I recently had the single greatest working experience of my entire life.
I’ve always had a passion for cars, and I have been looking for pretty much any job at this point yet have not had much luck. But after a phone call and a quick interview, I got a job as a valet worker in the Gold Coast, a really nice area downtown.
I had to purchase a white dress shirt, black tie, black pants, and black sport shoes that I would do a lot of running in. I showed up eager to learn and thankful for the opportunity. I was told the first day would be training. But really it was 25% training, 75% just learning by doing. A really friendly worker took me under his wing and showed me exactly what to do. I went on a few runs with him then was given the responsibility of doing it myself, after only an hour.
I hear the boss say, “Hey, new guy, take this one to Lot 2, you’ll do fine.” I turned to see a new Mercedes SLK pulling up to the curb. Awesome. I ran over and opened the driver’s door and handed him a ticket. I got in and quickly observed the controls; it was a manual. I’ve driven plenty of manual transmissions, but there was pressure involved to learn this clutch and shifting perfectly so as not to look make a bad impression to my boss and the driver and the other valet workers. I handled it fine and sped away. I was alone and in complete control of this fancy car. I made sure to drive like a taxi driver (like I was taught) while still being very careful. I parked it in the absurdly small spot and did all the necessary things before sprinting the quarter-mile back to the valet curb. If this was representative of what was to come, I was in for a fun night. And I was right.
I could go into details, because there are so many. But I’ll try to keep it brief.
This went on for some time. I initially just parked the cars, but then I was given tickets to pick up and bring cars back. This requires a pure sprint and focus on getting the car out of wherever it is and to the curb as quickly as possible. The very first pickup ticket I was given was for the “garage.” The garage is a nightmare. It is 6 stories, dark, and has only one way up and down. The parking spots are tiny and in weird corners and obstructed by poles. The “elevator” is a manlift, a vertical conveyor belt thing that seems very primitive but it so fun to ride. This is one in action:
The first car I picked up was obstructed by two others, so I had to find the keys and move the cars out of the way then back in as quickly as possible. Then when I finally got into the car, I had to turn on the lights and honk the horn while driving down the maze of a garage. It reminded me of something you would see in a movie or do in a video game, but would never actually do in person. I was flying down this tiny spiraling lane, maneuvering around poles and other cars, sharply turning the wheel, in a car I have never driven. It seemed so risky. It took a lot of focus and guts.
The rest of the night was basically like that. A lot of running. Figuring out how to read the ticket so I know where the car was, and how to find the car in the garage. Taking the crazy manlift a million times. Getting into cars I have never driven before, trying to find the headlights and turn down the windows and figure out how to drive them. The rush and stress of knowing you don’t have much time to waste. Opening all the doors and collecting tips while making sure to be polite and thankful.
Oh yeah. I got to drive a freaking Lamborghini, which has always been a dream. I have not been as joyful in a long time.
In total, I drove or moved around 80 cars, about 15 of them manual or some form of manual transmission, 20 with Engine Start buttons, and 7-10 with numerous other gadgetries that I learned to use.
I got a nice chunk of change in tips, and before I left, the boss handed me three $20 bills and told me great job. I was so happy and worn out. My adrenaline was rushing; I was reliving the fast-paced night in my head while also thinking about things I could do better the next day. I didn’t even realize that I was there for eleven hours, that I didn’t eat anything, and that I was freezing.
I had a nice conversation with my cab driver on the way home. I never ever talk to cab drivers, hair stylists, etc., but I was that overjoyed. We had a fun chat then he asked how my day went, and I shared with him my experience. I was proud of my work, I enjoyed my work, and I was completely engulfed in my work.
I didn’t fall asleep until around 7 AM, and I had to get up at 8:30 because I was told to come in at 10 AM. When I woke up, I wasn’t even tired. I was happy to have a reason to get up early, and the excitement was still lingering in my system.
But when I got to the valet station at 10, different workers were there and I was told there must be a mistake because they were already full. I tried calling my supervisor, who said he is very reliable and to get hold of him about any problems. No answer or response. I called everyone I could think of but there was literally no answer from anyone. I found a few people I did work with the previous day but they didn’t know what to tell me other than to get hold of my supervisor(s). It is now three days later and I have heard nothing from anyone. No one has answered phone calls or texts, and I have gone back three times to no avail. Yes, the authority figures are a little shady / there really isn’t a main authority figure, but this is ridiculous. I did everything I was supposed to do, and they made it clear I would be working as a full-time employee at that location and later various other locations downtown.
I am pretty upset that this is happening right now. I finally find something that I need in my life that will keep me occupied and satisfied. I finally enjoy an entire eleven hours of freedom from my mind, from insecurities and questions and confusion and the same old routine. I finally find something I passionately want to do, after all this time finding passion in very little. I finally take a step in the right direction and am happy and eager for the next day and confident that everything will be okay. I find something I am really really good at. I find something I don’t want to immediately quit. But then it disappears, completely vanishes on me. One day. Just one freaking day? My jobs lately haven’t lasted long, but that’s a little silly. Yes, this should make my distant, confused, depressed state worse.
But I am not as sad as I thought I would be, at least not yet. I have been discouraged and frustrated far too long.
Let’s be real. I don’t know if being a valet is a job for me in the long run. Worst-case scenario: I don’t have this job anymore or any other valet job for that matter. I had the best single working day of my life. My optimism is back: I know that I can actually find and be fulfilled by a job. Even if for only one eleven-hour working day, I was back on track, and knowing how that feels will encourage me to find something else. I fervently seek that happiness and job satisfaction; I need that feeling and will find it again.
I’m hoping this is all one big miscommunication and I still can work with this company, or I quickly find another job as a valet, and I will once again have the fulfillment I need in my life. Maybe I would start disliking it after a few days and this is just an overreaction to finally getting a job, but I can’t think that way. It might sound silly, it might sound like settling, but I loved being a valet and that’s all that really matters.