First Day at Work (Maybe)

Yesterday I started a new job. I think.

The reason I say "I think" is because I received a job offer in verbal, electronic and written forms, accepted said offers and subsequently quit my previous job - and yet no one in my new organization seems to know why I am there.

The job I think I have is working in the Information Services department for a university hospital. Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that, but I'll explain it later.

My first day started out simple enough. A four hour orientation explaining the only things I really cared about: when I get paid, free health benefits and the added bonus of paid leave for federal holidays. Frickin sweet. I am going to love working for The Man.

After the orientation, my first stop was to swing by the ID card office. As the human resources rep instructed during orientation, they call it the "OneCard" because it is the only card you'll ever need. Okay. Sounds good.

All that was left was to go to my office, meet my coworkers and maybe be productive for a half hour. I arrived and greeted the receptionist. "I'm Joe. It's my first day," I beamed like it was some special achievement to accept a job offer.

"Hi Joe. We've been expecting you. Here is your packet of information. You're going to meet with the office admin. Here she is now." Smooth sailing so far.

"Joe, so good to see you again. Welcome. We're glad to have you here. First thing, I'm going to need your badge to get you access to the building."

"Sure thing. Here you go. Hot off the press."

"What is this?"

"That's my OneCard. The only card I'll ever need?"

"Oh. I've never seen one of these before."

"..." (I may have actually said the word "ellipsis")

"No, I don't think this is going to work. You need a badge."

"That's not a badge?"

"No. It's an ID. Well, just give me your employee number and I can put the request in."

"Sure. I've got that somewhere in my folder. Ah, okay: 610... 19064."

"That's not an employee number."

"It's not?"

"It's not. That is a personal identification number. Those are for University employees."

"Right. I'm a University employee."

"No, we're all hospital employees here."

"Uh-huh. So how do I go about getting an employee number, and that - what did you call it - badges?"

"Oh, I don't know. I guess we'll have your manager straighten that out. Who are you supposed to be meeting with today?"

"I don't really know. My manager, I assume."

"And who is that?"

"Carl. Carl Lassnim."

"No, no, no. I don't believe he is in this office."

"Oh, okay. Which building is he in?"

"I have no idea. I don't really know him."

"Well... he told me to come here. Today. For work."

"I see. Well, let's just get you to your desk." She smiled kindly but began walking with an anti-social pace. No conversation, just leading me to a destination.

When we arrived, her smile returned. "Here you go. Name plate and everything. Here is your phone. And computer. You'll probably need to get a computer account to use it."

"How do I get one of those?"

"That's a good question. Who did you say you were supposed to meet with?"

"I have no idea. Carl just said - "

" - Well, you'll probably be working with Roger. Or Barry. Have a nice day." She was 15 feet away by the time "nice day" reached my ears.

"Uh, hold up! I don't know either of those people. Can you show me where I can find them?"

"Of course" she smiled, full of hate. I know, I'm being unreasonably difficult. I'm awful. "Let's go see Roger."

Wouldn't you just know it, Roger had already gone to lunch.

"Oh. It doesn't... look... like... he's... around. Now." Between each word, she swiveled her head around, as if Roger would magically appear and make everything okay. He didn't.

"Well why don't you head back to your desk and I'm sure he'll be back soon." Awesome.

Back at my desk, I met my cube mate. She doesn't know anything about my job, my team or any of the people I've mentioned. But she is very sweet. Though I admit the following exchange may not be the best example:

Sally: So, do you have any plans for lunch?

Joe: Nope. None at all.

Sally: Well, we all pretty much just head out on our own around here. There are plenty of places nearby. Here are 17 menus. I'm sure you'll find something. See you later!

I thought that this would be a good time to get in touch with my alleged supervisor, so I rang up the number I had for him. Without a single ring, it went straight to voicemail:

"The cellular customer you are trying to reach is not availible. Please leave a message."

Funny, I don't remember Carl having a robotic female voice. But who am I to judge? I leave a panicked voicemail with lots of "uhs" and "errs", just to communicate an exaggerated level of urgency.

With nothing to do but wait for Roger, I made up a new game. I call it "Sit at desk. Get up. Yawn. Ride elevator down. Ride up. Meander by Roger's office. Sit at desk. Get up. Yawn." Rinse and repeat.

As I ventured around the office, I casually poked my head into cubes it didn't belong and noticed something unusual. Mirrors. Lots of them. Most people have an array of mirrors posted around their monitors, on their desks and hung on their walls. I've never seen anything like it. Do they all have an irrational fear of someone sneaking behind them and jacking them up? Maybe they are just incredibly vain. In either case, I'm glad to finally be working with people I can relate to.

I also noticed that everyone in the office seems to have mastered use of their "inside voices." Everyone speaks in whispers as though they were discussing their role in a covert, Soviet conspiracy or that creepy new guy who keeps walking by. I'm not used to hearing hushed tones in the workplace unless some serious shit is about to go down. As an outside observer, I would think that this behavior could create a sense of paranoia - at least in the more anxiety-ridden, crazy person types in the office. Bless their hearts, whoever they may be.

One thing they are not quiet about is throwing up. On one of my laps around the cube farm, I saw a guy, typing at his computer, pause, vomit loudly into the trash bin placed on his desk, and then resume typing. I grew up in Philly. So I have plenty of experience to know that one should never stop, ask questions or make eye contact when a stranger regurgitates like a newborn. Empathy is often misunderstood as a sign of aggression. So I just kept on strolling and pretended that my life wasn't as random as a David Lynch project.

On the fourth round of my new game (S.A.D.G.U.Y.R.E.D.R.U.M.B.R.O.S.A.D.G.U.Y., in case you forgot) Roger was back. Yay! I win!

Roger is an older gentleman, somewhere in his 60s. He's soft-spoken but very kind and has an arsenal of corny jokes that probably play very well in the toddler grandchild demographic. Early on in our conversation...

Roger: It's okay if you don't know all the programs we use. I'm new here myself, so we'll be learning a lot together.

Joe: Oh yeah? You're new too? How long have you been here?

Roger: (awkward pause) About five years.


I patiently waited for a "Gotcha!", a laugh, even a hinting smirk. But he changed the subject so quickly, I realized it was no joke.

At the three hour mark, Roger had exhausted every piece of information he knew about the organization, the hospital, the university and outboard motors. Not sure what else to say, I just stared out his office door. It was at this moment that I spotted a familiar face. An Asian woman walked by carrying a large box stuffed with papers and picture frames and then quickly disappeared into the hall.

"Wait! Her. That lady. She was in my interview. She's, uh... what's her name? Why is she carrying that box?"

"That's Sunee. She just quit this morning. Nobody's really sure why. Who did you say you are working for?"

"Supposedly Carl Lassnim."

"Who? I've never heard of him. And you say he works in this building?"

"I... don't think so."

"Hmph. What team are you on?"

"I have no idea."

Roger furrows his brow, studies me for a few moments. Then says, "Well. Computers. Right? It's all about computers. Let's set you up with the HelpDesk so they can get you on that fangled doohickey of yours." Oh, Roger.

He shuffles around some papers, finds a pen. Writes something on a piece of paper. "Here you go. Call these people. They'll be able to help you get started."

"Started on what?"

"Ha! I like you. I think we're going to get along just fine, Mr. Joe."

I could have pressed harder, but hey - I'll take a laugh where I can get it. Best to go out on a high note. That's just good showmanship.

Back at my desk, I call the number. Because at this point, this task is my only responsibility.

"Help desk."

"Hi. I'm Joe. I need to get a computer account, email. I just started today, so... I need... that."

"Okay, sure. Let me just get to the right screen. And... okay. New employee. University. Next. Email. Network access. Who did you say is setting up your account?"

"Oh. Well, no. I need it created. I'm new. No one."

"Oh. That's not good. Well. Let's see if I can look you up. What's your employee number?"

Five heads pop up from their cubes like curious gophers when they hear how loudly I smack my own face.

An hour later, I had an account. Access. Awesome. Time to do stuff. Oh yeah, this might be a good time to get in touch with my HR facilitator like they told us in orientation. Let's just pull up the web page they gave us. Type in my last name. Hey! There I am. It worked! And there is my facilitator's name and email address. Easy. Just type up a quick email, ask for next steps.

Within 5 minutes, I have a response that reads...

I'm not sure how you got my name, but I am not able to assist you with any of your questions. I believe you are mistaken. You should talk to your supervisor.

Oh, but if it were only that easy. You see, my "supervisor" is a figment of my imagination. I was bored with my old job so I imagined an entire "interview" and a series of phone calls where the "hiring manager" offered me the position and even made a counter offer against other job prospects I had hallucinated. I was so dedicated to this charade that I even filled out the necessary requisitions and paperwork so that I had a desk. And a phone. And some questionable identification materials. Then I subsequently forgot everything I had done, so as not to ruin the surprise. Obviously, I missed a few steps because I don't understand the complexities of the state employment process. But I did a pretty good job for a first time schizophrenic.

I'm going to fast forward past the part where I cry in the bathroom. But only because I'm ashamed to admit I hung out in the handicapped stall for a solid 30 minutes. Better left unsaid.

It was then that a miracle happened.

It was 5:30. Time to go home. Huzzah! It can wait until tomorrow!

Despite the anxiety of this bizarre day, I had no trouble falling asleep that night. I don't normally remember my dreams, but the one I had that night is still clear in my memory because it so accurately summarizes my feelings from the day.

It's World War II. I find myself in an underground bunker, explosions above rocking the ceiling, shaking dust particles to the floor. The walls are covered in maps; circles and lines scratched into them. The room is filled with people running around, shouting in phones, furiously handing stacks of paper to each other.

"Um, excuse me? Hello?" I nervously try to get someone - anyone's attention. A man rushing past looks at me, confused. He is wearing fatigues and has dirt on his face.

"Who are you?"

"I, uh... I'm new."

"Finally! We need some new blood in here. Okay, you're going to be working the phone. Ah, here's one. You'll need this rotary phone. Real simple. You see, it has numbers 0 through 9 on it." He starts walking away.

"Oh. Okay. Great. But! Wait! What do I do with it?"

"Press the triangle button."

I look at the phone. There is no triangle button. I look up and he is gone. I grab the sleeve of the first person I can find. "Excuse me! I'm new here. And - and I have this phone..."

"This is a GOD DAMN WAR, Mac! Can't you see?! People are dying all around and you're asking me about a GOD DAMN PHONE! FIGURE IT OUT!!"

Yup. That about sums it up nicely.


The next morning, I had a voicemail on my office phone from my boss' cell number:
Hey! Just wanted to call and to tell you don't sweat the small stuff. Enjoy the honeymoon period!"
Or maybe it was "Enjoy the honeymoon. Period." I don't know. I'm not sure he knows who I am. It nearly confirms my suspicion that my employment is the result of a clerical error and I'll be out of a job as soon as they fix the glitch.



And now, the highly anticipated continuation of our tale: Part 2 - The Puppet Master



  1. Oh. My. Gosh. That is insane. What??? Please post an update asap. You have GOT to be kidding. Holy crap. WTF. ??/!!@#?????

    PS you are still one of the best writers I've ever read. Please remember me as your friend when you are published.

  2. I know I should be concerned but for now I'm just laughing a lot and shaking my head. Good luck!