New hire

Wednesday was my first day at Haugen & Dahl, and I'd already taken a practice bus commute, so there were no surprises getting there. I took a slightly early bus — didn't want to be late on my first day — which got me to the office on Millionaires' Island at about twenty minutes before 8:00. The building was open, but the office was locked.

The receptionist let me in when I buzzed and said, "I'm a new hire, and supposed to meet with someone in Personnel."

She said she didn't start work until 8:00, like me, and neither did anyone in Personnel, so I sat down and read the book I'd brought for lunchtime reading.  

I hadn't asked, but at 8:00 the receptionist called Personnel. She told me, "It'll be a while, so keep reading your book."

Delays are an ordinary first-day frustration at any job. What's not so ordinary is that she asked if I'd like a pastry and a cup of coffee.

I shrugged and said sure, and she asked if I wanted cream and sugar. "Uh, cream, please," I said, and at that she opened a door and darted into the adjacent conference room, where a meeting of Important People was about to begin. She came back with a cinnamon roll on a plate, a cup of coffee, two creamers, and a fork.

"If you want the cinnamon roll heated, there's a microwave in the next room," she said, and pointed.

"Did you used to be a waitress?" I asked.

"Yup," she said, and laughed, and we introduced ourselves.

Until Wednesday, nobody had ever offered pastries and coffee on my first day at work. It was a damned fine cinnamon roll, too — from a bakery, I'm certain, not from a factory. But I didn't leave a tip.

♦ ♦ ♦  

When Personnel was finally ready to see me, I went upstairs, found the right room, and filled out the same forms and endured the same shallow but friendly chit-chat you face from Personnel anywhere.

For four hours I sat at a computer watching orientation videos. They weren't exactly the same videos I'd seen at other jobs, but mighty similar — company BS, no grab-ass please, equal opportunity blah-blah, here's how HIPAA works, here's our dress code and ethical rules, etc.

There was, however, a genuinely impressive half-hour video about recognizing your unconscious biases — against old people, or young people, against fat people, or thin people, etc — and not letting yourself get away with it. The video even spent a minute talking about many people's unconscious bias against introverted and soft-spoken people, and jeez, nobody ever mentions the bias against us quiet guys, except us quiet guys.

Wish I could share a link to that video, but it's proprietary, available only to Haugen & Dahl employees, so you're shit outta luck.

♦ ♦ ♦  

When I'd seen all the welcome videos, my boss and two of my new co-workers came for me. They took me to my new desk, which didn't have a computer yet, so I spent the day shadowing the co-workers, Alissa and Judy. Both are nice, competent at their job, and good at explaining things. The day went quickly, and the bus home was on time.

♦ ♦ ♦  

On Thursday, my second day, my desk was still computer-free, but my boss was aware of it and said he was nagging I.T.

All day it was me and Alissa and Judy again, which was good. Because of my damaged psyche, see, I hate being in a large group of people who already know each other. It's better to be working with only two people, especially since neither of them seems to be an ass. They worked and I watched and listened, asked a few questions, and learned more about what we do.

My bus back to Seattle never came, so the next bus was jammed with people and I ended up standing all the way across the bridge. It's a fairly quick ride, though, and the view of the lake was lovely.

♦ ♦ ♦  

On Friday, someone from I.T. came 'round with a computer and wired it up, hooray, so two days and two hours into my career, I input my first form and did a little dance. Of course, I'm doing everything very slowly, even the dance, but by quitting time some tiny bits of the tasks started to click in my head.

That's my favorite part of a new job — when you start to understand what you're doing.

♦ ♦ ♦  

I only have two complaints about the place.

First, in three whole days nobody's offered me another cinnamon roll.

And second, we're required to use Edge, the worst browser of the 21st century. I spent my lunch on Friday Bing-ing around to figure out how to remove Edge's most annoying features, starting with the Bing search engine. Also got rid of the full-screen picture and clock on every new tab, and the news and sports feed I never asked for that blocks the screen at random moments. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Have I mentioned what Haugen & Dahl does?

No, I haven't and won't, because it doesn't matter. Haugen & Dahl sells a service, but my job will be pushing paperwork around and inputting data, trying to do it accurately, and then taking the bus home at 4:30.

Other than the specific forms and data, it's no different than when I worked at a medical clinic, a car dealership, Macy's regional headquarters, or anywhere else. An office is an office, and I'm good at office work.

It's sad, actually. There are only three things I've ever been good at — I was a pretty good husband for my wife, I can write OK on days when there's something to say (definitely not today), and I'm good at office work.

♦ ♦ ♦  

After the bus from the island takes me downtown, my bus home runs only twice hourly, but on day one and day two the wait was only a few minutes. On Friday, day three, the wait was 25 minutes, so I yielded to temptation and walked to the run-down gyro shop down the street.

Main Street Gyros has been at 2nd & Main since about 1847. I'm only guessing about that, but it's been there a long time. I remember seeing the place when I lived in Seattle thirty years ago, and even then the building looked dilapidated. Never eaten there until Friday, though.

A forlorn-looking fat man sat at a window table and watched me walking up to the place. The door was closed, because it was cold and drizzling out, but the doorknob was missing. To get inside I had to finger the hole where knob had once been, and gently pull the door back with two now-greased fingers.

Walking in, the guy at the table grunted and got up, abandoning his food. He was the only other person in the place, either the owner or the sole employee, and he was extremely Greek. Barely spoke English.

I looked at the overhead menu, but a twenty-something white guy came in before I could order, and he was furious. "I want my money back," he demanded, and he and the Greek guy yelled at each other for a few entertaining minutes.

"What is not good?" the Greek guy asked.

"Man, look at these shitty fries," the customer said, opening the styrofoam clamshell and pointing at the fries. They looked fine to me. Actually, they looked so good that I decided to order fries with my shawarma.

The grumpy Greek gave the guy his money back, and the customer stormed out saying, "I'll never be back." The owner said nothing to that, but his face implied, I've been making gyros twice as long as you've been alive, kid.

I ordered a chicken shawarma sandwich with fries. It took the man a minute to make the sandwich, and then we waited while the fries fried. When he pulled the potatoes from the vat and dropped them into a styrofoam to-go box, he squirted a generous stream of what looked like mayonnaise all over the fries. He hadn't asked, and I would've said no thanks to any sauce, but it's a Greek place so tzatziki goes without saying.

It came to $16 or so. I gave him a twenty and waved off any change, because I don't like hearing jingle bells when I walk. He was so happy with a tip, though, that he told me to take a Coke from the cooler on my way out. Took a Diet Dr Pepper instead, and then bused away, and it's a long ride so everything got microwaved when I got home, except the Dr Pepper.

It was a very good dinner. Messy, though. The 'sandwich' was more like a loosely wrapped wrap, which fell apart a little more every time I picked it up, but it was scrumptious, or νόστιμο in Greek. The sauce on the fries was terrific, and the portions were generous. I'll probably order the same thing next time, but eat it with a fork. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

So I like Main Street Gyros, and I like Haugen & Dahl.

If I still like the job in a couple of months — and they like me enough to pass my probationary period — maybe I'll move downtown. That would slice 45 minutes off my commute each way, and put my annoying flatmate Dean out of my life forever.



  1. Claude Can't Afford ItMarch 4, 2023 at 7:46 PM

    Best of luck with the new job. Work sucks.

    I miss living in Seattle. I suspect you'll have more fodder for writing if you move back to the city. What's single room cost down there nowadays? $3600 per month?

    1. Seattle misses you right back.

      I would only take a shitty room, by choice and because noplace better would let me in the door. It'll have to cost lots less than that.

      Sure wish Seattle had rez hotels, but they were all shut down by the city decades ago.

    2. Wow, you really took those HR videos to heart, no descriptions of the co-workers? That's an outrage!
      and this quote:
      "Have I mentioned what Haugen & Dahl does?
      No, I haven't and won't, because it doesn't matter."
      umm, let me be the judge of that, okay?

    3. The company, near as I can ascertain, sells non-evil services, which is all I can hope for in an employer.

      As for the two co-workers I've mentioned, they're both attractive women in their 30s, but I'm fat and ugly so that's irrelevant. It's a big company and there are lots of people working there, so eventually I'll probably say who's black or white or has a limp.


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