It’s my first day in this job . Figuratively speaking I’m standing in the foyer, with my new pen and wearing a shirt that still has the shop creases in it. All around me, experienced employees go about their business, full of intent. I’m slightly in the way, so I think I’ll tentatively approach reception.
“Erm…hello…yes..hi…I’m supposed to start on a column this week?… What?… Yes of course I’ll take a seat”
The first day in a new place can be a mixture of excitement or trepidation. You wonder if you have made the right decision. You watch your new colleagues looking for any signs of disturbing tics. Do they greet each other with silly handshakes? Are any of them the kind of people who, when they approach your cubicle, knock on the desk as if it were a door? Do any of them look like they were recently in a fight?
If you are looking for small clues as to what the mood is in the new workplace, the stationery cupboard is a good bellwether. Anyone who started their first adult job in an office will remember the moment they discovered it: a nook full of highlighters, post-its, ring binders, inky pens, refill pads, hardback notebooks, shelves of printer cartridges that would have made Aengus O’Snodaigh drool. You could have your very own stapler – heck, you could have two staplers, one in each hand stapling like some sort of office-bound John Wayne. You went in there looking for a pencil and came out looking like a looter, clutching a ‘yoke’ whose function you still don’t know to this day. Now of course, because the economy has been stationary for so long, stationery cupboards around the country are shadows of their former selves. Empty apart from unwanted clippy things and one topless whiteboard marker. Desolate, like a drug-addict’s fridge.
Aside from that, one other upside of your first days at work is that they are free of one crucial work-related element: blame. You’re so new, you can’t really be held responsible for anything yet.
Even Kim Jong Un probably had a honeymoon period where the generals said to him, “Look we’ll do the sabre-rattling for a bit, while you’re getting your swipe card and email set up”. The current Korean crisis is probably just the North Korean dictator’s first ‘role’.
The new head of the Irish Medical Organisation can reasonably say “Look I’m just in the door. I’ve no idea why the previous CEO was given a bigger salary than Cristiano Ronaldo.” (If they were clever, the IMO should use the excuse that no one knows what happened with the contract negotiations because all the meeting minutes were handwritten and, well, have you ever seen a doctor’s handwriting?
Meanwhile, in the minty centre of the Central Bank there is a recrimination about how a Joyce coin was cast with a mistaken quote on it. The blame will only fall on experienced staff. Somewhere in there is a newbie thanking their lucky stars they didn’t start a year earlier. It was right that a coin be used to commemorate Joyce because most people’s copies of Ulysses are in mint condition. In fact the coinsmiths and the proofreaders should take some consolation from the fact the most people who bought the coin will give up reading the quote from Ulysses halfway through. The coin has since sold out and it’s likely its popularity will lead to a more being minted – (a process known as ReJoycing)
As for me, the first day’s nearly over. And I think I need a new pen. Now where is that cupboard?
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on April 17th, 2013

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