I’m not going to pretend that Pierre just disappeared from my life when we broke up. The term “ghosting” is a literal mind blower for me. I never managed to stop communicating with an ex cold turkey and I don’t have any friends that have personally accomplished that one either. If you’re one of the few special unicorns out there that have done it, serious kudos to you. It usually took me hundreds of failed girls nights out, drunken late night phone calls to said ex and some sloppy revenge kisses in bars to cut off most communication. So while Pierre was still darting in and out of my life depending on my mental state of mind and my sobriety, I was officially single in 2010. I set two personal goals for myself. Stick it out in Scotland for as long as I financially could and move to France as soon as I was accepted to the TAPIF program.
First things first, figuring out how to stay in Scotland. This goal was honestly directly linked to my bruised ego. Because I had been told by so many people that Pierre and I were on a sinking ship, I was a raging mix of hurt and humiliation when their predictions became my reality. I was overly determined to prove to everyone that even if Pierre and I weren’t together anymore, moving to Aberdeen hadn’t been a lost cause. I was ready to make a success story out of my complete relationship failure.
I needed to get my financial situation in check first. My parents pitied my sorry state and were willing to help me out for a determined amount of time, but they weren’t going to foot the entire bill of my now unnecessary extended stay in Scotland. So first, I did what most people do when they break up with someone they are living with. I moved into a friend’s place who had a spare couch. Thank my lucky stars for #goodfriends. I then proceeded to hit up every recruitment agency on Union Street selling my previous babysitting experience like I had been entrusted to hand feed the future King of England. I must have managed to hide my absolute desperation because someone actually hired me for a full time administration role. I’d never slept better on a couch than the night before my first day. I skipped out of the house in my first ever pencil skirt all bright eyed and bushy tailed, just ready to slay corporate life.
It’s important when starting a new job to pick up on any subtle signals right way in order to not just survive, but thrive. I noticed a couple of key things during my first morning. All 25 of my colleagues in the office, not counting the 3 managers, were single, attractive and under the age of 30. The sexual tension was flammable. I made a quick silent pact with my hormones to stay incognito until I knew who was hooking up with who. Second, within the span of an hour, my colleagues had made 2 different jokes about the amount of alcohol our direct manager consumed…during office hours. Mental note: hoarding and drinking at work is not a Scottish thing. It is just a Davina thing. And finally, when you get yourself a cup of tea, it’s important to ask every single person if they want a “cuppa.” And then you need to memorize how much milk and sugar everyone wants in their “cuppa.” And then don’t confuse the mugs when you bring them back, because then you’ll be known as the Yank who can’t make a simple “cuppa” tea for everyone. Tea and colleagues aside, the most important thing that I picked up on that morning was my absolute inability to do what I had been hired to do. Answer a telephone.
One of my tasks was screening the calls that came in through the general number and transferring them to the right person. Seems simple enough, right? Well it would have been if I could have bloody understood what people were saying over the phone with their thick Scottish accent. I had now been living in Aberdeen for seven months, I was aware that communication in say a loud restaurant or at concert could be complicated. But this was a whole new ballgame. A majority of the people calling were truck drivers from the Scottish countryside. Yes, you read that right. The freakin’ country side of Scotland. Not only did they mash their words together and speak so quickly it might as well be classified as a new dialect, but they couldn’t understand me when I spoke back to them! At one point during the morning, someone asked me why we had changed the name of the company. “Well good sir, we haven’t changed the name of the company, you just literally can’t understand the English words, that are comin’, out. of. my. mouth. By lunch, I was in a cold sweat panic. It didn’t matter that the POLISH girl sitting next to me had no issue with the phones, my second rate English from the New World wasn’t gonna cut it at this job. I saw my dreams of an apartment and a real bed slipping away.
Well, not to spoil the ending for you, but I didn’t get fired… at least not from this job. I’m convinced if it weren’t for Skye I would have been shown the door, but this bonnie red-head colleague of mine became my Scottish savior. She taught me how to make a proper cuppa tea, she filled me in on all the undercover office couples and she confirmed my suspicions about Davia’s drinking habits. But most importantly, if I had to ask someone to repeat twice over the phone and I still didn’t know what was going on, I could transfer the calls to Skye. She covered my bony butt until I “mastered” that countryside Scottish dialect and answered phones like the pro secretary I was meant to be. With my new full time salary, I could finally put step two into motion. Once I got an apartment, I would really be solidifying my new-found independence in Scotland. Good thing I didn’t know at the time that finding an apartment in Aberdeen as a foreigner is about as much fun as trying to find one in Paris. That bit of information would have rained on my parade, so for at least those short couple of days I felt like my life was back on track.
*Skye and I have stayed close friends ever since we worked together. We may not live near each other, but you can’t let special gems like that get away.