Fish Sausage

Wanting to raise the extra dough for a frivolous travel plan later in the year, I thought I’d investigate (brace yourself) the short-term employment prospects (I told you to brace yourself).

Why not? It would raise the money and could even be fun. I might meet some new people. I could get an article out of it for New Escapologist too.

Excluded by Montreal’s French language laws from entering the service industry, my old emergency plans of bookshop work or barista work fall to the wayside.

So I started looking out for downright menial work: the stuff I’ve always pompously done my best to avoid. If I was diligent about it, I’d only have to stick it for a month or two. And at least it would be real. It would get me out of the house and away from the computer.

Unfortunately, my idea of what would constitute menial work was a bit old-fashioned if not downright quaint. I was thinking of something along the lines of shoveling snow or washing dishes.

After hours of pouring over the jobs listings, I’ve been put in the picture somewhat. To be a dishwasher requires 1-2 years of experience. Same to be a bus boy or a house cleaner. Snow-shoveling meanwhile is a highly organised affair and pretty much catered for in Montreal.

The only short-order work I’ve been able to find are things along the lines of digital marketing, telesales, twittering, highly dubious copywriting, mercenary Wikipedia editing, market research. There was a job for “social bookmarking supervision”, one step removed even from social bookmarking. In short, the lowliest work now is actually quite high-tech. Thanks to computers, there’s a new sub-basement level of meaningless labour.

At least dishwashing keeps somebody’s dishes clean.

You know what would be genuinely more dignified than these new cyber follies? Lap dancing for foreign businessmen. And don’t think I didn’t see a million Craigslist ads for that.

This is the new world: the new sub-dishwasher society of Sim City.

Page after page of horrible soul-destroying work flowed before my eyes. I was looking fully into the abyss. More than my holiday fund, I was beginning to fear for society.

It didn’t take me long to realise I’d bitten into an Orwellian fish sausage:

The frankfurter had a rubber skin, of course, and my temporary teeth weren’t much of a fit. I had to do a kind of sawing movement before I could get my teeth through the skin. And then suddenly–pop! The thing burst in my mouth like a rotten pear. A sort of horrible soft stuff was oozing all over my tongue. But the taste!
For a moment I just couldn’t believe it. Then I rolled my tongue
round it again and had another try. It was FISH! A sausage, a
thing calling itself a frankfurter, filled with fish! I got up and
walked straight out without touching my coffee. God knows what
that might have tasted of.

Outside the newsboy shoved the Standard into my face and yelled,
‘Legs! ‘Orrible revelations! All the winners! Legs! Legs!’ I
was still rolling the stuff round my tongue, wondering where I
could spit it out. I remembered a bit I’d read in the paper
somewhere about these food-factories in Germany where everything’s
made out of something else. Ersatz, they call it. I remembered
reading that THEY were making sausages out of fish, and fish, no
doubt, out of something different. It gave me the feeling that I’d
bitten into the modern world and discovered what it was really made
of. That’s the way we’re going nowadays. Everything slick and
streamlined, everything made out of something else. Celluloid,
rubber, chromium-steel everywhere, arc-lamps blazing all night,
glass roofs over your head, radios all playing the same tune, no
vegetation left, everything cemented over, mock-turtles grazing
under the neutral fruit-trees. But when you come down to brass
tacks and get your teeth into something solid, a sausage for
instance, that’s what you get. Rotten fish in a rubber skin.
Bombs of filth bursting inside your mouth.

It sends Orwell’s narrator falling into a spiral of apocalyptic thinking:

I can hear the air-raid sirens blowing and the loud-speakers bellowing that our glorious troops have taken a hundred thousand prisoners. I see a top-floor-back in Birmingham and a child of five howling and howling for a bit of bread. And suddenly the mother can’t stand it any longer, and she yells at it, ‘Shut your
trap, you little bastard!’ and then she ups the child’s frock and
smacks its bottom hard, because there isn’t any bread and isn’t
going to be any bread. I see it all. I see the posters and the
food-queues, and the castor oil and the rubber truncheons and the
machine-guns squirting out of bedroom windows.

And that is properly how I felt last night. Utterly horrible, choking on a fish sausage and spiraling dangerously into rubber truncheon territory. I think I’ll carry on trying to write for a living. And if that fails there’s always the foreign businessmen.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

2 Responses to “Fish Sausage”

  1. Fabian says:

    Look there, my thoughts exactly, written on paper. Err, a screen.

    In my recent ennui with all things “meta” and “-oid”, I have been thinking about “real” work a lot, too. Unfortunately, the situation in my countries of residence is either similar as you describe (Germany) or different in a bad way (Colombia: Lots of real work, but none that will pay for a vacation larger than a pint of beer at the corner shop).

    My personal conclusion has been that if you want real work you should probably aim for getting some real training, too. Not sure about whether it’d be worth it, but fair enough.

    For now, I hope the writing will bring in enough money so that you can avoid the foreign businessmen!

    P.S. How perfect does your French have to be to get a barista job?

  2. Well, it doesn’t have to be perfect French for a barista job. I think there might even be courses designed to teach you the basic service-level French. Seems like too much effort to me, but I may end up doing it anyway. We’ll see!

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