“Why do I have to have my hair plaited?” I grumpily asked for probably the twentieth time as I twisted my locks.
“You think I'm any happier, I look a right dork with these braids.”
On that score I had to disagree, far from a dork Chris looks every bit the Bavarian bar maid, me I just look stupid, but that’s just my opinion, Chris seems to think it suits me.
Two weeks earlier outside the Paulaner Brewery, Munich, Germany.
“Hey look, they’re after bar staff for the Oktoberfest,” Chris mentioned, “you said we should go, we could earn a few euros at the same time.”
It was true that our grand plan of hitching around Europe in our gap year was already getting a bit ropey after just two months. we’d been saving all through our last year at Uni so its not like we crossed the Channel with nothing but we’d not really thought about how much stuff would cost. It had always been part of the plan to pick up some casual work to bolster the coffers but so far we’d spent far more than we’d earned and far from going to the Oktoberfest – a heavily underlined must on our bucket list, it looked more likely we’d be borrowing cash from our parents to return home.
“Fat chance we’d have, it’ll be all locals who can actually speak German,” I emphasised.
“I did get a B+ at A level.” my companion stated.
“That’s been dead useful so far, you nearly got us arrested for prostitution in Frankfurt.”
“One little mistake.”
I rolled my eyes, asking the policeman if he wanted sex was not a good move, it was only some fast talking that got us out of that one!
“And anyway, I’m better at sinking pints than pulling them.”
“It says no experience needed, training given.”
“Whatever, we going to the kebab shop or what?” Not that i’m a fan but it’s what we can afford.
“I'm gonna take the number, can’t hurt to call.”
“No,” I sighed, “waste of time though.”
I counted our funds again, less than two hundred in cash, maybe the same left in the bank – it should get us back to Calais if we hitch all the way, oh well.
“We got an interview,” Chris bubbled returning to our tiny room.
“Yeah, you remember, bar staff at the beer festival.”
My attention picked up on that, we’ve been applying for anything going, I even got a job delivering pizza - which lasted until I found out you had to use your own transport – penniless student, duh!
“They know we’re English?”
“Oh they were quite enthused by that, a lot of Americans and Brits visit so a good knowledge of English is a plus for us.”
This was the first positive news since we wangled this cupboard to stay in. If we get hired we’ll have enough cash so that we can get down to Austria for the ski season, I know someone who can get us some work in the resorts.
“We have to go to some place on Franz Joseph Straße tomorrow afternoon.”
We weren’t the only ones at the employment agency, well I guess you need a lot of staff for something as big as the Oktoberfest. Neither of us have got a lot of clothes, we’d made the effort to dress in our cleanest stuff. Ten precious euros went on a trip to the swimming pool where we could at least get ourselves clean – looking like a couple of ratty students never works at job interviews.
Not that I expected to get past the initial name and address bit but Chris was full of confidence and we’d made a pact to do this trip together, afterwards, well careers, family's, anything could happen. For now though we were here, together in a room full of hopeful wannabe bar staff. A chap stood on a chair at the end of the room and started addressing the assembled mass.
With my German, I can order a beer but not much more, Chris was having to translate for me. My companion was wrong about the interview, no we had the job, this was the training session! Well smack my gob, gainful employ at the Oktoberfest, oh yeah.
We were split into smaller groups, each one moving through the different segments in rotation. Of course I stuck close by my not so trusty translator but even I could observe and copy, serving was of course quite easy once you’d mastered carrying the weight – we practised with water rather than bier of course. Pulling the pints however did require real bier, the woman showing us was patient at least, I managed to do it but it clearly wasn’t my forte, Chris however seemed to have the knack straight off.
Then it was onto using the mini computers that we’d be using for orders and payments, not rocket science but more complicated than I'd imagined. Evidently we were expected to fill whichever post was needed on the shifts we were working, we could get any post although we could apparently swap with others on our shift. Last thing to do was the paperwork, we were getting a flat forty euros each for this afternoon but there was a stack of paperwork to fill out before we could collect and leave.
I'm sure quite a few of the others in the session had done bar work before by the ease they accomplished the stuff we were shown. We left the building clutching an envelope containing our contracts, three weeks work guaranteed, oh yeah. Time to celebrate, we could at least afford one decent meal before next weekend.
Our envelopes didn’t just have our contracts, no there was a sheet with our first weeks shifts marked on, we’d both been given the same tent although not always at the same time. Another sheet apparently repeated stuff from the training session, appearance and so on, you know the sort of thing, clean, tidy, smile etc. and lastly an address to visit for our ‘uniforms’. Its Oktoberfest, you don’t think we get to wear jeans and polo’s do you? Course not we get to wear traditional Bavarian costumes.
Back to present
“Its not my fault, anyone could’ve made the same mistake.”
“If you’d read the advert properly,” I harrumphed as I finished the second braid.
“You could've said something at the training thing.”
The dress code was emphatic, no heavy make up, no heels over 10cm, short hair was fine, so was long hair but it had to be braided - no braids, no work simples.
“How was I to know, I don’t speak German remember, I guess it was a bit weird there weren’t any lads there but if wearing this gets me paid, I'll wear it.”
Chris fussed with the dirndl again, fluffing out the skirts, “its embarrassing though.”
“If you hadn’t noticed plenty of women wear them everyday for work in these parts,” I pointed out,” and that blue goes with your eyes.”
“But i’m not one of them.”
“You are now, come on, don’t want to be late on our first shift.” hmm maybe this isn’t so bad.
“Isabel!” my boyfriend complained again.
The advert had said bar staff, there were male staff being hired of course however Chris had applied for bar maids positions for both of us, the idiot!
Maddy Bell © 24.10.16
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