7/11/2008
"Yes, Neobie, I found you"

A week and a half after the job interview, I received a phone call from who would ultimately become my immediate superior. It was an interview of some sort, really, which made me nervous, because it's really weird talking to a prospective employer while you're wearing basketball shorts. I was asked a considerably unusual set of questions - thoughts about the examination, about where I thought I fumbled and where I thought I shone, about my travel time, you know the drill. In the end, the guy on the other end asked the ultimate question.

"When can you start?" he said.

I scrambled for an answer. "Around July or August siguro," I said. "I still have to prepare for my graduation. It's on the 21st."

"Ah," the guy said. "Kasi meron kaming applicant na ga-graduate rin on that day, and she's starting on the 23rd. Is that okay with you?"

"I guess, sir, yes."

"Kilala mo ba siya?" he then asked. And then he mentioned this obscure name, somewhat muffled by the fact that we were talking through our mobile phones. Then again, the name didn't strike a chord, so it was an easy concession. "She doesn't sound familiar," I merely answered.

Two weeks later, it was my first day at work. I did not start two days after graduation, instead choosing to let the realities of me being part of the work force sink in. (Then again, the week before work was as busy as hell, with me running around working on government documents, and later, driving around.) I'm still settling in, with the lack of conversation and my lack of attention, with my painful back to my painful right knee. Perhaps you can say I'm surviving partly because of a nifty pair of headphones - you know, the ones you can fold - and the people who are online.

"Good morning!" Jackie would usually greet me. "Have a nice day!"

If I'm luckier, and we're both finished with our tasks for the day, we would somehow end up comparing the things happening to us at work. She'd talk about office politics and the press releases she's writing. I'd talk about me staring at the computer the whole day, and my efforts to deal with silence. She'd laugh at something I wrote - on the last blog entry, "learning to cope with silence" - and then we'd wait for log-off time to strike. I still left early.

Yesterday, while pretending to be British, my boss approached me. Sir Dante - the person on the other end of the line two weeks ago -wanted me to change my shift for today, to make way for a meeting with the HR department. Well, it's a given, since I'm a new employee and I have to get up to speed with company policies. So, sure, I'll go to work at eight in the morning, as if I haven't been doing so for the past week. I think Kris has been, to say the least, surprised I'm really early.

My mother, however, simply said: "May makikilala ka na rin."

I was finished with my tasks almost two hours before my tentative log-off time. I was already twiddling with stuff, chatting with Samantha while making sure I didn't forget to attach anything to the email I will send. Unusual things were happening at the office, and all I hoped for was for the meeting to actually begin. It finally did, but not at the conference room; some meeting was taking longer than expected.

Apparently, I'm not the only newbie among the five writers. Kata and Neobie - whose shifts legitimately end an hour before mine - were also in attendance, along with two other employees who aren't part of our team. So stuff were explained - pay slips, appraisals, those unusual events - until the topic casually shifts to government forms. Well, you can blame Neobie for that.

"Pano po yung diploma?" she asked. "Kasi makukuha ko pa lang yung diploma within two months."

I was already drifting into daydream mode - hey, wait a minute.

Today was, perhaps, the first time I deliberately left the office with others. What you might consider the first time - Kris and I leaving the office at the same time - well, it's an accident, really. At the end of the meeting, though, I was with Neobie and Kata, and I somehow reverted to student mode, but with a little more dignity than the old version. I already knew a few things - this is Kata's second job, and Neobie's first, much like me - but I somehow wanted to hear something else.

"Saang school ka?" I asked Neobie while walking to the log-out counter.

"La Salle," she simply said.

"105?" She nodded, like she usually does.

"Anong course?"

"ISE."

"Bakit hindi kita nakikita?"

True enough, why not? It's funny if you think of it, really. For three years, you went where she went, you did what she did, and you climbed the same stairs she climbed, and despite CLA being a very small world, I never really knew her. Not even saw her, even. A conflicting thought came through at the exact moment. No wonder she looked slightly familiar.

"Ngayon n'yo lang naman na magka-school kayo?" Kata exclaimed. "Kami, matagal na!"

So, apparently, she was the girl Sir Dante was referring to on the phone. She's the one who started barely a weekend after graduation, because she finds it boring at home. And while it still feels weird walking the streets of Ortigas with someone who was remotely connected to you in a way, I somehow breathed a sigh of relief. I'm not exactly alone - but, then again, I sometimes have to. No wonder our superiors were surprised nobody from the team is having a lunch get-together.

The three of us went to the Shangri-la Plaza, since I always pass by before going home, and Kata can find a ride to the east anyway. Neobie, who's an absolute newbie to the mall, was going to meet her father there. We ended up waiting at the bookstore, talking about graduation, possible common friends and our writing. Her father came, and I had to go, somehow awkward at the fact that things aren't really going to disappear that fast.

Turns out we do have a common friend. And despite hesitation... well, you've got to have boundaries, right?

And your responses...

bloodcurdling... i mean the life after school and college.

Blogger NiƱa7/12/2008     

Neobie? The fair skinned girl with small eyes? :)

Anonymous anna7/16/2008     

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