The first day


wallcalendar.jpgStart a new job and you’ll be asked one thing over and over.

How was your first day?

Not surprisingly, it was dull, as most first days are. After all, I didn’t suddenly become an astronaut or firefighter.

I work in a word factory.

I don’t know what grand story I’m supposed to conjure about making my grand entrance or some particularly embarrassing incident (“I went half the day before realizing I had my belt on left to right instead of right to left!”). I don’t know why people forget their own first days on the job.

You show up early, you overdress, you fill out a stack of papers, you meet a lot of people whose names fly by. That gets you through mid-morning.

OK, so how was everyone? Well, they were nice. Unless you’re the one who’s replacing dear ol’ Smitty who had been there 30 years and brought everyone homemade fudge and was tragically mauled by an angry lemur, everyone is nice to you.

They say their name, I say my name. They ask what I do, I ask what they do. Repeat as many times as needed to tour your workplace.

It’s handy to have a stock phrase that you can trot out in these awkward-but-brief encounters. Something like “good to know” or “keep it up” or “oh, really.” As long as the person stuck showing you round doesn’t care, it’s a lifesaver.

I mentioned astronaut earlier because it’s a pretty exciting job, so when you get introduced around Cape Canaveral, everyone stands a little taller to meet you. “Capt. Borden, so you’re the pilot we keep hearing about. You’re a credit to the space program and to the country.”

And with firefighters, you even have the chance to fight fires on the first day (unless you’re a probie, in which case you fight fires, but maybe protected a little by the vets on the crew). You never know.

But most office jobs — at least, the ones I’ve tried on — start with office stuff and are predictable from that point. Maybe you start on bagel breakfast day, or maybe you start on the day the AC goes out.

The first day is getting your feet wet. It’s finding your way to the bathroom and the copier. It’s scrounging for a wastebasket and a lunch buddy.

It soon becomes the first week, then the first month. And if you’re really, really good, the first year. First things first.


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