No, it's really nothing like this...
The manager is livid.
'AM I SHOUTING?' she says in a raised, pointed voice.
'ISTHISABUSIVEBEHAVIOUR?' She's directing her comments, not towards me, but to the girl next to me. The girl, from Sri Lanka and probably one of the most precarious workers in the whole place, looks to me and then to the boss. She pauses. 'No ma'am you are not shouting', she says as if this is the most obvious thing in the world.
I'm seething. Trying to pit her against me, intimidating her to intimidate me, deny that this whole abusive power relationship is playing out before our eyes.
Leva the supervisor turns to me and says bluntly, 'You need to change your attitude' and turns away.
'No, YOU need to change your attitude' I snap back.
I stand there with my elbows on the sign-in counter glowering at her back.
She turns around in disbelief. The manager starts shouting again.
Leva softens slightly and cutting through the noise, says, 'Look, I had to do your rooms, I had to follow the girls around all of the day asking who could do extra rooms, and it was hard for us'.
'So there's no rooms for me today?' I say, swallowing nervously.
'No, there's no rooms for you', says Leva in a gentler tone.
'So..... I should just go now?'
'And come back tomorrow?'
'Yes, if you want to...... Do you want to come back?'
Fucking hate this place and I dread coming here.
'I do yes, I want to work'.
'So we'll see you tomorrow'.
I nod, semi-earnestly, and walk back to the locker room. It's in bad shape. The lavs are always missing toilet paper, and the doors don't shut properly. Notices on the walls above the sinks say 'PLEASE RESPECT YOUR COLLEAGUES AND DO NOT WASH YOUR FEET IN THE SINK'.
I still don't have a locker or a pass, so my stuff just sits in a pile. I get changed and put on my rucksack and decide to come back to the office to apologise.
The Manager is sitting primly above paperwork.
'Look, I'm sorry', I say.
'This didn't happen', she snaps without looking at me. 'Forget it'.
I'm seven hours free but seven hours down on my pay. I won't get paid for coming in today – or will I?
I see Wanda outside having a smoke at the staff exit. I've taken up smoking since I started here, to get time with people. Smoking areas are ideal for talking to people because you've got the time it takes to roll or spark a cigarette and smoke it to strike up a conversation. You've got a reason to be there. It's natural to chat. Every other space is either full of people getting dressed or people in the lift, people struggling to eat before they have to be back out on the floor, or just getting out of the hotel fast. Here, at the exit, there are smokey pauses.
I retell Wanda the story and how I lost my cool with the bosses.
“I used to work at the (X) in Euston”, she tells me. “There, they treated me badly. There was a supervisor there who would order me around, and bark at me as if I were a dog. But, as I was raised to stand up for myself but to never shout and to keep dignified, I told her, calmly and clearly: 'Listen, you do not speak to me like that. You do not disrespect me in this way and I will not allow it.' And you know, I complained about her and they did listen to me and I ended up getting transferred here. I won't take any crap of anyone. I know my rights”.
I take a short drag on my rollie and smile straight at her. Have I met a potential activist here?