When I was 20, I was fortunate enough to find myself working on Southend Seafront. I'd worked for a few arcades in the past, and found myself working a large gambling and gaming emporium with a lot of staff. The staff were friendly, and even though the hours were long, not a lot of 'work' was actually done. I remember my first day vividly, being on my feet for all of 12 hours. Brian, the other floor walker, was my mentor and a nice guy. He was patient, friendly, and more importantly, tall. 6'4" in fact, so any trouble and his height was a factor in controlling the situation.
I spent my first 2 months working in the main arcade, one of three. It was also the base of operations for the site engineer, a hippy who's still there called Jim. Jim knew I was studying electronics at college, and encouraged me where he could. As the need moved, and my control of situations like drunks or troublemakers, I was promoted. It wasn't much of a promotion, but being moved to the more popular part of the seafront, right smack bang in the middle of the most popular part. It was a lot busier, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, and although smaller, was more fun to work in.
My new boss was a guy a year older then me, called Ben. Ben was married to the seafront, spending all of his time off there. The problem was, as Ben spent more and more time there, sometimes being seen still out at 6am, his health started to detract. One weekday, and on my day off, he'd had an epileptic fit. He'd never had them before, but fortunately this was in the main arcade, in front of the big boss. He was taken to hospital, and then discharged as a case of 'one of those things'. They referred him to a neurologist to see what caused it, but 2 weeks later and in front of me he had another fit. This time, it was taken more seriously. The problem was, he wasn't safe to stay in charge of some £80,000 of cash. He was moved to the main arcade, where he could be covered if another fit happened.
In the meantime, the big boss came to cover my arcade. I got on well with Gary, the big boss. He was a typical Essex wheeler dealer, and a nice guy. Less then a week later, and I'm helping in the main arcade, when Ben starts to have another fit. The fit doesn't fully surface, but the owner decides it's best if Ben takes some time off. He never returned.
Meanwhile, in my arcade, Gary has to return his duties of managing all the arcades. Brian had become the 'floater', the person that would cover any of the 3 arcades when staff were off. The manager of the main arcade, a retired character called Danny, came to cover my arcade. Danny and I got on famously, and the contrasting ages and styles got immense respect from others on the seafront. New friendships were forged with other seafront staff, and in the event of an emergency, they would come to our help or we would go to theirs. I also had a core of close friends, and each evening would be spent seeing regulars along the seafront. The guy I shared a house with was always there in the evenings. Ian's particular interest was playing pinball machines, so I'd give him free games on busy nights, and being the 6 foot something creature from the hills what with his big bushy beard and hardy looks, he would put off any trouble makers.
Meanwhile, we'd had a few incidents. Two boys decided they were going to rob an old space harrier. The machine would only take 10p coins, the old 2 shilling piece sized ones. The machine wasn't even that popular, and I found myself chasing them along the seafront early one Monday evening, following the trail of 10p coins. We eventually caught up with them, and they were arrested and taken to our office where the Police were called. The big boss was impressed, and so was the owner, and I was called to the office for a nice bonus as way of reward. The funny thing was, I got more then the little oik who broke into the machine would have gotten away with.
Another time, one warm summer's evening, after what was probably a scorching day, a lady came in and exclaimed in deepest Essex Parlance "'scuse me mate, there's smoke coming aaat from one ov your coin slots." We rushed outside, to see a pall of smoke rising from the front of a crane. The coin mech had gone short circuit in the heat, and was almost on fire.
Shortly after my 21st birthday, I got promoted. Now the fully fledged arcade manager, I was now in charge of the £80,000 float. I still had to have Gary there for any major assistance, but the rest of the running was down to me. Paperwork was minimal, bureaucracy was non-existent. I had a sexy cashier called Mandy (now Brian's wife), and full say over what went on in my arcade. I was happy, but there was one downside.
I'd settled down with my girlfriend Olivia (5'6, long brown hair, 38-24-36). The problem was, I was working from 9am until midnight 5 days a week, and from 9am until 6pm on my half day (84 hours a week!). This meant I didn't get to see her much, or more importantly, to get my willie serviced. Olivia would come and hang around the arcade in the evenings, but I was told categorically that this wasn't allowed. Olivia was a security risk. Some less then desirable could take her hostage, in return for the contents of the arcade's safe. I could see their point. I tried to see her only those 2 nights, but it just wasn't working. On top of that, the lack of reliable sleep was having an effect, and narcolepsy was faltering. I left a week before Christmas, even though I didn't want to.
I still miss the job, but not the hours.
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