I work in a room. That is my workplace — a room. There are white walls (at least the ceiling is high), fluorescent lights, one small window, a heater. If we keep the blinds open, a lot of sunlight can get in through that one small window.
In that room, there are 4 long boardroom-type desks, 11 computers, a small table and chair for eating one’s lunch, 2 cupboards. There is a water cooler that provides both hot and cold water. A small electric jazzve for making “Eastern” coffee (also known as Armenian/Arabic/Turkish/Greek coffee) though no one uses it.
There are 2 types of coffee available. Instant and “Eastern” (which very few drink here and when they do, they don’t make it with the jazzve, they make it like they would make instant coffee). I don’t consider instant coffee, coffee, yet what other choice is there? No café or restaurant nearby offers coffee that’s neither instant nor Eastern. The automatic machine downstairs offers cappucino (which is as good as it gets) except it, too, is made from a mix.
I’m not a fan of Starbucks, but oh how I wish sometimes I could just pop downstairs and get a latté (I’m not even asking for a soy latté or a chai or a matcha green tea latté) or some sort of forthy milky real coffee beverage (preferably made with fair trade, organic coffee beans).
But I digress.
In that room, there’s no kitchen, no microwave, no toaster oven, no electric kettle (the hot water from the water cooler will have to suffice). There isn’t even a separate room in which to enjoy your lunch break in peace (but do you even get a lunch break? Let’s start there).
Most people here begin their workday at 9 am, leave after 6 pm (sometimes 7 or 8 pm). The newer staff, eager and dedicated, but also in charge, don’t even take a lunch break. Most of us eat at our desks. Can you imagine working 9-10 hours a day without a break, barely leaving your seat, glued to your computer, not eating more than a salad or a sandwich all day and then coming in on Saturday to do it all over again? I don’t agree to these conditions. I don’t accept them. And unlike most everyone else, I don’t have to. Being a native English speaker in a country whose main language is not English, I have more options available to me. Being a citizen of a “developed” country, I can set my terms. They know that I’m neither used to nor accepting of such workplace conditions.
I can’t say for sure, but I probably get paid more than they do — and I work less hours. It’s enough to make you sick.
Today is February 23. We have not yet gotten paid this year. We have worked nearly all of January and February is almost over. As a general rule, pay is monthly and often paid for the month worked before. We should have received our January pay cheque earlier this month. But we all know (from experience) not to expect to get paid for January till nearly the end of February. How do they do it? How do we survive?
Under these conditions, we should be happy we have jobs. We work (and supposedly we get an income). There are far too many who are worse off. But again, I ask: how do we do it? One begins to act cautiously, carefully, sometimes in fear of losing their jobs: we don’t even demand our pay cheques anymore. We simply ask, kindly, politely, please, boss, might you be so kind as to let us know when you will be paying us?
I asked him yesterday. He said either today (yesterday) or tomorrow (today). I knew from experience not to expect to get paid on the same day I asked (even if he did say so). I think that if we get paid today, it’ll be a miracle. It’ll mean he was true to his words. Which, as experience has shown, has never been the case.
But we wait. I wait. And when I see him today (he has a habit of not always being around, not coming in every day), I will ask him again. And again, and again. But it gets tiring sometimes.