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Acting Your Age

| Working | March 10, 2017

(I am looking for a job around my town, armed with printouts of my CV doing an old school “door knock.” I’m not having much luck; however, most places have been nice and are kind enough to take my resumé in the hopes that “something may come up.” I’m down to my last resumé when I try the local newsagency. An older woman is behind the counter.)

Me: “Hi, I was wondering if—”

Worker: *rudely interrupting* “We’re not hiring and if you give us that resume I see in your hand it’s just going to go straight into the bin!”

Me: *a tad shocked, but hastily put on a smile* “Okay, thanks anyway!”

(I turn away to exit the shop thinking I probably dodged a bullet there anyway, when I hear her call me back.)

Worker: “Hang on! How old are you, by the way?”

(I smile, as I know exactly what she is doing. In my country, workers are paid a minimum wage not just by industry, but by age as well. A 15-year-old working in a newsagency, for example, would have to be paid at least $12-14 an hour under the retail award rate, but a 21-year-old would have to be paid at least $20-23 an hour. For this reason a lot of employers don’t like hiring older people, and often turn them away for their younger, much cheaper-to-hire counterparts. Despite this, it is still illegal to discriminate against age and it is illegal to ask any prospective employees their age or date of birth. I am in my early 20s, therefore “expensive” to hire, but I look much younger then my age, with people always thinking I’m in my mid teens. She probably thinks I’m only around 16-17 years old. It is perfectly acceptable to decline answering a question about age, as I do here.)

Me: “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable answering that.”

Worker: “Look, it’s ok to admit your age. I’m not going to judge. Just tell me, then I might be able to have a look at your resume and see if we have something.”

Me: “I’m not going to tell you my age. I don’t have to and I don’t want to. Thank you for maybe considering my resume if I’m a certain age, but I’m going to have to decline. Thanks again.”

(I go to leave, when I hear an angry outburst behind me.)

Worker: “FINE! I wouldn’t even want to accept some pathetic high school drop-out anyway! There’s too many of you in this god-**** town and the reason why is because all you teenagers are the same: f****** lazy little f***s!”

(Angry, I march up to the counter.)

Me: “First off, I’m in my early 20s. Secondly, I am no high school drop-out. I have been working since I was legally able to at 15 all while finishing school and probably far more capable then you are. For starters, I actually know how to treat people, including job-hunters that could also be customers in the store. I couldn’t care less if you offered me $100 dollars an hour for this job. I would hate to work alongside a vile co-worker such as yourself, and if you are the manager I have a lot more self-respect then to take orders from you. I think I’ve done the right thing to decline your offer. Now, thank you for time. You’ve shown me what kind of worker you are and should avoid. Have a nice day.”

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