Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Midvale School for the Gifted

My favourite cartoon ever is one of Gary Larsen's. It's well known. (See below)

Unfortunately, this cartoon has often come to represent my life. Far too often do I find myself in "Midvale" moments.

I've had a few of these rather unfortunate moments over the last 24 hours.

Some background.

One of my least favourite memories is the day I started at a new school when I was in grade three. Before we moved to the Adelaide Hills, to the picturesque but badly named town of Myponga, I was just a normal school kid. I had a small group of friends, I went to brownies, I played with the kids next door - a fairly normal childhood.

Then everything changed. First up, my mother cut off my long hair to a rather dire bowl cut, telling me that all girls in the country had short hair. We moved to a place there the nearest kids were about a kilometre down the road, away from the suburban streets and the nearby friends.

Then a week after shifting house, I moved to the local primary school at the start of third term. I was sick to my stomach scared - I remember my tummy rumbling away with nerves - after all, here I was, this new kid, I kept questioning myself. Would these country kids like me? Was I going to fit in? Would my hair be the same? Was everything going to be alright? 

Mum tried to reassure me the night before.

Arriving at the school, I can only recall being horrified.  All the girls had long hair. Here I was with a bowl cut. Then sometime in the morning classes we had reading. Sitting on the ground, listening to the teacher, the urge to break wind came over me, as it does most people once or twice a day.  Then disaster. My turbulent stomach got the better of me - I burped and farted, concurrently, and loudly - so most of the class heard. 

The ensuing mayhem quietened after a few minutes, but I'd made my mark. Horrified, I tried to disappear in the carpet, humiliated, knowing that my chance of making a good impression had gone. It didn't help that a week later I went into hospital to have my legs fixed, spending the next three months on crutches and in plaster boots - and the rest of my primary school days were dogged being not allowed to play sport and being in and out of hospital for more treatment. It didn't make for a happy time.

So now, some thirty five years on, I still find myself dreading first days - with all the same concerns. Will I fit in? Will the other kids play nicely with me? Will I be smart enough? Will things all be too hard? Will the others find me too loopy?

Being a consultant, I've got a game plan. I go in to new roles as a professional. I try and keep personal details to a minimum for the first few weeks so that the natives don't get scared away. I try and make sure I follow the rules of the place - keep to the dress code, keep my hours in check with everybody else, make an effort to get on - and this generally works. By the end of a few weeks, my workmates will discover that I'm a holistic healer, run, look after cats, come from a town called Myponga, barrack for the Crows, dislike Oxford commas, read tarot professionally, have things on at night like dream group and masons and all the other quirks I possess that work mates will tend roll their eyes at. Over the years, I've noticed that my idiosyncrasies are tolerated more, or maybe, I just don't care that much - I'm me, bad luck, you'll get used to me in the long run. I don't hurt anybody - my life is just a bit full and a bit different.

Regardless, I started a new role on Monday at the telecommunications firm, Your Money Is Important To Us, Inc (TIMIITU). I was hand picked for this role by one of he managers and after a few hiccoughs with the contract, I fronted up to meet the team on Friday and started with them yesterday.

Thankfully, the team are a dream - lovely people. The work will be interesting. I have a been given a new laptop to work on, which I managed to configure with minimal help. Being a very large telecommunications company, it's expected that your LAN login, phone, door pass and email won't arrive for a few days, but with the help of a key drive, I got reading major documents and starting to get my head around what they want me to do.

By 5 pm, I was ready to go home. Dutifully, the new laptop was locked into a cupboard - and I faithfully put my new locker key on my key ring next to my car key. I remember this clearly. I was talking to to colleagues and I placed the locker key on my key ring next to the car key. I thought about it. I remember doing this.

Home was a long way off on Monday night. Walking home, first stop was at an office supply company to buy myself a notepad, mouse and keyboard for work (easier to bring your own, being one of the largest telecommunications companies, you're not going to get office equipment out of them - especially being a contractor). I went to masons early, setting up the hall (and didn't tell anybody about the freemasonry stuff - give that a month or two). Came home, had dinner, went to masons, came home again, went to bed, showered dressed, walked to work.

On arrival at the new office, I placed my handbag down on my desk, took my bunch of keys to the locker - to find the locker key gone - not there. Zip. Nada. Disappeared.

Hand on heart, I remember putting it on the key ring, next to my car key.

I proceeded to look through my handbag for the key. Like many women, my handbag is a bit of a tardis - I could live off it's innards for a week at times. It was upended, completely. No key. The project manager asked if there was a dalek in the bottom of my bag. Oh dear.

I checked the desk I'd sat at the day before. I checked everywhere I could thing of. No key. No laptop. No documents. No water bottle - all locked in the cupboard.

Second day in, I'm branded the project nufta. This won't be lived down.

It's grade three all over again.

I was asked if I could pick locks. I replied in the affirmative, but only Yale locks and car doors pre-1985. Something I picked up at university college... Opps, not supposed to admit to that either.

One of the team leads was taking a stationary order. It was requested that they got me a combination cable lock. Pointed jibes came from all directions over the day.

Thankfully, the problem of the laptop was solved quickly in five minutes. After all the blokes in the team had a try of picking the lock with a variety of safety pins,  paper clips and other sharp stationery items, with no luck, I went to see the facilities guy. It's amazing what a guy called Lennie in an Anthrax t-shirt can do with a letter opener and a bit of brute force.

Laptop liberated, I got on with the day.

The second "outing" came when in a meeting early afternoon. One of my colleagues, somebody I knew from the old consultancy was complaining of a neck ache. 
"Give me your thumb, I'll fix it."
She looked at me, eyebrows raised.
"Just do as you're told. Like Jonella, I'm a reflexologist." This girl knows Jonella too.
"Ah." She gave me her hand.

Two minutes later, the relief was showing on her face.

And I realised that my vow to keep my "other life" quiet had gone out the window.

So much for keeping schtum, in the background and fitting in.

I suppose it makes me a little more memorable.

So tonight, the laptop was locked in a colleague's locker and I walked home.

 Arriving home, the first thing to strike me - the locker key was sitting in the middle of the lounge room floor.

I reckon the Gods of the Midvale School for the Gifted came to extract some brownie points or something...

Regardless, I'm still hopeful this contract will be a good one. If this is the worst thing to happen to me, I'm a very lucky woman.



Kath said...

What you call your 'Midvale Moment' is really what makes you memorable!

My favourite Larson cartoon is one where the wife is saying to her husband who is busy playing in the loungeroom - "You can rebuild the fort later, Harold - the Johnsons are at the door"

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Great tale - and I LOVE "The Far Side" cartoons too.




The Elephant's Child said...

Each time I read one of your post I am in awe at the fullness of your life, not with trivia, but with interesting/challenging/fun things.

My fave Far Side Cartoon has his usual dorky child, hand up, saying 'May I be excused, my brain is full?' I so relate to that one.

Jackie K said...

Hah! Our family has "Midvale moments" too - every time I try to push a door with a "Pull" sign (i.e., every door with a Pull sign) when I was younger either Dad or my sister would point and say "HA HA, MIDVALE!" and I say it in my head every time I do something dumb...

My favourite Far Side cartoons:
The deer with the target on his tummy, second deer says "Bummer of a birthmark, Hal"

Man with goldfish perched on his finger, wife oblivious in kitchen. "Look Marge, he's doing it!"

Cows driving a car past humans in a field, cows yelling out the window "Yackety yack!"

Karyn said...

We used to have that cartoon on the door of the Science Labs. First semester was full of people pushing the "pull".