The First Day of School – Part 1

Let’s start this one off with Valerie Streiker.

I have to say that I was happy to be starting up a new gig and one that took place in the daytime. I’d been working nights so many years I forgot about things like breakfast and reading newspapers while everyone else was getting their news to start their day. Riding the MUNI down under the Church Street stop and into the city – the sun being out allowed me to see all of the graffiti ushering us into the tunnel. It was a strange procession on those trains – different from the scenes I had seen in New York when I used to visit my aunt and hold her hand tight so I wouldn’t get lost among the conversations and distractions in their underground world. Everyone was carrying a bag with them – their lunches inside I guess. They had told me – the people who hired me – that I didn’t need to bring anything with me. These new companies were going to provide it all. That was a relief because I hated carrying things with me through the city. The way I saw it, if my hands were free – I’d have more of a grip on reality – whatever that meant.

I had been tapering down over the week before to make sure I was right for sitting in an office for so long. I didn’t want to be high and miss out on everything – how often is a person like me going to be allowed to sit down in an office and do actual work. I figured it would make an outstanding book – some great novel that I could put out and get me away from the reading circuit of San Francisco – which was nice, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed standing in front of audiences and watch them slowly allow my striking fangs and leather everything – well, not the jacket – the jacket was vinyl and shinny as hell – though not sure hell is all of that shinny to tell you the truth. Those nights were fun but they were long and the people who stay out to all hours of the morning are usually hiding something from themselves that they want to share with you – and after a million stories of distress, they start to get to you. Who wants to live with all of that gloom?

Not I.

I was a working lady now – enjoyed dressing up for the part and when I got off at my stop at Powell Street and headed down, I felt like I was part of something instead of the main attraction. The SF Chronicle was an easy enough paper to read – very to the left and easy to digest. That’s what newspapers were becoming. Figured that they wouldn’t last that long now that the journalists who fought for every word were being replaced by these young kids who were only fighting for a byline.

Made my way south of Market and into the spot where they were setting up everything. There was a big table spread out with good food, fresh juice and real plates and silverware. That’s how you can tell if something is real class – the less plastic the better. People feel better eating off of something solid.  Something solid – I guess that’s what I was looking for. Everything up until that point – when I got this job – had been fantasy worlds that I created – here was something I could hold on to. I’d make friends with these people and have co-workers like other people did. I’d talk about them after work and go to little parties and have drinks. Live a normal life but still keep myself. There was no reason I couldn’t do that.

I looked over the group and saw that most everyone there had their own style – baggy pants, long hairs, pierced, tats, preppies, different kind of folks – nobody looked the same. For me, I felt blessed right there because it seemed as if I had been recruited to be part of this new breed where we could all combine our resources into something special. I was tired of creating worlds. After we had finished, one of the people who had been chomping on a bagel emerged from the crowd and started speaking with everyone. He wore all black but not in a gothic way – just a black t shirt, black jeans and motorcycle boots. He had this really cool thick head of hair that would do whatever he wanted. Good hair – I think that’s important for a leader.

A man looking similar to him but a little more cleaned up – less scuffs on his boots and hair more done on purpose, stood next to him but slightly to the back, still eating and not looking anyone in the eye.

“We’re the Belt brothers,” the good hair one said. “My name’s Carl and this is my brother Collin. You’ve met us both before on your interviews, but this is a different day and, for sure, a different time. This is the start. You all have been selected to be part of this new business because of who you, not so much because of what you can do. Truth be told, an employer never knows what someone they hire can do. What can you really tell about ability in an interview? Duties can be taught, but we’re not looking for you to learn anything from us. We’re going to be following you. Watching you. It’s your actions that will determine the future of this company. All you need to do, well, is just sit down.”

He ran his fingers through his hair and I shook just a little. I hadn’t been with anyone since Andre’ passed – hadn’t had that feeling from inside, but when he moved, my body shifted inside. You never can tell who’s going to make you feel that way. I remembered that and went outside when was smoking to make sure I picked up the butt and kept it close to me in a tiny plastic bag. I still have that somewhere – put away for a keepsake. So old now, but then it was a fixture in my life like a crucifix was for other people to pray to.

We all got assigned our seats and each got a computer that we named. There were no instructions at all on what to. Everyone was kind of looking around at one another.

“How do you turn this thing on?” I asked the kid sitting next to me.

“Not a clue,” he answered. “Up until last week I was a delivery guy. Never sat in an office my entire life.”

Phrases like that echoes around the room. Turns out that nobody had ever owned a computer much less sat in an office behind one before. We all spent the first few hours of the morning trying to figure out how to turn the damn things on. A little frustrating at first, as soon as the first one figured it out, and I think it was a kid called Pete, well, the sounds started echoing around to office. By noon we all had our computers on but had no idea what to do next. In the back of each box was a telephone chord that ran straight in. There was no sign of the two brothers.

All of sudden, I heard this screeching sound followed by the sounds of what appeared to be a phone dialing. It was coming from the computer of The Messenger Kid who introduced himself as Alberto Orca.

A bunch of numbers and letters spewed across the screen. A picture of a mailbox appeared on the screen. Nobody had any idea what to do. We all followed the same steps on our computers and arrived at the same place.


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