Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The morning after four years before

For the last couple of weeks I have been working at a newish place. It is an uncomfortable business for several reasons. First, literally, as I am forced to sit on a terrible chair which ejects me every evening as a new version of myself who walks like Oddbod from Carry On Screaming. Secondly, it is a wretched location, with nothing to do during one's lunch hour except drown one's ennui in hot beverages at a table for one in the nearby Waitrose coffee shop. And c) because the department of four in which I'm working contains two people I have previously interviewed for jobs, in my former working life when I Was Someone. Two people to whom I did not give jobs. This is the source of the discomfort.

They are both lovely, talented people, with whom I would have been happy to share desk space, mid-afternoon/is-it-too-early-to-start-back-on-the biscuits and emergency desk-drawer deodorant (spray, not roll-on - eurgh. I would not share a roll-on with my sister. I don't have a sister and this is a good reason why not). The not-giving-them-jobs thing was not actually my fault. One of them  dropped out after her first interview to take another job. The other one I liked a lot, but she was a powerless victim of the caprices of my then boss.

I think that's how it went. Perhaps I am rewriting our shared history to make myself seem more benign and encouraging, quite probably inspirational, rather than incommunicative, dismissive and overly flippant. 

Still, on my first day at this workplace, there was no reason for me to feel trepidatious. Naturally I still did. It is a bit like being introduced to someone you once had an extremely drunken and categorically one-off fumble with, or have previously met on a blind date that your mutual acquaintances were not aware of. Slightly awkward. A bit embarrassing. Both wondering if the other even remembers. Not wanting to mention it. Tying yourself up in knots of denial and self-absolution until you can no longer comprehend that not mentioning it is, in actual fact, really rude and a bit weird.

One of the people involved, I had seen since our interview. That ice had been broken. Phew. The other one, I was seeing (again) for the first time. After we were (re)introduced, she said enigmatically, 'Oh yes, we've met,' and carried on with her work.  

That was it.

That was it? What does she mean we've met? How can she be so calm about it? Did it mean nothing to her? Maybe she's told all the others… Maybe they all know… Maybe they're all laughing about how I'd got us both some water from the water cooler, and when I went to take a sip of mine, I missed my mouth a little bit and it went down my top. Oh hahahaha. It's all a joke to you, isn't it? I'M NOT LAUGHING.

It then occurred to me that behind their smokescreen of routine pleasantries, the two of them were pooling their power and resources, and planning some kind of payback. I sat at my desk, waiting to be passed a list of demeaning tasks and unreachable goals, and expecting to be cut out of communal biscuit rituals. 

It never happened. No one bogwashed me, stole my dinner money, leant over my desk and shouted in my face 'WHO'S THE DADDY NOW?' or similar. 

Still, I did notice that when either of them handed back pieces of my work that I'd given them to approve, they had pressed very, very hard with their red pen.

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