Another blast from the past, triggered by a hit by Mario Winans
Plenty of airplay during its time, poor Mario since faded to oblivion,
The first step to adulthood starts here, let’s see how it goes,
Good luck, Soldier, get ready to feel life’s true highs and lows.
I sat on a bench on platform one at the local train station, my mind in a world of its own as I shut off my surroundings and sank into a deep daydream. There were people from different walks of life around me, school students loitering about engaged in lively conversation after having decided to channel their inner Ferris Bueller (something that must have been planned hastily as they still wore their school uniforms), professional workers dressed in crisp dress shirts and well ironed pants or skirts, retirees out and about enjoying post-employment life, young mothers with their children…….the typical cast and characters one would encounter on a weekday morning.
Not a single soul with their faces glued to their cellphones and/or taking selfies for the sake of their social media presence. Yeah, it was a different time.
Meanwhile, I was nineteen-years old and on my way to my very first day of work. My parents had helped me find this job, a government position that didn’t take up too much of my time and paid me handsomely. I left home for that first day as a walking caricature of a first-time employee – late teens, a few zit scars on my face, funny haircut, my father’s old (and baggy) work shirt and pants and a crumpled old work bag that had more room in it than I needed.
Oh man, those old work pants. They were too big for my rather slender frame and if I stood with my ankles together while wearing those clown pants it would resemble a very long skirt.
Way to make your debut into adulthood looking like a fool, Bud.
I snapped back to reality when the train arrived. It was half-past nine and so carriages were almost empty, save for a few workers whose shifts began long after the usual 9am, allowing them the benefit of a few extra hours’ sleep, hence why they didn’t wear the same glum, miserable expression on their faces as the earlier birds who got the worm and evidently didn’t like the taste.
I took a window seat near the front of the carriage and an elderly man took a seat across the aisle from me. After a while I noticed that he was taking glances at me in between gazing out of the window.
The hell does this dude want?
I suppose I couldn’t blame him. I looked quite comical in my father’s old work wear and he must have quickly surmised that I was making my debut into the big, bad world of the hard grind. Unfortunately he didn’t sense my reluctance to talk and much to my dismay, he leaned closer to my seat and decided to strike a conversation. I should have taken a carriage with several other people in it, that way he would have found someone else to pour his heart and soul out to.
“Good morning, young man.”
I took a half glance at him before redirecting my gaze to the window.
I really was in no mood for this. But the old timer wouldn’t be easily discouraged.
“Where are you headed?”
God dammit, is this guy stalking me?
You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding me……..yeah, no, don’t wanna go there, Sir.
I hid my contempt and smiled back him, informing him of the suburb where my building was located and nothing more. I had hoped that it would end our conversation and while it did not, he didn’t press me about the exact location of my workplace. I would have cursed him out if he did.
“How long have you been working there?”
“It’s my first day on the job.”
Then just like that, the man proceeded to rhapsodize about working conditions during his time, about what had changed since and what has remained constant before taking a step further back in time to his childhood.
I stared blankly into his face and pretended to give a damn about what he had to say. Hey, I was a teenager on my way to my first day of work, I had other things on my mind and really didn’t care about this complete stranger and his impromptu recount of his life story sans the Forrest Gump accent.
While touching up on his childhood the old man focused mostly on calculators and how he believed that they destroyed many a students’ problem solving abilities. In his view, they made adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing far too easy and thus softened children in the classroom to the point of slacking off and with that, they would gradually and unconsciously apply it to other aspects of their lives. Folks were tougher in his day, he argued, since they were forced to work out large sums in their heads from childhood and that type of necessary evil armed them with more toughness, resilience, focus and problem-solving skills once they were sent out into the big, bad adult world where the weak were often chewed up and spat out.
Of course, as a recent school-leaver with a chip on his shoulder I thought he was a condescending jerk but in hindsight he might have had a point, although it wouldn’t be fair to suggest that all people today are like that.
Before we knew it, the train arrived to my stop and all due respect to this old timer who, bless him, at least made my work commute go by quickly, it was a relief to finally part ways with him. The working day hadn’t started yet for me and already I was sick of hearing other peoples’ voices. I was still young and quite petulant back then and pearls of wisdom from random strangers weren’t exactly what I sought. If I needed any life lessons my parents would have been more than happy to drill some of that into my head.
I exited the train station and as I approached a street crossing, I took a look at the government building that I would call my workplace, staring right back at me from across the street behind a then-functioning car park (which will, in time, be closed off). It was conspicuous from the train platforms, easily one of the tallest buildings in the area, and as I crossed the road and made my way closer towards this giant cream-colored block with many windows feelings of excitement and nervousness attacked me simultaneously. This was it, I was officially a working man.
Ok, let’s get ready to rock and roll!
PS: I would end up ten years at that job, a role that I quite enjoyed, and
I no longer wore my father’s hand-me-downs from the second week on-wards.