Today was my first day volunteering as a kitchen worker for a charity.
I’d requested a local branch, but the only post available was in town, so whilst inconvenient, I thought it would be alright.
You wouldn’t think it would take very long to get anywhere in London, would you, what with all the buses, trains, tubes and trams at our disposal would you?
But I practically have to use pretty every mode of transport available to get to a tube, let alone to the venue, and yes, you’ve guessed it, I missed two buses and found myself, once again, tardy for the party.
And then the panic set in.
The dry mouth.
The heart palpitations.
The stomach churning with fear.
The gremlin’s voices in my head.
‘How can you have missed it? You should have set off early just in case, stoopid!’
‘There isn’t another one for at least 20 minutes now. You’re going to be at least half an hour late, how embarrassing!‘
‘Late on your first day. They’re going to love you!’
And they laugh, and jeer and cackle, hysterical with mirth.
‘Yes, they’ll be falling over themselves to offer you training, oh and maybe permanent employment, probably a directorship – not!’
‘I bet they’ll leave you with all the dishes tonight and it will serves you right!’
‘Can you picture their faces when you walk in now?’
Disgusted, angry, exasperated.
My heart skitters even faster now, and I’m frozen to the spot.
‘Are you OK?’
A young guy touches me on the arm, his face concerned.
I start, and smile, trying my hardest to look, well, normal.
‘Yes, I’m fine, I just remembered something I forgot to remember! I mean i forgot…I….’
He laughs, ‘I know what you mean!’ and walks on, then glances behind him looking directly at me.
‘Look, you’re attracting attention! Go inside! You look like a raving lunatic! Go home!’
I head for the door, push the key fumblingly in the lock, stumble inside and slump against it, my heart hammering in my chest.
I’ll wait in the warm, just until the next bus arrives.
‘Who are you trying to kid?’
‘You can’t go now!’
‘Stay home, it’s not like they’re even paying you!’
‘They’ll hate you whether you turn up or not now, It’s not safe, bail! BAIL!’
So instead of helping others help needy folk, I’m sat here typing this, my face burning with shame and humiliation. I sent an email, apologising profusely, and the kindness and understanding in their response only make me feel worse.
How the hell am I to set up my own business if I can’t even catch a bus without freaking out?
How will I get through any job interview process when I’m like this?
How I am going to earn a living?
How will I survive?
The gremlins have stopped their noise for now.
But, just out of the corner of my eye, I see them smile.
Oh how they smile.