I recently began an internship; because that’s what 24 year olds with post-graduate degrees do in the 21st century economy, work for free.
It began well enough. I was shown around the offices and given a desk complete with a co-worker and one of those ridiculous Swiss-Balls that apparently helps posture. I spent about 15 minutes trying to sit straight on the ball. Eventually, I worked out that the only way I could manage was if I lay flat across it with my hands stretched onto the keyboard and the soles of my feet pressed into the wall behind me.
My colleague did her best to pretend I was acting like a human being. I was pretty sure my first impression was a good one. Until the toilet incident.
Busting for a wee I hurried up the stairs and came to the toilet door, it read ‘-cant/eng’. Evidently its ‘engaged/vacant’ sign that was very ambiguous, the complete word would only appear if the lock had been fully turned. I reasoned that if it were I, the lock would be fully turned to ensure nobody would walk in on me and discover my secret (that I wee sitting down). Feeling desperate, I twisted the handle and pushed forward. The door stuck. I struggled with it a bit before I heard a flush from inside.
“Shit!”, I turned and fled down the stairs. I had made it half way when the face of my coworker appeared above me, “Hey!” she called over the bannister, “were you trying to open the door?”
I stopped and looked up, “who me?” I pointed to myself, “ha, no no, not me’, she just stared, I immediately recanted, ‘yes, yep, sorry it was me’. I did a bit of a half jig in a feeble attempt to defuse the awkwardness but lost my footing on the stairs and slipped onto my knees.
I tried to explain the confusion with the ‘vacant/engaged’ sign. “Right. And you didn’t notice that it was a woman’s toilet?” she responded. I froze.
“Oh. No. I didn’t”, all I could offer was, “well I suppose we both wee sitting down so that has to count for something?” She looked revolted, turned around and went up stairs.
Still busting I found the Men’s toilet, it was fully engaged but the disabled bathroom next to it was not. Checking that no one was looking I entered. I relieved myself and was admiring the spaciousness of the bathroom when the door handle started jiggling up and down. The lock was only half turned. I let out a frightened squeak. Is there anything more shameful than being caught using the disabled toilets?
What was I going to do? I thought about it for a second and then, using my entire creative prowess, called out, “just a minute!” I lay on the bathroom floor and began dragging myself to the door using just my arms. I reached and opened the door. I peered up at a colleague who I had yet to meet, he was in an a wheelchair, he reversed a little to give me room. “Hi! I’m Rupert I am the new intern’, I reached up and shook his hand and then dragged myself a little further out the door, “could you do me favour and nudge me a swiss ball? My chair is at the shop getting repairs and, well, you know how it is with the inability to walk” I said pointing back at my limp legs.
He reached over to one nearby and rolled it in front of me, he looked very skeptical. After a lot of huffing and puffing I managed to drag myself over the top of the ball. Then, as casually as possible, I began to roll myself forward using my hands, but alas I began rolling off the front of it. I stopped and held myself in to avoid falling forward. I looked behind me, the co-worker had turned in his chair and was glaring at me. I smiled at him and nodded. He continued glaring at me. I waited. The staccato clip clop of high heels sounded down the stairs. My coworker came into view. Seeing me lying half-on half-off the swiss ball she stopped, ‘what are you doing?’
“Me?”, I looked up at her sideways still holding myself prone, “just getting back to the office”, I said casually.
“He was using the disabled bathroom and said his chair is in the shop” the cripple called.
She looked over at our colleague he sat there staring back. I felt a sharp pain on the back of my thigh as she pinched me hard and refused to relent. I grit my teeth and tried to hold it in, to save face. But it became unbearable and I eventually kicked my legs to shoo her off me, “Ok! Ok!”, I got up and stood there, “sorry, I’m sorry” I said exasperated, “I just really needed to go to the toilet”. My co-worker looked unimpressed, she turned and strode off to our office. The disabled co-worker just sat shaking his head at me.
“Stupid ball”, I muttered and kicked it down the corridor but with a little more force than I had intended. Well a lot more force. It shot off my boot, picked up air and caught my wheeled colleague high enough so his chair tipped backwards on its wheels, it teetered there, suspended. I stood seized with horror at what was happening, the chair teetered a moment longer before crashing backwards
I turned and fled.