This week in France was the rentrée. Technically that means the "return" or "re-entry", the time when people come back to work after their vacation and when the kids go back to school. Because so many French (especially Parisians) take most of August off for vacation, when everyone comes back nearly all at once, it's like Paris goes from being a sleepy summer town to a crazy metropolis, almost over night. Once again, the lovely half-empty buses and metro cars of summer are packed like sardine cans at rush hour.
It's always a busy time for us because we still have a school-age child at home. His first full day of school was yesterday, so now we're back to our normal school-year routine on the weeks when he's staying with us. In a few days, my little peanut will turn 13, too -- although he hasn't hit his full-on growth spurt yet, he's no longer the Little Guy. Now we have a teenager on our hands.
For me, I was already back at work two weeks ago; for Georges, he went back to work last week but because many of his colleagues were still en vacances, it was pretty quiet and not much was going on, so this week was his real rentrée. But I came back to my job in mid-August to discover that our biggest reseller, the one who was mainly responsible for our reservations team processing 400-500 bookings a day in July, had started booking their own reservations through an official link into our systems. That, coupled with the fact that with the colder weather (and fewer tourists) coming, my employer will be cutting way back on many of the outdoor tours and Eiffel Tower visits, and in short this means that now we only have about 50-80 bookings a day to process, and that's barely enough work for one person. With between 2 and 4 of us on the reservations team scheduled to work each day, you can imagine how MIND NUMBINGLY B-O-R-I-N-G it has been. And that ain't good news when you've got a half-dozen people whose work contracts end on September 30th and who were all hoping to have enough work to stay on through the winter. When there aren't any reservations to do, they've got us doing anything and everything else to keep us busy since they have to pay us for our contracted number of hours and they don't want to pay for us to surf Facebook all damn day (not that I can blame them for that). I haven't actually been asked to clean a toilet (yet) but I've been wondering when they might ask me to -- and let me just say that one thing I have learned since working in tourism is, TOURISTS ARE TOTAL PIGS. It's like, people go on vacation and any sense of common decency evaporates because it's not THEIR home or office toilet they're defiling. Our toilets -- in a beautiful new office space, too -- start out clean each day because our staff cleans them, and within a few short hours they are completely disgusting and OH MY GOD THE STINK RIGHT NEXT TO OUR OFFICE/STAFF LOUNGE TOO and it's because of our lovely customers.
Yesterday, I found out they aren't keeping ANY of us on the reservations team. Not a single one. Whatever reservations need to be done after September, the permanent crew of supervisors will handle it until things pick up again in the spring. Probably not the most efficient system, to have to hire summer help every year and train a whole crew of new people, but that's how they've decided to play it.
Suffice to say, I am a little disappointed but not at all surprised by this news. I always knew the job was probably temporary, and although I had been hoping to be able to stay on part time through the winter, it's fine the way it is. I know they were actually really happy with me and that having to let me go is nothing personal. C'est la vie. Au revoir, touristes. Go home and clean your own toilets and think fondly of your memories of Paris.
Now I just have to focus on the next thing.
What might that be, you ask? It depends. I am looking around to see if there is another job out there that might be right for me, something where I'm not standing on my feet all day and where perfect written or telephone French is not required. I like bringing in at least some money and doing my share to fill the family coffers, so if another decent job is out there and I can get it, I'll take it.
But I also like the idea of having more time to focus on my writing and photography. For some time now, I have wanted to try my hand at getting some paid magazine or newspaper writing gigs, but to break into that I need more time than I had when working a full-time job, especially as I'm new at it and don't have contacts or a track record. I need time to research markets, write stories, pitch queries. Same with my photography; I've been wanting to see if I can find a way to sell some of my images, perhaps come up with my own line of post cards or stationary or small prints.
I also started, over my vacation, reassessing and reworking parts of my memoir, after some reflection and still feeling something was "off" with it (25 rejection letters from literary agents also made me wonder if I could do better). So having more time to finish cleaning up that manuscript will be valuable... and after I get it cleaned up, I need time to figure out how to set it up on Amazon as an e-book because I've decided to go ahead and publish it myself so I can go back to working on my novel.
Perhaps the "next thing" will end up being some combination of a job (part time), magazine work and working on my books. That wouldn't be bad at all. The main thing is, I want more time to focus on what I feel I'm meant to do, what I do best.
I'M A WRITER. Sometimes I just have to remind myself. It's too easy to let other things get in the way.
Well, it looks like I'm going to get that time now. And I'm happy to tell you that rather than being upset that my employer couldn't figure out a way to offer me a new contract, I'm actually relieved and excited when I think of getting all that time back. I know what a luxury it is, to have that kind of time, and I'm so grateful.
Now it's just up to me to make the most of it.