It was almost midday. Dale crept cautiously into the office, eyes checking every corner. However, this Monday's late arrival time was not to do with laziness and apathy like it might have been. Rather, Dale had felt a positive vibe after lying down in bed on Sunday night following a sunny weekend beyond anything one could expect from winter. He'd procrastinated less during his morning preparations, not fumbled with any part of dressing himself and accidentally arrived at work half an hour early. He was smiling at a cup of coffee at his desk before some of his co-workers even arrived. It was then that something over his shoulder cast a shadow from the fluorescent lights above. Dale turned as his manager cleared his throat, and followed when he was asked if he could come into his office to talk.
It had only been that morning, but it seemed so long ago that Dale had been handed a cab charge and told that he was going to spend the next three months consulting for the new client, working on site at their office. Dale was taken aback after being told he was going to be representing the company's 'core values and technical expertise'. He could think of only a few things he would be considered expert enough in to educate others about, and they were things that surely the company would prefer he did not share. No matter how many unvoiced objections he had, the morning's momentum had quickly transported Dale to his new office and he was searching for the right suite among the ferns and glass doors while feeling thankful that he'd at least worn a long sleeve shirt this day.
Eventually Dale found the correctly printed glass door and - with no one with a door pass willing to let him tailgate - stood outside it while he rang the number of the contact he'd been given. Soon Dale's new manager arrived. He was clad purposefully in a pinstriped suit and a thick, silver tie hung from his neck that was only slightly more subtle than a tie with the words "IN CHARGE" written on them with black marker was. Following him was another man, who Dale found relaxingly more casually dressed.
'Joe,' said the second new character, extending a rolled up sleeve that led to a hand for Dale to shake.
After introductions, Dale's new manager Karl, walked briskly between cubicles while Dale and Joe trailed behind.
'You can work from this pod,' said Karl, abandoning Dale at the mouth of a jumble of cubicles facing inwards. 'If you need any help with anything, don't hesitate to ask.'
He immediately strode away.
Joe was more helpful; he cleared a space for Dale's laptop and showed where his desk was: next to Dale's.
'The team is looking forward to meeting you,' Joe said. 'We'll have an introductory meeting after lunch. In the meantime I actually will help you if you have any questions. Oh, and here...'
Joe produced a plastic card from his desk drawer.
'This will get you in all the doors.'
'That is very helpful,' said Dale. 'Thanks.'
'It's actually my job to help you,' said Joe. 'Well, part of it. Here HR gives every new starter a buddy and, well, you're my buddy!'
Joe did his best to live up to his name, finding Dale an ethernet cable; showing him to the Kitchenette so he could store his lunch and Pepsi Max; and providing honest answers to Dale's questions like 'So does everyone here actually start at 8:30?' and 'How acceptable is it to install third-party browsers on the computers?'
Joe showed Dale how to work the electronic whiteboard before the meeting with the other developers, to which Dale replied with a hint of mirth 'Thanks, Buddy!' Dale was surprised how well things were turning out. The introductory meeting went smoothly, most likely due to the post-lunch sleepiness of most of the new team. One developer, Miguel, asked him antagonising questions like a mature agent student in a humanities lecture, but beyond that he had no complaints.
The sun was still shining through the many glass windows of the office park tower that afternoon when Dale made his return to the kitchenette for a drink. As he walked in he found Miguel waiting for him, leaning against the common table.
'I did not find your meeting promising, consultant' he said.
'Oh,' said Dale. His first instinct was to stand quietly and wait for Miguel to leave, but confidence suddenly surged through him and he opted instead for assertiveness.
'I think we may have got off on the wrong foot,' Dale started. 'You don't have to call me "consultant". You can call me "Dale". If you have any concerns about what I'll be helping you guys with maybe we can sit down and talk through it.'
Dale extended a hand, which Miguel did not take.
'My name is Miguel,' Miguel said, standing up straight. 'I am your enemy.'
'Here HR gives every new starter a nemesis, and I am yours.'
This seemed strange, but Dale was still feeling just a little confident.
'We don't have to be enemies,' he said. 'Who cares what the policy says?! I see you're drinking a Pepsi Max. I like Pepsi Max. Perhaps we have more in common than you think?'
'I like your Pepsi Max' said Miguel, glancing at the fridge.