Monday, June 27, 2011

Working at the Wild Coast Sun - A life changing experience

In 1996, a group of 9 teenagers, ages 15-19, headed off from Gauteng to the Wild Coast Sun for a working Christmas Holiday. I was one of these 9.

We first had to go for 3 days of customer service and job-orientated training where we had to learn to deal with difficult customers, promote the games in the newly built games stalls (yes, you people who frequent the wild coast sun, we were the very first to stand in those stalls and get people to play) and how the prize system worked.

The idea was that we would stand in these stalls and encourage people to play the games and demonstrate how to play them and hand out various plush toys as prizes.

Part of our training was to get to know each other and so we all had to tell the person on our left what our biggest dream was and then they would tell everyone about that person's biggest dream. I didn't realise how seriously everyone would take it and so I told my friend, let's call him Frank ,that my biggest dream was to bite into a slab of chocolate. It was all fine until we heard everyone Else's serious and inspiring stories (saving lives, flying planes, changing the world, etc). Mine was, typically, last and so Frank managed to get it out amongst his frantic laughing at realising how ridiculous mine sounded amidst everyone Else's. It was awkward and I was met with very peculiar stares but it was most funny and even now, I can't help laughing!

Another part of our training was role playing. My friend Frank and I teamed up for this, me being the difficult customer and him being the Games Stall attendant. I was a very difficult customer indeed and complained that my toy's head had just come off. This was, of course, ridiculous because there was no chance it's head would ever come off but it was all good fun and Frank was between very flustered and very giggly and we were super excited to get there and try our training out for real.

Upon arrival at our accommodation, we discovered that all 9 of us were sharing a 3 bedroom-ed apartment with a kitchenette with one bathroom. It didn't matter! We would sleep on the bathroom floor because we were on a wonderful working holiday! Yay!

The next day, we met our bosses. They took away all our off days so that we worked 7 days a week in shifts. These shifts were long and tiring and we all ended up getting very sick and living off dry two minute noodles because we didn't have the energy to cook them, plus they almost taste better dry!

On Christmas day, however, we summoned up the energy to cook a full Christmas Dinner and we spent all day preparing the meal. That evening, one of the guys stole one of my sister's roast potatoes and so she got up and proceeded to chase him around the entire complex screaming at him to give her potato back. Yes, it was that bad.

But it was not all bad, we had a lot of fun and it is mostly that that we all talk about.

There were a few of us who were more mischievous than others and myself and one of the guys, let's name him, Samantha, decided to go and toothpaste, let's call him, Petunia, while he was sleeping. We put a small blob of toothpaste on top of Petunia's head and ran away.
Moments later, Petunia stormed into the lounge announcing in the Queen's English that he had woken up with a burning sensation on his head and it was not pleasant. He later admitted that he was confused at first when he woke up and thought that he had somehow managed to get a giant humbug sweet on his head and that it was melting. The poor guy!

One of the funniest moments for me was my very first difficult customer who came to my stall when Frank and I were standing together. His complaint was that the toy's head was coming off. Frank and I took one look at each other and burst out laughing, all customer service training forgotten. The man was nice though and said that he'd just sew it back on.

There were other funny moments that involved my male cousin, heavily medicated from being ill, sitting on the pavement outside the Magic Company, waiting for the bus and asking an imaginary barman in the sky for a drink or everyone getting their clothes muddled up and that same male cousin ending up trying my sister's panties on and looking down at the very tight panties wondering what could've gone wrong with his underwear.

Other funny moments involved games of truth, dare and command where Samantha pounced on Frank as he climbed through the window (yes, we didn't use the door much for some odd reason) and kissed him, much to Frank's surprise! Or Samantha snuggling up to Frank in his sleep. Frank was left quite confused by all of it.

All in all, it was life changing for most of us because it was our first taste of Independence, difficulty and learning to adapt to challenging circumstances.

Even though the working conditions were far from ideal, the living arrangements crowded and getting sick unpleasant, I don't regret doing it because it dispelled my shyness. I could hardly say two words to strangers before the experience and now I'm quite comfortable speaking to anyone.