I don’t know anyone who relishes a first.
Firsts are filled with dread. The ‘first’ of anything is never good. The moments that lead up to ‘firsts’ are filled with mixed feelings of nervousness, dread, alarm, sweat and maybe definitely wine. It is the sense of the unknown. The darkness. The blind fear. The first dance with a boy (Jonty Mills, you broke my heart), the first time your father takes you for a driving lesson, the first time you eat sushi. The ‘will he like my killer dance moves?’ the ‘I wonder what will come first – crashing the car or tearing out the gear stick and beating my father with it?’ or the ‘this is actual raw fish, what am I doing?’ Firsts stink.
The very worst first by far is the first day at school. The fear that the first day of school brings is enough to make you forget all the years months that your mum spent potty training you. And coming in a close second is, the first day at your new job. Add into the equation that the new job is in another country, it made me hysterical. I might as well have been going for a new job on Mars. No doubt they assumed I was from Mars when I arrived because this is how the day rolled out:
As a largely disorganised person, it is a completely incongruent that I am a good time keeper. I hate lateness. I don’t like being late at all, which means that throughout life, I have arrived early for everything. I am always the one early in a restaurant meeting friends, always first to meet for a day of shopping. Always first in the bar. That last one I can’t attribute to my timeliness.
With this time-keeping issue in mind, I made several dummy-runs to work in the lead up to the big first day so I felt confident that I would know what bus to take, how long it would take and what stop to get off at. Let me tell you. Confidence is no friend.
The first morning began with a 6am wake up call. I had prepared my outfit the night before, ready for the day. New khaki chinos. The cool ones, not the ones your Dad wears FYI. A cream coloured jumper. A fur gilet. Ballet pumps. I leave the house at 7am (I had to be in work for 9am, now that I see this in print, this time now seems slightly excessive) and enter arctic conditions (remember the month is December). I can see a bus approaching the stop so I pick up a medium pace. Of course moments later, I slide across the pavement like the Stevie Wonder of the ice-skating world and come to a natural halt when my arse hits the floor. The icy floor. Ugh. I look around, the streets are deserted.
As you know, when you fall over or trip over, before you check if you have a piece of broken bone hanging out/a tooth missing etc. you always check if anybody saw you fall. This is a double edged sword. The problem is, if somebody is there to see you fall, you can laugh it off with them. If nobody is there to see, you can dust yourself off and move on. HOWEVER, there is always the danger that there might be someone watching that you didn’t see and they for sure would be laughing really, really hard. So, taking all three points into consideration, I smiled weakly.
As I lay there on the pavement, waiting for…I don’t know what, I saw a figure approach me. Oh good, some help! A saviour in the dark morning! As this figure got closer I was able to see that perhaps he had been out in the cold a lot longer than I had. As in years. His hair was white and wild, he was unstable on his feet and, from what I could tell, he had no teeth. He crouched over me for a few seconds, looked into my eyes, grunted and then walked off. Oh, I thought. Well, that was the first human interaction that I had since arriving in the Netherlands 4 days ago, so I should be thankful for that, teeth or no teeth.
As I picked myself up off the floor, I surveyed the damage. My cream jumper was smeared with some unidentified blotch and my trousers had a large rip in the side of them. And I could feel some bruising trauma to my bottom coming on. I couldn’t turn up on my first day looking like I’d wandered out of a soup kitchen. It didn’t matter because the fates decided and I could see the bus approaching. I had no time (well, I had 2 hours) to go back into the house and change. I would deal with it later on.
I arrived at the main bus station to change buses and realising that I had half an hour to spare, I decide to get some breakfast and head to the Starbucks.
A full stomach made me feel calm and peaceful (I rarely feel these feelings, least of all on a first day at work so this serenity should have served as a major warning) as I waited for my second bus. The croissant seemed to have appeased my feelings of panic caused by the ice-stunt this morning. I had forgotten about my damaged clothing. The beauty of food.
Unfortunately, due to the snow, the second bus breaks down on route to work and I am forced to walk the additional 2 miles through the snow. In ballet pumps. I don’t know what I was thinking. Looking good ruled over practicality? Nobody says fashion isn’t painful? Well, none of those Vogue rules mattered anymore as I neither looked stylish or practical. I looked like a plonker. I began running (paying no regard to what had just occurred an hour previous) in what can only be described as the opposite of a sports bra.
So, an hour late, I finally arrive at work on the first day of my new job looking very much the opposite of the sophisticated ideal that I had aspired to be. My hair had stuck itself to my forehead like a helmet and my left boob had popped out of my bra due to the impromptu cardio work out that I had just endured.
I approached the reception area, still readjusting myself and wiping off the errant remains of the ill-advised chocolate croissant from my jumper. Croissants are bad for you. “Samantha?” the receptionist calls out. “Oh, yes, hello!” I call back. “Sit down and wait over there with Coralie, you are late.” Oh, am I late? AM I LATE??? I HADN’T NOTICED!
I sit next to Coralie as instructed. I looked at this Coralie. She was beautiful and, as far as I could tell, did not have chocolate croissant on her. Being French, (I assumed from the name), she probably knew how to make a croissant, I mused, bitterly. She probably never eats them though. Hmm. “Allo, ‘ow are you?” she says. Oh gawd, she was French. The only French connection I had was owning a pair of 5-year old French knickers and the polyester count was so high in those that any excitement would no doubt result in them bursting into flames. “My name is Coralie, ‘zis is my first day.” She outstretched a perfectly manicured hand. “Of course it is your first day as well,” I muttered and shook her hand.
The pleasantries over with, she cocks her head sideways and tells me that I have something on my top. Oh, and a little something on your trousers, she says. Her voice trails off when she realises that actually I am covered in an array of unwanted souvenirs from my morning commute. Never mind, she smiles.
And so the first day begins.