My First Job – by Rose-Marie Hillier

The smell of rubber is pervasive — it catches in your nose and leaves its trace on your clothes. I walk to the bathroom at the back of the warehouse and pass rows and rows of rubber gaskets rolled up like garden hoses and pallets of rubber galoshes and shoes. The odour of rubber is a weird smell to have to cope with from 9 to 5 each week day. If I had a choice I would not be working here in the office of a rubber products’ distribution company. It’s a gloomy place and what’s more it’s a long walk to David Jones and an even longer walk to the train station at Central.

It’s 1966 and there is a bit of a depression in Sydney and jobs for school and college-leavers are scarce. My uncle gets me a job as a junior stenographer with his firm. I sit all day typing up letters from shorthand and sometimes fill in for the invoice typist when she is sick. I also fill in for the switchboard operator who perches in front of a vertical panel that allows callers to be connected by cable to the person they wished to speak with. My boss is old, or so I think, and a kindly man. But my shorthand gets worse around him and I cringe when he calls me in to take dictation because I am not very good at it. The highlight of the day happens at 10.15am when a bell sounds for morning tea. I leap out of the office to visit the milk bar a few doors down the street to buy my vanilla slice.

Hours turn into days which turn into months, four months to be exact. That’s how long I remain at this company. I leave for another job uptown knowing that I am destined for greater things and also knowing that I never want to subject my senses to the odious smell of rubber ever again…