I wouldn’t define myself as ‘stupid’ but recent events have forced me to question my claims of sanity and consider the idea of stamping the word across my face.
After graduation, I wisely opted to wiggle my toes in faded oversized pink bunny slippers while my fellow graduates strutted around in kitten heels (monkey suits for the boys). I was quite content dreaming the dream, rather than living it. However, a call from my university’s nosy placement office on a lazy Tuesday afternoon seemed like the sound of the first domino falling. My university wanted to ensure that unemployed-disappointments knew (and verbally admitted) that they were a waste of space. As if this message wasn’t reinforced every day.
Now the nightmare of ending up at school in your underwear was quickly replaced by one where I ended up at the graduation without a job. The defense mechanism kicked in and the CV spammer in me rose to the occasion. While a few companies wrote back annoyed e-mails, others simply exercised their blocking rights.
Fate, or whatever equivalent we soul-less materialists believe in, finally led me to a small cubicle in an even smaller company — as an intern. But that last detail was conveniently left out.
My professional ambition in life, at least for those six weeks was to make it to my desk before my boss the ‘Drama Queen’ made it to hers — which was mostly around noon.
I managed to make it the entire first week but with time, the task became harder and the snooze button easier to press. The five-minute drive to work was then spent engaged in intense prayers and promises that were forgotten at the sight of her empty parking spot.
I tried. Caffeine, hidden alarm clocks and a screaming mother. All failed and all I was left with were new definitions and degrees of stupid. Here they are:
But my bright ideas aside, human resources seemed to have a better one. They installed a face recognition attendance system which not only told me I was late but also captured how horrible I looked every morning. Hoping to gain some sympathy from my own mother, I whined about cruel labour laws, the 9-5 timings, and the harsh no-La-Z-Boy-chair working conditions.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned. My mother’s sympathy was restricted. Her sense of humour — not so much. “Just be careful, sweetheart,” she chuckled. “If you actually show up at work with your face washed and hair brushed, they might refuse to let you in.”
I learnt a couple of other things over the span of the next six weeks apart from the fact that my mother had been right. The guard had to let me in, the day I washed my face, but not before I insisted I worked there and managed to pull out a crumpled business card. Other skills I picked up included implementing Dilbert’s look-busy expertise and tab-switching that would put a Ninja to shame.
I soon realised that my corporate future and my boss’s sanity hung by a thread that was endangered by my new found blondness. Here is my trininity of work boo-boos:
My first mistake was forgivable. But the second one almost cost the company a client. The third stole my dignity or whatever was left of it anyway.
With the probation period coming to an end, I was due for a review. Turned out, I didn’t need a competitive backstabbing coworker to prove I wasn’t fit for the job; I was taking care of that myself. I tried to point out that I had single-handedly managed what was clearly a two-person job but they wouldn’t listen.
The paper bag is yet to come off. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tell the finance department to transfer my next paycheck directly to my therapist’s account.
Smart: What you think of yourself as you crawl back into bed at 7am after gulping down a big mug of coffee convinced that the caffeine will work its magic and effortlessly pull you out of bed fifteen minutes later. (See: Clever)
Smart-ass: What you realise you really are when the caffeine finally kicks in at 11am. (Also see: Super late)
Just plain stupid: Dozing off while waiting for your wake up beverage to cool down a bit. (See: reflection in mirror)
Strike 1 — Setting up a meeting in the wrong city.
Now clueless coworker should be partially blamed for this one but here’s how the conversation went:
Client: “So we’ll see you at ten?”
Smart me: “Yes. We’ll be there. You’ll be at the II Chundrigar branch?”
Client: “No. Gulberg. You’ve seen Pizza Hut next to the Chowrangi?”
Not-So-Smart-Anymore-Me: “Yes, yes. Of course, I have!”
*slightly confused but confident that Google maps and coworkers will help me out*
Client: “Great, it’s the grey building on the tenth floor.”
Me: “We’ll see you in 30 minutes!”
So I turned around to the clueless coworker and asked him if he knew where Gulberg was — to which he replied “That’s really far. We should leave right now if we want to be there on time.”
In retrospect, his answers always make me feel like the smart one and do function as instant ego-boosters.
Annoyed-smart me: “Yes, but do you know where it is?”
Clueless coworker: “Even further away from Nazimabad. We should Google it.”
Our Googling skills told us that Gulberg was in a completely different city altogether.
Strike 2 — Messing up names and muffled giggles
This really taught me the importance of caffeine on a Monday morning and practicing “This is Sara* calling from The Company” before calling up potential clients. Messing up the order (The Company calling from Sara) and muffled giggles doesn’t exactly sell it. And so I did what seemed to be the most reasonable thing at the time. I hung up. Fortunately, when the client called back to inquire, it wasn’t my boss but another superior he got through to. I spent the rest of the day in search of a paper bag and then resorted to hiding behind the junk that had piled up on my desk.
Strike 3 — Forgetting the name of .....
The worst incident was running into a college professor who I admired and looked up to and who, after that meeting, thought that I was the biggest and (to a good degree) the worst liar in the world. That, or I truly made him question the quality of graduates his school was producing.
I introduced myself and told him I was a graduate of his school — the only smart thing I said throughout our conversation. Then, as any professor would, he asked if I was working somewhere? I managed to choke an inaudible “yes”. The next question was simple and yet my star-struck brain, couldn’t recall the company’s name I had been working at for the past six weeks. For 30 seconds, I just silently stared at him while my grey cells struggled to locate this precious piece of information.
And then I said the dumbest thing ever. “Err… wait ... it’s at the back of my mind somewhere.”
He smiled an awkward smile and took a step forward while I mentally smacked myself with a boot.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, August 19th, 2012.