Leaving

Yep, I’ve changed jobs. My last day at Telecom was on Friday. And of course it was full of all the sort of stuff that happens at a job on the last day. The last supper (well, okay, the last lunch) where everyone turns up to stuff their faces. (Except the Melways-disadvantaged, who somehow managed to misread perfectly clear directions and head for the entirely wrong end of Bourke Street).

And let’s not forget the big card. And the way I kept accidentally stumbling upon people trying to secretively sign it. Guys, if you’re reading, don’t worry — after two years of watching other people leaving, I know the office routine pretty well now. But none of the comments in the card said "Good Riddance." Well, only one, and I don’t think he meant it. And I’m quite sure that he was joking about dancing on my grave. Next week.

Nothing is going to make leaving after two years easy. Not the excitement of a new job, not the anticipation of what kind of tie I’ll be given as a going away present. And certainly not the laborious task of clearing out all my email onto disk. And as for the amount of crap that had accumulated on my desk… But I did it. And I showed I meant it. I showed I was leaving. And they all knew it.

Everyone knew I was really leaving when I made that final gesture of departure. The one that means, more than anything, that you’re leaving, and not coming back: Packing the Far Side desk calendar.

And so, tomorrow, I trot off to my new job. A new commute to master, new role to get into, and new people to meet. New phone numbers to remember. New building security to try and circumvent. New Coke machines to plunder. New LAN people to frustrate.

But one thing irritates me. All this weekend, I haven’t had a chance to genuinely answer someone who asks about what I do for a living. To say "well, I’m between jobs at the moment…"

The dentist

Richmond isn’t just where you change to and from loop trains. It’s also where I go to the dentist. We all know how essential it is to go to the dentist regularly. But most of us don’t unless we’re forcibly dragged there. And why? Because no matter how nice the dentist might personally be… it doesn’t matter if the dentist chats to you, smiles as you arrive, or even decides the entire treatment is free, it’s still scary, and bloody painful.

The signs are there the moment you walk into the place. The posters advising you how to look after your teeth. Reminding you to brush three times a day. Reminding you to floss. Reminding you of how to stay away from the dentist. They should just spell it out: "Look, the better care you take of your teeth, the less often you’ll have to come back to this place, okay? Got it? Now scram. And take this free toothbrush with you."

And as you wait, in the appropriately titled "Waiting Room", you see the toughest of characters, entering the surgery, only to come out half an hour later with blood on their jackets and a bandage holding their lower jaw onto the rest of their skull. Okay, there were no screams, but probably they’ve had it soundproofed. These guys are not messing around when it comes to keeping your teeth clean.

It’s finally your turn. You put down the magazine with the article about Michael and Lisa-Marie’s sex life. You try to look brave… and go in.

There’s the dentist, and the nurse. With the rubber gloves, all the equipment, and the kind of cheerful expression that only medical professionals who get paid HOLY SHIT! dollars an hour can have.

The chair itself is nicely re-upholstered, with plenty of padding to make it comfortable. Of course, you just know that beneath all that cushioning is something that belongs in a bad horror film torture scene. Or perhaps that last bit in "Brazil". The arm clamps have been taken off, but it’s still basically the same chair. It probably dates back to medieval times. A flash of lightning, and you’re taken back for a moment. "Tell me where the prince is, Sir Edward, or I fear that you will be taken to the chair and have all your teeth removed!"

You sit down. A switch is pressed, and the chair begins to descend. A bit like in an aeroplane, though generally in an aeroplane they just bend over you to offer you alcohol and food; they don’t stuff odd
pieces of metal down your throat.

The view from the chair is intimidating, to say the least. The bright light in your eyes, the shadowy, masked figures leaning over you with their sharp implements of dental destruction, reflecting the light. And you, helpless, lying there, with your mouth gaping wide open, as if surprised by your surroundings. I wonder how many people have nightmares about being in this position at the dentist.

When it comes to dental care, most of us just have to put up with the cleaning, and the fillings. With possibly an X-ray thrown in for good measure. Spread over a few weeks, of course, to prolong the terror.

It’s the cleaning that I hate. Yes, I know that when (and if) I survive the ordeal, my teeth will be shinier than the sun at midday in the heat of the desert. I know they’ll be cleaner than they’ve ever been (until I eat). I know that for the first time in six months you’ll be able to see the gap between each tooth (which, like the gaps between my toes, is largely unchartered territory).

But it’s still gruelling, isn’t it. No matter how many advantages and benefits there are to cleaning. It still g-r-a-t-e-s as they scrape away. And it goes on longer than an Energizer battery. Sometimes I feel like I just want to hold my hand up and say "stop! Enough! You know, I really don’t mind plaque. Heck, it’s just this side of being a living being capable of independent thought, doesn’t plaque have a right to existence too? Nah, who cares if I lose a few teeth… I’ve got too many anyway! If I cut down, the toothpaste will last so much longer!"

The X-ray is usually a bit of a worry. The fact that they clear out of the room while they do it… uhh… I dunno. Maybe it was my imagination, but I could have sworn I had a kind of fluorescent tinge after the last X-ray. And going home I’m still not sure what that dog was barking at. And that old lady looked very scared.

So the X-rays come back, and presto, it’s filling time. I don’t mind fillings too much. Just try and ignore the injection, and hope they’re putting it in the right place. And hope that they’ve forgotten about seeing that scene in Mr Bean where he goes to the dentist. As the numbness starts to set in, you can look forward to making demented grins at the people on the way home for a laugh.

If the Novocaine does its work, you won’t feel a thing during the drilling. I must see if I can get a dentists’ drill, I reckon it’d be just the thing for making very small holes in things. They wedge your mouth open, stuff in the actual filling (similar to what goes in a duvet, I presume), and it’s all done. Easy.

What is that stuff you rinse your mouth out in after treatment? Some kind of colourful substance. Perhaps they need to switch it to something like Coke, to encourage people to come again. "Only this dentist give you a choice of Coke, Sprite or a chocolate milkshake to rinse your mouth in afterwards! Diet varieties available!"

Junk

Why is it that desks seem to attract junk? They’re natural junk magnets. And why is it that there are never enough places for the junk to be moved to during an emergency tidying session?

Why is it that staplers don’t have a natural habitat – somewhere you should be able to reasonably expect them to be. Instead, staplers roam. They roam around the desk, around the room, around the building… and around the world. The problem has got so bad that many offices now have dedicated stationery detectives, who travel the world, tracking down lost staplers, paper supplies, paperclips, etc.

Junk, of course, has a fascinating trait. It ceases being junk the moment you decide to tidy up. What was a worthless piece of paper with some scribbles, someone’s sketch of a… ummm… well, I’m not sure what it is… the slice of tree that was not worth its weight in recycled paper pulp instantly becomes a document vital to the survival of the human race the moment someone questions whether or not it should go in the bin. How many times have you looked at a piece of paper, and found yourself uttering to yourself the immortal words:

"Nah, better not throw that out. Might need it".

And so, having made the decision not to throw it out, you have two choices.

(a) Leave it exactly where it is, in the hope that you will actually need it sometime in the next fifteen minutes.

(b) File it away in a folder of some sort with other such vital snippets of information, so it can be sorted, out of the way, completely lost if you actually do need it again, and thrown out with the whole folder the next time there’s a clean-out.

The joy of walls

Walls do more than just hold up roofs. They act as a complement to the furniture within a room. You can have painted walls, plain brick walls, or wallpapered walls. But no matter how far wall technology develops, it is still impossible to hang a picture up straight first time. Every time I try to put a picture up, the whole wall turns itself on an angle temporarily, only to make it obvious when I back away that a disorientated blind polar bear hopping on one leg down a cliff-face could have done better at hanging it straight.

Another pitfall is the dreaded TPAGF, the Temporary Picture Anti-Gravity Field, which will cause one side of the picture to fall two inches the moment you let go of it. Scientists believe this is related to the strange behaviour of the hammer being attracted to your finger when you try to put a nail in. And to the inability of anyone to steer a shopping trolley.

DIY or die

Until the weekend, I thought I had grown up. I’ve moved out of home, got married (or was it the other way round?), got a Real Job, and now we’re expecting the first kid. I thought I was truly an adult. But no. For this was the weekend that I truly reached manhood.

For the first time in my life, I found myself doing DIY. I was shopping in the hardware shop. Ever noticed how most of the people in the hardware shops are mild-mannered, middle-aged men with caps, brown raincoats and glasses, who are probably building nuclear missile silos in their backyard? Yes, for the first time, there I was there with them, buying brushes, turpentine and sandpaper.

I’ve stained my first bookshelf.

It’s quite a feeling of accomplishment, I can tell you. Before, it was virgin pine. Now it’s Baltic stained pine. Very nice. In fact, the accomplishment almost covers the embarrassment that we bought the bookshelf a whole three years ago, all the time saying "oh no, we don’t need to pay the extra money to buy it stained – we’ll do it ourselves!!" Yeah – right.

And so the bookshelf was delivered. Gleaming, bright, untreated pine. And we stacked books into it. Just temporarily, of course, until we got time to varnish and stain it. To save space. So the books were stacked. We’ll do it next week, we thought. And the weeks turned to months, and the months into years. And, had a huge spark of urgent embarrassment not raised its ugly head last week, the years could have turned into decades.

So remember kids, if you’re ever shopping for any kind of furniture, and you’re offered the untreated stuff: Refuse. Let them do it for you. It’ll be quicker in the long run. Because the first few minutes of the first coat of varnish can be fun. After that it just gets tedious.

As for me, next I have to do the second bookshelf, bought at the same time. And anything else around that looks like it could do with a varnish and stain. Hmmm… maybe the computer would look good in Baltic? Or the fridge?