When I was the sweep-up boy at Woolworths, I worked with a bunch of smock-wearing overweight women. As a kid from the suburbs, it was my first prolonged experience working with a completely different class of people. They were middle-aged and older, working class ladies working for minimum wage. I was a teenager from the middle-class suburbs.
I use the term ‘ladies’ loosely.
There was one lady, Sheila, I still remember her name, who was both cranky and crazy. She would complain about everything all the time, which was fun, unless I was her target, which I clearly was, though no-one was safe, so I shouldn’t feel special for that.
Sheila was also into conspiracy theories, wacky science and fake news. This was much harder back before the internet. We had the News of the World, the National Enquirer and a slew of fashion and movie star magazines near the front cash registers. In the staff lunchroom there were back issue of tabloids and glossy mags going back months and months. She got her news from them. One time she told me that pets give you cancer and that I should tell my parents to get rid of our cat and dog. Her dog, when it died, she took it to the vet and it was ‘riddled with cancer’.
That was the world she lived it. It intersected with mine, like a little sliver of overlap in a Venn Diagram. I worked at Woolworths for two years.
A few years later, I worked summers at an aluminum processing factory not far from that Woolworths. I worked with the other side of that same coin - the middle-aged and older, working class men, working high-paying factory jobs. They were much like there female counterparts, the same type but a different slice.
Most people think everyone is just like them. They cannot understand why not when they find out differently.