Here in Gladstone like many other burgeoning towns and cities around the country, we have a bit of a labour shortage. Good paying jobs are going begging, and HR groups are being sent far and wide to source potential applicants for the many positions available. Unfortunately for them, while they’re away, other HR groups from rival companies are enticing their workers to jump the fence. The mines are screaming for people, and are prepared to pay some serious dollars. I know a few people lately who have made the move. Not me though.
When we returned to Gladstone in the mid 90’s, after being away in the Big Smoke for 7 or so years, things weren’t booming here. There was work around, but locals were being preferenced over ‘blow ins’. As we drove back into town for the first time, we were pulled over on the side of the road and someone stamped the word “Outsider” in big red letters on my forehead, and as a result, I was getting turned away from all available jobs here, even the worst, heavy, hot, low paying, arse busting jobs were off limits to me.
So after three weeks of ekeing out an existence on our meagre savings, I spent our last $20 on fuel, kissed my wife and girls, and set out to find a job, or leave town. I visited 12 companies, walked through their doors and almost begged every one of them for a job. 12 groups of secretaries, and Human Resources people looked at the big letters on my forehead, then my resume’ with all my Brisbane references, and sniffed, “Sorry, you’re not a local.”
So, by the time I got to the last company, a shed on the edge of town next to the highway, I was not in a happy frame of mind. So when the secretary looked at my, now heavily doctored resume’, highlighting my previous local employment (albeit in the 1980’s) she saw straight through it, “You’re not a local are you?”
I sighed, my shoulders slumped, then I got a little bit upset, “No,” I replied, gritting my teeth to stop from screaming, “no, I’m not. You see, unlike your precious locals, I’m actually employable outside this tin pot town,” my voice starting to shake a little, “I have skills, and talents that make me quite a valuable employee anywhere in the known bloody world, except here apparently!” She pushed her chair away from the counter as I snatched up my resume’, a few staff people leaned out of their office doors to look at me, “And,” I continued, “unlike your inbred, six fingered, drooling moron, banjo picking locals, I can walk upright and breathe at the same time! And now I’m going to shake the dust of this dump from my feet, drive to Mackay and get a job with a ship building firm, and it’s your loss, you stupid, petty, small minded bastards!!”
The poor girl didn’t know where to look, and in my haste to leave I dropped my resume’, papers went everywhere. I dropped to my knees scrambling to pick up the precious documents when I became aware that a shadow had gone over the sun. Looking up I saw a big bloke looking down at me with a fierce expression on his face. This wasn’t going well.
“What do you do?!” he bellowed.
I stood up, paper falling from my hands despite my best efforts to hang onto it, “Any bloody thing you tell me,” I said.
He laughed, and poked me in the middle of the chest with a large, and heavily scarred finger, “Good, you start tomorrow. Now apologise to the lady.” I did, and I then I kissed him. Well, no I didn’t, but I wanted to.
Later that day I returned home and told my wife the good news. She was happy, which meant I was happy. That job got me a start back here in Gladstone, and once they sewed my sixth finger on, and handed me my honorary banjo, I was able to get a job in one of the big companies, and start earning some good money. I’ve been there ever since. We bought our first house here, we have friends in town now, many of them are locals. We have ingrained ourselves into society, at times I needed to use a crowbar…
There were more of us out there, just waiting for a chance to join in, and many had the door firmly closed in their faces. But now the shoe is on the other foot. Now, not only do the businesses, and many towns folk want non-locals, they’re prepared to pay them handsomely to come here. It can’t last, but I for one am glad to see how times have changed.
In any event I will probably keep the sixth finger though, it makes it easier for me to pluck my banjo as I sit on the front porch, watching and waving to all the ‘Outsiders’ pouring in off the highway. It doesn’t hurt to be friendly now, does it?