Storytime Episode 5

People...not everyone is good at their job. This is true regardless of the skill or attention required for the role. There are rubbish Prime Ministers and Presidents, just as much as there are substandard telephone sanitisers and bridge trolls. In my travels I have had the pleasure of working with a rainbow of incompetence, from a CEO who couldn’t stop buying luxury cars on the company dime, to a bookstore owner who locked me into the shop on my first shift and insisted I stay there overnight because it was too far to come back and let me out. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s time to grab the popcorn and pull up your snuggie, because IT’S STORY TIME MOTHER FUCKERS!

Society doesn’t consider sex work to be real work. And we all know society never gets anything wrong and is collectively the single greatest judge of things. Yay society. But regardless of what anyone might think, sex work is real work. And some people are really fucking bad at it. When I started working at My Second Brothel (™), I learned this the hard way.

Despite the parade of rejection that sex workers experience, we never had any shortage of people wanting to work for us. For the most part they were either experienced sex workers or had at least given the job some thought. But then there was Casey*. When Casey rocked up, I got the impression that she wasn't operating on the same astral plane as the rest of us and that she might not have realised what kind of establishment she was applying to work for. But despite my initial impression she seemed very enthusiastic to begin her career as a sex worker, so we scheduled her first shift for the next night.

There’s an interesting thing that happens in brothels. Regardless of whether they’re regular customers, or have never been to a brothel in their life, clients seem to gravitate towards new workers. My assumption is that this is due to the fact that new workers have an enthusiasm and verve to them that people who have been there for a while might have lost. Kind of like how you can always tell the new person in the office, because they’re still genuinely happy to be there, and six months later they have the same dead eyes as every other cubicle monkey around you.

My point is, when Casey first started, she was getting a lot of bookings, because she was new. And this shouldn’t have been unusual, except that as the clients were leaving, none of them looked particularly happy. When I pulled Casey aside to see how she was coping and to make sure she felt safe and happy with the work, she very cheerfully informed me that she hadn’t even had to take her clothes off yet.

“What do you mean?” I asked, a little concerned that she might not have grasped the complexities of her role.

“Well, like they just want to talk. And it’s like, they totally get me, y’know? I’ve had some really good conversations” and then she nodded at me, as though I knew exactly what she was talking about.

It wasn’t unusual to have clients who just wanted to talk, or cuddle or any number of variations on not having sex. What was unusual, was having four clients in a row who just wanted to talk. And sure enough, her next client came downstairs and complained that she had refused to have sex with him.

It’s important to remember that all sex workers have the right of refusal. If a customer came in that Casey didn’t want to have sex with, she just wouldn’t introduce herself. This had been explained to her more than once. The issue wasn’t that Casey didn’t want them to book her, it was that she wanted to be paid, without having sex. Which would be kind of like if your plumber came over, sat in your kitchen and ate all of your biscuits and talked about how difficult their marriage has been lately and then asked to be paid.

When I sat Casey down to ask what was going on, she advised me that “I just don’t want my vagina to get loose for my boyfriend.”

Aside from the fact that this isn’t at all how vaginas work, if it was a genuine concern, it's the sort of thing you might consider before taking a job where pretty much the entire scope of the role is “has sex with other people in exchange for money.”

I patiently explained to Casey that having sex wasn’t going to make her “loose” and that if she was concerned about that, there were plenty of exercises and toys that she could use to strengthen her muscles. What I didn’t realise was that Casey was a spectacularly manipulative individual who played me like a hipster plays a cheap ukulele. She saw a WASP-y, privileged girl in front of her and she decided to do the bimbo sex worker routine and I happily stepped in as the kind, patient, manager who saves her from all the other judgemental people in the workplace and the world at large. And that was how Casey lasted six weeks at a brothel without ever having sex with anyone. Because I’m a moron.

It’s very rare for a brothel to ask a sex worker to leave, since even if they’re not making too many bookings, it doesn’t really cost the parlour anything to have them on the floor. As a result, the only times that a worker is fired, is if they’re violating the establishment's policies, for instance taking drugs or alcohol during their shift, flouting the dress code, or outright abusing customers or parlour staff. Casey seemed determined to work her way through the list.

Many service providers keep a supply of working clothes in their locker and will wear street clothes into the building and then get changed later. This is because most parlours have a fairly strict dress code that sort of comes down to "less is more". You're not allowed to be naked on the floor, but you should certainly do whatever you can to make people picture you that way. But not Casey. Not long after she started, she showed up in her gumboots and a “sun dress” that even an orthodox Mormon would have called prudish and hadn't thought to bring a change of clothes with her. None of the other workers wanted to help her out, so she did an eight hour shift in wellingtons and a mumu.

When a new client came in, they would be invited to sit in a private introduction room and the available workers would come past and explain their services. Each room had a camera in the corner, just above the door, primarily to ensure the safety of the service providers. Casey quickly figured out exactly how far she had to close the door to cover the security camera and would then do a quick, private strip-tease for the clients to encourage them to book her. This was wildly against company policy. Aside from it setting an unfair standard that we didn’t want all the workers to have to compete with, management also felt that it created a ‘sleazy’ atmosphere and would encourage poor manners from our patrons. When I explained this to her, Casey tearfully informed me that the customers had made her do it. When I spoke to another hostess about it, she told me that when she’d spoken to Casey about it, she’d said that I told her to do it to try and get more bookings. When we both sat her down to confront her about it, she burst into tears and said she was just “so confused” and “so sorry” and then ten minutes later did it again.

I’m not a drug taker. And I’m not saying this from a place of judgment, I certainly don’t think less of anyone who does partake; I simply can’t participate due to my multitude of mental health problems. As a result of this, I am completely clueless when it comes to drug culture and the signs and symptoms of people who have drug habits or problems. Casey had a big drug problem. A lot of the other workers had noticed it and were concerned about her using in the workplace. One of the dead giveaways was that she clearly suffered from “ice bugs”. Apparently this is a thing that happens if you take ice. Aside from it being something I like to pour vodka over, I'm still not exactly clear on what "ice" is or what it does to people. So when I confronted Casey about this issue, she cheerfully told me that she just had really bad eczema. I nodded and wrote down the names of a couple of creams. And then had several conversations with her about dermatologists she should go see. Because I might be a moron, but I’m a considerate moron who cares about other people’s well being. 

One night though my moronicness, in conjunction with Casey’s, nearly got me killed. A client came in who could generously be called less than sober. This wasn’t unusual. If we’d turned away every customer who came in under the influence our entire business model would have collapsed in on itself. But this guy was something else. He didn’t want to go into the intro room and meet all the girls, he just leant across the window and pointed at the first girl he saw and said “I want her” and Casey shrugged amiably and said “Sure.”  

What followed was the most painfully long and awkward payment process I’ve ever witnessed. It took the client, who we’re going to call Jack, what seemed like twenty minutes to find his credit card. This wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t had a wallet with literally three cards in it. He pulled out a Subway loyalty card and tried to pay with that. When we advised him that we didn’t accept those as payment he grew angry and threw down his Medicare card. At this point we tried to explain that despite our best efforts, the government didn’t currently subsidise visits to sex workers. He then fished through his wallet looking for anything else to pay with while the three of us (myself, Casey and the receptionist) all stared at the only card remaining in his wallet, a credit card. It took him a further two minutes to extract it.

Realistically I should have made the call then and there to cancel the booking. I suspected he was on drugs, but didn’t know enough about them to be certain, and you always have to be careful about denying service to someone you think is under the influence in case they actually have a medical condition (stroke victims, people with motor-neuron diseases, etc). So I let the booking go through and Casey took Jack upstairs. Before I’d even had a chance to set the timer on the booking, Casey was buzzing down asking for a second opinion on a STI. All service providers were expected to do a visual check for STIs before commencing their booking. Most of the time it turned out to be something like an ingrown hair or pimple, but occasionally if two workers looked at it and weren’t comfortable with what they saw they would offer an “alternative service”. An alternative service was a hand job. And if the client didn’t want that we encouraged them to go and get tested and come back with a clean bill of health from their GP. Casey often got a second opinion for STIs, and I suspected this was so that she could offer alternative service instead of going through with the booking.

When the sex worker who provided the second opinion came down the stairs I asked what she’d thought.

“Ice bugs. The guy has ice bugs all over his dick. All over his whole body. They’ll make a great pair.”

I resorted to my tried and tested “judge not” mentality and figured it could have been a skin condition. But part of me knew by now that both Jack and Casey didn’t have anything that a dermatologist could fix.

I’d set the timer for the booking and was talking to my receptionist about what a weirdo Jack was when the intercom went off. Every room in My Second Brothel was hooked up to an intercom system that communicated with the front desk. It was generally used for service providers to request extra towels, sex toys or condoms, or so that we could let them know when the booking time was up. But it was also the first line of defence in case anything went wrong during a booking. There were also duress alarms hidden in each room that the sex worker could activate without alerting the client.

The intercom buzzed and when I answered it all I heard was Casey shouting “Help”.

Dear readers, I'm not a small woman. My body was definitely built for comfort over speed. But when I heard that “help” I’m fairly certain I flew. I scaled the staircase up to the booking rooms in about three seconds and was through the door before you can say "aerobic fitness".

I saw Casey on one side of the room, fully clothed and Jack in the other butt naked. I stepped in between them and told Casey to get out and lock herself in the girls change room. Jack was screaming indiscernible words and I could see veins popping out of his neck. It was at this point that my childhood with horses came back to me and I instinctively adopted the pose I would have with an upset equine. I’m not saying it was a smart thing to do and I’m certainly not recommending that you try this when attempting to calm the violent, drug-addled individuals in your life. But, it worked for me. Jack stopped screaming and started breathing and his veins looked less like they would explode.

“What’s the problem Jack?” I finally managed to ask.

“She wouldn’t fucking fuck me! Fucking cunt!”

“Okay, hey that’s her loss right?”

Jack thought for a moment and then nodded, “Yeah. Fuck that bitch.”

“How about you come downstairs and we’ll give you your money back and get you a drink and I’ll call you a cab if you like?”

Jack took a while to consider this and then started pulling his clothes on.

Crisis averted. I walked Jack silently down the stairs and into the main lobby and was about to ask him if he wanted me to call him a cab or if he wanted a drink. But at that point, Casey decided to fuck with me one last time. Instead of going down the back exit, or just staying in the change room, or any number of intelligent decisions she could have made, she decided to walk through the main lobby. She sauntered past Jack and gave him a wink on her way to the break room where the rest of her colleagues were relaxing.

Jack at this point ceased to be human and instead transformed into some kind of blue-balled Hulk. He started screaming and made to move past me to chase Casey. I stepped in front of him and tried to do my horse whispering, but we were well beyond that point.

“I’ll fucking kill her! I’ll fucking kill them all! Fucking cunts!” he was screaming at the top of his lungs. My receptionist stared at me in terror and I calmly told her to “push the emergency alarm”. There was a button under the desk that connected to the local police station that we were told to push in the case of a situation just like this.

I turned to Jack and very calmly said “You need to leave,” which was probably about as effective as standing knee deep in the ocean and saying “Please stop being so wet.”

Jack stared at me as though he was Batman and I was Joe Chill asking him how his parents had been doing lately. And then he pulled out a knife. I don’t know where he’d had it hidden, probably in a jeans pocket, but it’s not something we would have let him in with if we’d known. He was waving it in my face, screaming about how he was going to kill “every fucking cunt in this place”.

And this was when I had my Barry Allen moment. Everything slowed right down. I realised that I was all that stood between a psychotic, knife-wielder and a room full of unarmed, mostly naked women. I looked at the knife. It was probably about a 4 inch blade. As I’ve said before, I am not a small woman. I’ve got enough padding on most of my body that I figured if he tried to knife my torso, it most likely wouldn’t hit anything vital. The receptionist had pushed the emergency alarm, so the cops would get here soon and they’d know enough first aid to keep me alive until we got to the hospital twenty minutes away. And if he tried to go for the face, well, c’est la vie, it wasn’t exactly a masterpiece and chicks dig scars. All of this ran through my head in about the space of two seconds, but I felt like I’d had twenty minutes to really think it through. I had become The Flash!

So I drew myself up to my full 5”10 height and just stared him down. I didn’t say anything, he just screamed in my face, waving his knife around. And then he took a step closer. This voice came out of me that I’ve never heard before or since, about six octaves deeper than my own and louder than I knew was humanly possible. I just bellowed “PLEASE LEAVE!” because even when I’m staring down potentially homicidal maniacs I remember my goddamn manners.

Jack stared at me, muttered “fucking cunt” and turned and left. The door locked automatically behind him and I fell to my knees in the middle of the lobby, trembling all over. I turned to my receptionist and said “Can you call the police and let them know that he’s left the building and that they should look for him outside.”

And she looked at me blankly, “What do you mean?”

“The alarm that you pushed. We need to tell the police where to look…”

“Oh! I didn’t push the alarm! I got told that it was only for emergencies.”

Fortunately after that night, Casey got fired. It was the only violent incident that ever occurred during my career as a brothel manager.

So remember, dear readers, no matter how much you hate your job and all of the incompetent people that you work with, it’s important to know that literally every job is littered with human incompetence, manipulation and downright stupidity. And if you’re thinking of throwing in the towel and starting a new career as a sex worker, please don’t come in wearing gumboots and a mumu.

That is all.

You may go now.

*Not her real name, because I can't bring myself to physically type her real name without feeling like I might be inadvertently summoning her to my next workplace, like some kind of industrial demon.