As I approached the end of my time in sixth form, I turned 18 years of age. It was much the same as any other day around that period, in that it was well wasted. Nobody had informed me that the building would be closed that day, and so I attended anyway. One other person had not received this memo – someone I had a crush on. We decided between us that we should break up the disappointment by going into town and hanging out.
Our plan seemed fool proof – what could go wrong about walking into town? Another of my friends was wandering down the main shopping street of my hometown when the girl I was with stopped for a girly chat with her. They got talking about the head joker. Let me make myself clear when I give him this name. He had no credentials as a joker. His jokes were unfunny, his attitude was sour, and he was the most obnoxious person I had ever known. When standing around having a conversation with his joker friends, he would step into their huddle and stand inches away from the person he was talking to. You don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to know he was an attention seeker.
Well the fool proof plan was about to unravel. Not only had my 18th birthday started with me wasting a day off I didn’t know I had. It took a further nose dive when the girl I fancied remarked about how enormous the head joker’s penis was. This did little to stir up envy, as I had no problems in that regard. Instead it made me wonder why fate would bestow the greatest of gifts to a boy with not a single good bone in his body. This was a boy who rejoiced in bullying, taunting, and otherwise berating any person he came across. He was ridiculous to look at, had a vile demeanour, and yet he was one of the most popular boys in my year.
It was the pull of living that made me move straight out of sixth form and straight into full-time work. I started with an italian restaurant chain. It was built on the principles I valued most – family, unity, and healthy home made food. During my interview, the manager informed me that this was all a fallacy. A large american company had bought the photo album of an italian family and fabricated a story about two men named Frankie & Benny.
Although my cynic alarm was ringing I decided to take the job, and started waiting tables in the place I would call work for the next 9 months. I rose through the ranks quickly and easily, earning a net gain of £1 extra per hour for 1 ton of added stress. There is stress in any job though, right? Mine came the night of a waiter leaving without cleaning his section. I became annoyed at this once he had left, and my work mates did nothing to hold their silence. He returned the favour by threatening to break my neck (while slicing an apple in a laughably hollywood way). I laughed at him and walked away, but Benny & co hadn’t finished with me yet. One night, much the same as this, I was handed the telephone by a manager who had a distinct lack of balls. An ex-employee had called to demand the money he felt was owed. It was up to me to explain that we owed him nothing. This favour was returned in much the same vein, by a threat from him to ram-raid the restaurant and ‘cut my throat out’.
The police decided this was not worthy of their effort – at least not until my throat had been removed – yet this was not the first time. Indeed there were other times when the police did nothing to help me. On a night when I had worked in a local chip shop, an employee sprung at the opportunity presented to him by the owner leaving for a walk around the block. His first move was to intimidate me. As I pushed him away from me, he launched an attack that had me lying on the floor being kicked repeatedly in the face. This the police stated was my fault for pushing him. Years earlier while still working at Matalan my bike had been stolen from the iron bar it was chained to, and similarly a second bike from outside of Frankie & Benny’s. This must have been my fault for owning a bike.
My faith in the police was altogether lost when I grew older and one of my two friends from school became a police officer himself. His ambition was greater than his empathy, and he enjoyed nothing more than informing me how superior he was. His views on the people he arrested was less than understanding; he became a racist and a bigot as time progressed; and he ceased any interesting pursuits in exchange for attending the same pub every week for the rest of his life. This was enough to make me question our friendship, yet our friendship was shaken to its foundations at another point in our history. In years to come he would explain that if a man in custody lay dead, and a team were resuscitating him, that he could legally obstruct this. Furthermore he stated that if the team asked for him to move aside he would arrest any team member for obstruction of justice.
Truly my 18th year was a lesson in faith for me. It began with my faith in fate, through the world of work mates, and concluded with the Police force. This lesson had no main lecturer and no break for coffee – yet its core message was the same throughout. Never put faith in anything outside of your own control. Your friends will betray you, your work mates will never care, and the police are as unreliable as the wind. You must live your own life and not dwell on the things which you will never change. Only accept that they are a necessary evil to highlight the good elsewhere in the world.
I have moved on from my hometown’s values; I no longer wait tables in hostility; I bear no grudge with the police force. The anarchy at my core remains unchecked however. Indeed in my 18th year it had been let loose to wreak havoc, and its target was my faith in the world.