, very important people.

Some days I would be charged out to provide catering for their meetings in the long boardroom, featuring floor to ceiling windows that looked onto the Botanical Gardens. Some days, it was my job to clean those windows, and this was actually my favourite job of all. I could look at that view all day.

When I wasn’t setting up teleconferencing, combing rug tassels, stocking fridges or delivering mail, I was setting up offices for new clients. This included their internet, and every item that came standard with the type of office space they were paying for.

I always found it strange that the lowliest office employee was provided with a key that opened every single office on the floor. This was so I could deliver the clients’ mail when they were out of the office. Surely a mail slot could have been put in each door, negating the requirement for anyone besides the client, Manager and cleaning staff to have access to what would most likely be very valuable, confidential information?

It’s not that I was untrustworthy, I just felt very uncomfortable about entering their offices when they weren’t there.

Occasionally, clients would need secretarial support, and we would be charged out in ten minute increments. We would be asked to do their photocopying, again, charged out at ten minute increments, and the client’s printer ID entered into the copier for every bundle of pages you copied.

We’d do their typing or format presentations, spreadsheets, whatever they required, we could provide. This was definitely preferable to refilling the fridge.

Each afternoon, around 3pm, I would do the banking, dropping in cheques for clients, with more zeroes on the end than I’ve ever seen in my life. When I got back, it would be time to start sorting and franking the outgoing mail, before trudging across the road to the post office with giant, tied bundles of mail. Who knew paper could be so damn heavy?

As 5pm arrived, I would slip back into my heavy coat, throw my bag over my shoulder and walk back down the hill to Wynyard Station. I would stand around with the rest of Sydney, waiting for a train, then I would stand on the train until it began to thin out at Strathfield, and I could finally take the weight off my squeezed up feet.

It was a relief to get my next job, where most of my day was spent behind a computer. As it has been for the ten years that have followed since.

I admit it. I really enjoy sitting down.


4 thoughts on “Autumn in Sydney

  1. I wouldn’t want to have access to all those offices either. The first thing the police ask if something comes up missing is who has access. The seasons are changing here now and the pollen is on the attack again.

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