Scenes of life - Week 004
Week 004 (28.9.20)
My fingers slide up the blade of grass, water gathering into a small square of ice. I watch as white becomes translucent.
‘Frost,’ I chuckle to myself. ‘You were right. It’s not dew,’ I add to my partner.
I rub my fingers together, the ice melting under the warmth of my skin. I had first mistaken the glistening water on the grass for dew. I rise from the ground and we continue our morning walk.
‘I’m okay about the job,’ I say as we delve under the cover of trees.
My partner looks at me and smile in acknowledgement.
‘I was just a bit sad yesterday. But it’s okay.’ I smile too.
I didn’t get offered the role of library development officer, the phone call having come early the day before. The alternative is not bad, simply less known.
We walk on in silence until we reach the road separating the two parks that form our morning commute. ‘Do you want to go the long way?’
‘No, I’ll just head home now I think.’
My partner follows the path ahead while I turn to the boundary path circling the edges of the park. Steam rises from the top of a fence where the light of the sun reaches. I watch in fascination for a moment, my hands itching to reach out and touch the spot in search of warmth, but I know the fence will be cold.
I keep my hands firmly in my pockets and walk on.
Rain dribbles from the sky, doing a poor job at getting me wet. I am glad it isn’t cascading in sheets yet. I am due at city hall in half an hour to pick up my work laptop and meet my new manager in the flesh for the first time. The last time we have seen each other was during my interview on Zoom. He had been wearing a suit then, awkwardly sitting on a pile of plastic boxes, his laptop balanced on his knees.
The rain holds until I enter city hall. I hastily put my mask on, glancing around me to navigate the many Covid signs.
‘Hi,’ I mumble through my mask. ‘I’m here to meet M. I’m a bit early though, am I okay to wait inside?’
‘Come over here,’ the woman behind the perspex screen gestures for me to walk to the side where no screen is erected.
I repeat my words, raising my voice.
‘What department,’ a man sitting at a laptop enquires.
‘Huh… let me check.’ I scroll through my e-mails to find our latest conversation.
‘Growth and regeneration.’
‘Growth and regeneration,’ I repeat louder trying to articulate as best I can under my mask. ‘Do I have to wear my mask here?’ I look at the woman still standing.
‘No. It’s okay.’
‘Thanks.’ I take it off carefully before shoving it into my pocket. ‘That’ll be easier now.’
We all smile, two metres between our bodies.
‘What did you say his last name was?’
I check my phone and spell it out for the man, my voice at a normal level.
‘Found him! I’ll send him a message to let him know you’re here.’
‘Thanks. Can I sit there?’ I point to a row of chairs by the side of the desk.
It is odd having to ask about my every gesture but I am unable to take anything for granted. I do not know this environment. I take a seat and bury myself in my phone, scanning my e-mails for the ones to be sent to the trash without being read, and making a mental note of the ones I really need to answer over the week-end.
The two people behind the wooden and plastic enclosure raise their voices as if arguing. I turn my head to them before I can stop myself. They notice. I am ready to sputter an apology when the man smiles.
‘Dating problems,’ he simply says.
‘Huh…’ I hesitate caught off guard.
‘I just don’t think this woman is right for her, you know?’
‘Well… I wouldn’t know.’
‘Oh just side with me.’ He laughs and the other woman and me join in.
‘Hi, I’m…’ A voice rings from the entrance. ‘Oh you’re here.’ I recognise M. from my interview over a month ago.
‘Hi.’ I wave and slide my phone back into my pocket. I rise from my seat and walk towards him, our bodies remaining at a distance.
We stand awkwardly for a moment, unable to go past our instinct to shake hands until M. makes a joke about it.
We shuffle to the other side of the room, having to wait for one of the IT people to fetch us. I glance at the receptionist and security guard and wave them goodbye. I haven’t had time to ask for their names but before I can think about this too much, M. tells me about my new role and how excited everybody is for me to start.
‘I’m really excited too. I can’t wait for next week.’ The words sound flat to my ears but I hope M. can pick up from my expression that this is true. After months of lockdown, of being at home, I am ready to rejoin society in this new role.
We descend to the belly of city hall, down winding flight of stairs and rows of corridors I know I will not remember. I am handed a laptop and a badge by one of the few IT employee present in the large room. We set it up quickly. The IT person disappears from sight, leaving M. and I to run through my induction. I listen eagerly.
M. tells me about the Council health scheme and how physical health as well as mental health are important to him. The details of his words is lost on me as I revel in the feeling of being safe, my last conversation with my previous manager echoing in my ears as a distant memory. There will be no breakdowns.
He carries on through the checklist laid down on the table between us.
There are talks about equality and politics, about my soon to be colleagues and work patterns, about flexi time and overtime, about plans for the future and my place within this. I wonder, sitting two metres away from this man, how I ever put up with my soon to be old place of work. This person here is behaving as a human being, treating me as a human being. He is not firing an e-mail to order me to do something. He is not demanding I work 48h a week with no extra pay, he is not telling me my anxiety is of little relevance and importance.
We eventually say our goodbyes, my face incapable of doing anything else but smile. I return to my bicycle, the saddle soaked through. I resign to the idea of the brown leather sipping through the blue of my jeans. I push the pedal forward, my bag heavy with a new laptop, and ride away from city hall, the rain stronger than in the morning.
Water drops splash on my trousers, spreading through the threads easily. I keep my legs turning, the wheels spinning along well known roads until I reach home again.
I take my coat off, noticing I am still wearing the badge I have been handed earlier around my neck. I take it off, observing the photo of me printed on the plastic in my hand. I am beaming, my face glowing with eagerness and anticipation at a new start. I mimic the expression without realising before hanging the badge on the study door, the neck strap dangling for a moment before finding stillness as if it has always been there.
Lovely read. I worked for Bristol City Council for eight years – as a temp! I worked in several departments on many different projects. From installing a siren warning system along the coast to facilitating an artist – you met Frank with me at Bridge Farm. He got permission to build a giant pyramid of green wine bottles on the top of the CREATE building. What’s your new role there? I’m looking for jobs now so better check their vacancies. Best wishes,
I’ll be working as a cycle centre assistant in the Bristol family cycle centre. I’m really excited about it. It’s bringing me back to working with communities, something I’ve really missed.
Fingers crossed you find something soon. Last time I checked there were a lot of vacancies.
I’m glad to read that you’re doing better and that this place of work sounds so nice. Having colleagues and a boss who cares about your well-being really changes things!
Thank you ☺️ It really does. It’s been so much more relaxed and welcoming from day one. I’m still very much enjoying this change. It’s not without challenges but for now, it feels like the right place to be.