Friday, 15 August 2008

Not what it used to be

It came to me while I was in the shower this morning. I often get my most profound thinking done whilst in the bathroom, surrounded by water. Perhaps my ancestors were dolphins or something.

Back to the shower. With a shock of realisation it came to me that today, August 15th, is a special day. Because on this date in 1988 I had my very first day at work. And I've had 20 unbroken years in gainful employment since then. Not for the same employer, it has to be said, although I have stayed in the same industry for those two decades.

Depending on your point of view, this marks me out as having either a commitment to the cause or a distinct lack of creativity.

As an 18-year-old, still awaiting my A-level results that would surely send me off to university, I sought out a job as a backstop, just in case. It made my mother happy, for starters. When the results came out, I could simply say "Sorry, but I'm off," to the boss and hightail it off for three years of beans on toast, cheap beer and The Smiths.

Given that my exam grades would have the seats of higher learning fighting over me like dogs over a pork chop, I cunningly kept this part of the strategy from my erstwhile employers. So that morning, Monday 15th August 1988, found me walking up Bennetts Hill in Birmingham, to start off as a trainee cashier/clerk for a building society. I think I'd got a suit from the Freemans catalogue. I'm not even sure that shaving was a daily necessity for me at this point.

Two days later I called my school for my exam grades. Looking back, this was a pivotal phone call - everything that has happened to me since is as a result of it. Those of you who've been paying attention and noticed that I mentioned 20 years unbroken employment in the second paragraph above can kind of guess how it went. Perhaps academia wasn't for me.

These days, not going to university is - in the UK at least - seen as being akin to having some sort of unspeakable medical condition. Eyebrows are raised, people talk about you in hushed tones. But I'm not entirely bothered. I was earning from day one, and for every one of my ex-classmates that eventually graduated and became a barrister I can point to a dozen-or-so more who simply ended up doing similar things to me - just three years later and heavily in debt.

So I knuckled down. I moved on from role to role. The past - even 20 years ago - seems like ancient history to me now. For instance, we'd think nothing of nipping over the road for a couple of pints in the Wellington pub at lunchtime, then coming back to talk to customers about their mortgages. We even slept in the office once, after a sudden and heavy snowfall that stopped all traffic and prevented us from getting home. Unthinkable in these more enlightened times.

After a few years I moved on. I changed employers. I later heard that the building society had sold their branch office and it was now a Thai restaurant - part of the conversion of the financial district to a leisure quarter.

The 18-year-old me probably couldn't envisage the 38-year-old. I'm responsible, by all accounts. I have a house and a mortgage. There are cars on my driveway. I'm married (yes - to a real woman - imagine that, youngster!) and know about wine and politics, gardens and furniture. Pensions are starting to be, if not interesting, then relevant.

When did I become an adult? How did this happen (and is it reversible)?

Perhaps it's best not to wallow in nostalgia. So instead, I'm taking my wife out to dinner tonight. And I happen to know a Thai restaurant in town that seems like the perfect place.


john - from fat to fit said...

It's amazing how fast those 20 years blows by, isn't it?

City Girl said...

In my experience most men believe adulthood is a temporary condition easily remedied by a well-timed midlife crisis.

Resist the urge to trade in the newly repaired sedan for a Porsche!


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