I guess it doesn't matter how I got here.
It's not much of a story and I'm not going to tell it now. Suffice to say, it's my first day of a new job, working in the accounts department of a big energy company in the CBD. Since my last job wound up I've had a couple of civilised weeks of doing nothing at all, lazing about and reading while I lived off my last pay check, reminding myself of what it's like to be human.
But that time is over.
The human time.
Today it's time to dust off my plain black pants and one of my many plain business shirts and rejoin the work force, heading off like every other sucker to spend the day tapping on a keyboard and a talking an appallingly foul pile of shit in exchange for a small paycheck...
So it's a good thing that I'm stoic.
I slip on my work clothes, grab a coffee and head out around 8.20. I live quite close to the CBD and have decided to walk up to work. Soon I'm part of the throng hustling cityward up Victoria Street, everyone in trench coats and gloves and with iPod headphones screwed into their ears. It's only a half hour walk and I'm due at nine, but I stop for another coffee and get held up waiting for it and end up getting to the office a couple of minutes late.
I'm part of an induction group, 12 strong, and they're all waiting for me in the lobby of the tower that we'll be working in. I'm probably imagining it, but it seems like some of my new colleagues area glaring at me impatiently as I walk up and introduce myself to one of the HR girls minding them.
'Danno? Great! Lovely to see you, glad you could make it! Now if you could just pop over to the reception desk there and get them to issue you with a pass, then we can go upstairs.'
Which seems simple enough. Except there are about 15 people already in the queue at reception and I have to wait in line. After a couple of minutes of queuing, slowly, imperceptively, out of the corner of my eye, I notice that the rest of my group are being ushered to the elevators. I think about ducking out to join them, or maybe waving to one of the staff with the group, just to remind them that I'm there.
But then I think that I already told them I was here and that they know I'm standing in the queue and that I don't want to look daft. Even if they all go upstairs without me, and I can see that they have, then I'm sure someone will come back and get me.
So I sign in and get my pass and then... wait.
Five minutes or so goes by and the crowd in the lobby thins out. There is no sign of anyone coming to get me. I ask the receptionist if she can help me and she looks a little startled that I would even ask her. She gives me a patronising look while she explains that she doesn't know anything about anything. She has no list of new staff, no instructions, no contacts for people like me who are late or lost. She just hands out the cards.
I ask her if I can't go up on my own and just ask around. I put it to her that someone, somewhere must know where I'm supposed to be and I imagine I could find them easily enough. But she dismisses this suggestion and gives me a look that now indicates she considers me to be a bit barmy.
She tells me I'll just have to wait until someone shows up to collect me.
Which I do, on a kind of rubbery amorphous blob, one of many that dot the lobby and are probably meant to double as art and seats. I fidget a bit, unable to stop myself wondering exactly how bad a first impression I've made; firstly showing up late and then getting left behind.
After about twenty minutes, and another fruitless visit to the poster girl for unhelpful corporate office reception staff, a jocular middle aged bloke named Ethan appears to bring me through. After we shake hands he says,
'Yeah look sorry mate. No one told me you were here. One of the HR girls just came in to the training room and asked where you were. Said she'd left you queuing for a pass. Really sorry, like I said. It's been a busy morning.'
We chat a bit in the lift on the way up. Ethan - middle aged, bald, large framed but oddly small legs - is one of my new supervisors and has worked for The Company for 8 years. He'd previously done office admin type work, but The Company had now outsourced that work elsewhere and he'd been thrown back into customer service.
'It's a good time to start, actually, ' he says. 'We've got a lot of new staff on board.'
Ethan takes me to the 8th floor and leads me through row after row of call centre desks; about half of them occupied, the other half either vacant or festooned with boxes of new computer equipment. Everything in sight is new, in fact; the desks, computers, carpet, paintwork, everything. Ethan also explains that The Company have only just moved on site.
Ethan takes me through a labyrinth of corridors to a spacious training room where my new colleagues are, once again, waiting for me. I take the last vacant seat and the facilitator, Belinda, slides a mass of paperwork in front of me.
'Just a few forms from HR,' she says brightly. 'If you could just have them filled out by the end of the day.'
Belinda then calls the group to attention and we get down to business. Which is to say, we spend the first hour of our training fucking about wasting time and drawing pictures.
Each of us is given a sheet of green, A4 paper and told to make a name plate for ourselves with it. Belinda wants us to decorate the name plate with three pictures that show some aspect of our life or personality. I draw a football, a stick figure girlfriend and two stick figure cats and a picture of New Zealand. And then we go around the room and talk about our pictures.
'My name is Danno. I like football, I live with my darling girl and her two cats and I'm originally from NZ.'
Although this is not enough for Belinda and she tries to get more info out of me by asking me random sounding questions about my drawings, like:
'What is New Zealand?'
'Why is football?'
Among my new colleagues I learn that there are a few more cat lovers, and a couple of cat haters, some sports fans, some shopping addicts, an outdoorsman and a girl who admits to being obsessed with the Ultimate Fighting League. And then there's Steph, who says;
'I'm Steph and I really really like to eat and drink and smoke cigarettes. And shop! I know that's four but I couldn't leave any of those out, they're just, like, all totally important. If I could do all four of them at once then that'd be me, totally happy. On my days off I normally go to Chaddy and have a big feed of nachos and a burger or something and then I run around all the shops buying stuff and I buy all sorts of crazy stuff, like stuff I don't even need like, one time I bought a clothes steamer which I've never ever used but then I race home and drink, like, two bottles of wine while I sit on the couch in the dark listening to Rod Stewart. I love Rod Stewart! And all the time I'm smoking smoking smoking, wherever I can get one in. I tried to quit once but my patches kept falling off and then I thought stuff why even bother trying if I enjoy so now I just go with it and smoke as much as I like.'
After which she cackles like a crazy person.
More on my new colleagues later.
After our drawing exercise and a break, we then get down to the embryonic beginnings of learning about the energy industry. The rest of the first day is given over to this general type information. How energy is sourced, where it's sourced from and how it/'s transmitted to the vermin that we call customers. It's fairly dry stuff and kinda boring, although not as much as I was expecting.
As we're all milling back into the room after our afternoon tea break, one my new colleagues, Mel, rushes in looking flushed and excited.
'Oh my God!' she says. 'There's a man on the roof of the building behind us who's threatening to jump off!'
Everyone in the room stares blankly for a moment, and then makes a kind of 'Neejin' sound as they spring to their feet and dash off to check it out. There's movement across the whole floor of the building we're in as people hear the news and chatter about it excitedly with their immediate neighbours, or get to the feet and join us in moving towards the side of the building where the action is. You can almost see the ripple of information spreading.
Our training group finds a window on the south side of the building and presses up to the glass. A small back street runs along this side, on the opposite side of which is a medium sized office block and carpark. A dumpy, middle aged man in tracky dacks and a flannel shirt stands on the edge of the roof, holding lightly on to a light pole with one hand. The small street below has been blocked off with fire trucks, and firemen and cops are dotted along the street itself.
'Holy shit!' someone says.
After about two minutes of this, and nothing else happening, Belinda seems to shake herself out of a trance.
'I don't want to watch this,' she says. 'I mean, I don't think we should be watching this. Let's go back. That poor man.'
And we turn and head back for the training room, some of my new colleagues grumbling quietly about missing the 'action.' One of these, this girl April, says aloud:
'Well he's obviously not going to do it. I mean, if you want to kill yourself, you just do it, don't you. You don't muck about on a roof. He's obviously just trying to get attention. You know, get himself in the paper.'
Which draws a horrified look from everyone else. More about April later.
So we go back to the training room and spend the last part of the day filling in our forms for HR.