My move from Marché U into lift ticket sales was generally seen by most of my acquaintance as a sign that I was going up in the world. I’m not entirely sure why, since both jobs are that of caissiere and both involve people handing you money which you don’t get to keep, in return for which you give them items which they desire.
Admittedly the ticket sales office does entail a lot more answering of bizarre questions – someone once asked me where he could buy a turkey, presumably a dead one, though you never know – but I’m not convinced that this really has more cachet than just selling stuff.
Winter ticket sales generally keeps our small army of cashiers fairly busy, what with answering silly questions, miming the concept of ski insurance to depressed-looking Russians and working out the potential saving to families with numerous offspring of various ages if half of them get their passes from the ski school and the other half from the ticket office.
Summer is less busy across the board, with fewer customers and therefore fewer cashiers and sales points. This means that rather than hang around in a well heated retail environment round the back of the tourist office, I get to sit in a hut.
Last year’s hut was at the top of the Venosc telecabin, which was quite handy from the point of view of travel to work but had several serious drawbacks. It wasn’t quite big enough for a battery chicken, for a start. And no-one told me until I after I’d signed up that there was no computer system so all the tickets were printed off in advance and I had to keep track of ticket stock and float using nothing more than the human brain. I do actually have one of these somewhere, but unfortunately it crashes when faced with numerical input. This is a bug easily fixed by running Excel alongside the main processor, but in the absence of that facility the brain on its own becomes a bit tits on a fish, numerically speaking. Inevitably the whole thing went T.U. after about two weeks and I had to spend regular afternoons off apologising to Estelle in the central ticket office while she tried to make some sense of the whole dog’s dinner.
This year’s Venosc hutsitters don’t have that sort of intellectual challenge to deal with, following the installation of computer and printer, but this means that there is now so little space in there that the cashier has to be inserted and later extracted with the aid of a shoehorn. And possibly some kind of industrial suction system.
Hutsitting this season is at Vallee Blanche, which is less convenient from a commuting point of view, though no doubt walking four kilometres a day is good for me. (Working opposite a supermarket which sells packets of Haribo World Mix is less so, but you can’t have everything.)
The Vallee Blanche hut, while not the very apex of luxury (you have to get the Diable hut for that – windows which actually keep the draughts out and a swivel chair for feeling important on) is definitely a move up the scale. There’s enough room for at least four battery chickens for a start. You could even think about swinging a cat as long as it was only a small one. And people have started asking daft questions again – they never did that at Venosc, for some reason.
The new hut has other advantages as well – when not doing the Telegraph’s sudoku puzzles or annoying people on skinflint-expats-in-France fora, the underemployed cashier can get out in the sunshine and roam about the decking in between the turnstiles and the chairlift. Until we lose the sun at about 3pm and in the absence of the recent uncalled for north wind, at any rate. It also involves alarmingly civilised working hours which include – wait for it – two consecutive days off every week. You have to have spent half your working life in travel and tourism before you can even begin to appreciate what kind of a luxury that really is.
In fact my only real quibble with this summer’s hut is the fact that the computer system isn’t up to streaming Radio 4. That would baffle the punters no end, Gardeners’ Question Time at the lift stations.