“I am Sarah.”
In truth, I don’t exactly remember how the introductions went. But in that moment, the remaining five days of training seemed a little less scary. Unless you consider that the things that Sarah and I had in common were a
shared love for girls and a shared hatred for the world.
Five years on, things haven’t changed.
“I want you to go round the table and introduce yourself.”
Unbelievably, 50% of the world still thinks this is a valid ice-breaker, a way to put people at ease.
The other fifty percent are new starts.
Desperately scouring my mind for titbits about myself that don’t make me look like a complete twat, I miss every single introduction. So does everybody else, of course. Stammering out something incredibly mundane like, “I am twenty six years old and I love football”, I arrive at the one thing that I don’t like to say about myself. It’s not that I am not proud of my roots. It’s not that I particularly hate the communist jokes. It’s not that, “I only know one Russian word -- vodka”, has ever gotten old. I just believe that it’s about as important to announce as, “Oh and I think I might be gay.”
Mind you, these days I would announce, “I am gay,” but you get my drift.
“Where’s that surname from?” asks Facilities Manager who’s not so silently dying because he has to do this every week and he’s as sick of the charade as we already are.
I don’t know why I even bother. “It’s Russian.”
“I know a Russian word…”
Of course you do.
“And which account are you joining?”
This is where I need to backpedal a little. Being a call centre, GenEx is split into different accounts. I’ve landed a plum job as an agent in the top account. Sitting up a little straighter, I say with an appropriate amount of pride. “Techtronics.”
You what now?
Having worked in a bank, I chalk him up to one of those stalwarts who has gotten disillusioned with the organisation. You all know the type I mean: too old to start again, too young to think about retiring; their days are spent breaking, and breaking in, the hopes and dreams of everyone who follows in their footsteps.
The third time that I hear the same, “Bad luck”—this one accompanied by a chuckle and a rueful glance—the flutter of concern returns. The speaker is our trainer: a man in his sixties, with an eye for the younger ladies. Specifically his eye on me, as I would learn about three months later as he drunkenly professes his love for me. Trust me—not something that you need to see first-hand. His time is evenly divided between telling ribald, horridly inappropriate, jokes and lambasting Techtronics and GenEx. Occasionally—that one time—he remembers that he is there to teach us something. Unfortunately, the useless training material, a glimpse of which reads thus, 'If a customer complains, don't get mad', prevents any transfer of knowledge happening.
Everyone ends up exhausted by 2:00pm.
Clutching my only non-comatose brain cell to my bosom, I muster all of my remaining social courage. “I am going to the movies on Thursday. You fancy coming?”
“Uh, depends on what you are seeing,” Sarah replies.
Neither of us remembers what movie I suggested, but her response is clear to this day. “Oh my God, I totally loved the first one!”
A fucking sequel.
The story of my life.