Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Road Less Travelled

I worked in the Royal Bank of Scotland (in the days when it was a respected profession). I had studied languages but drifted into banking. In my youth I had no clear vision of where I was going. I was definitely a drifter.

One day I looked closely at the bank customers with their stressed and tired faces, their stressed and tired children, their stressed and tired lives. And I decided there and then to get out before I turned into the same.

I applied to Thomson Holidays and received the Golden Ticket, sending me to work in Mallorca.

My work colleagues were aghast. How could I leave a safe, steady secure job for life with final salary pension (told you it was a while ago!) to go out to a foreign country on a whim and a six month contract.

“Because it’s a safe, steady secure job for life,” I replied, and went out to buy myself a suitcase.

Ha ha. I wish!

In those days, probably something more like this ...

I never looked back.

Life as a holiday rep was hard work and sometimes lonely, but never dull.

At the age of 22, I grew up quickly. Dealing with the general public from behind a glass screened counter had in no way prepared me for what lay ahead.

I was fortunate. After our training in Magaluf (which I swore never to return to as long as I lived – in the 80’s, Magaluf was Blackpool in the sun), I was sent up north to work in Alcudia and Ca’n Picafort, where the locals respected that I was learning the language. My business Spanish learned at college was a far cry from Mallorquin, but in time, I spoke fluent Spanish (castellano), albeit with a Mallorquin accent. I understood Mallorquin perfectly and could converse in everyday conversation.

As a rep, I experienced the best, and the worst, of humanity. And the worst was bad. The drunks, the rapes, the child abusers, the drug addicts, the verbal abuse, the medical emergencies. But most of all there were the deaths.

How many 22 year olds have sat on a beach holding the hand of a dying man while his wife was upstairs taking an afternoon siesta. Have been called to a hotel bedroom with the doctor to attend the double death of an elderly couple. Have argued with an ambulance driver who was refusing to take a body away, saying it had to stay on the hotel terrace until the judge pronounced the death (which incidentally would be in two days time because judges don’t work weekends).

People think the job of a rep is glamorous and a laugh a minute. That all we do is drink ourselves into oblivion and sleep with anyone who asks us.

I’m not saying there weren’t reps like that, but that’s another story.

The point to this story?

I took the road less travelled. Like Ruth Lorenzo from the X Factor I went to work in a foreign country. That’s when my life began.

And yes, now in later life, I may not be in a safe, secure job for life with a final pension on my ever increasing salary. But by god, I have LIVED and seen more than I would ever have thought possible.

And am a better person for it.

The Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the  other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I-- I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference...

Robert Frost

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