Monday, January 29, 2007

First Job

The first job I got after stepping out of the academic confines of the State University carried an impressive title of Business Analyst. When I applied for it, I didn’t exactly know what the job was, but it required writing lots of business reports. I fancied myself arriving in the office with my tie on as my sexy secretary greets me and hands me my coffee.

“Would you like me to get the morning paper for you, sir?” she would ask me, meekly.

I’d say, “Yes, please. You are so kind”. It was my plan to be deferential and nice to my staff. I was determined to live and think like a young urban professional, a yuppie to the core.

I planned my career with high hopes, hopes that have been severely challenged.

In my mind, I’d spend Friday nights in cocktail bars talking business with colleagues and business associates. “Do you think inflationary pressures would force the Central Bank to raise interest rates anew?” I would ask them, still brimming with confidence after getting a grade of 2.00 in Monetary Theory.

Instead, I found myself outside the office eating fish balls out of barbecue sticks and a bowl of porridge from an ambulant vendor.

You see, I found out later my prestigious job title really carried the rather unglamorous responsibilities of a Credit Investigator, or CI. I couldn’t possibly have a secretary. I didn’t even have my own computer and phone in my desk! I had to share it with several people.

I conducted lifestyle checks, credit histories and property verification. I did discreet interviews with neighbors on the street. I pretended to sell insurance over the phone. I once said I was conducting survey for the government.

Some people slammed the phone when I called them. A few even have the guts to call me names, demanding to know why I was investigating them when they haven’t stolen anything. One Chinese trader even tore the letter of introduction I gave him, accusing me of working for a competitor.

I lost count of the number of times I got lost because bystanders and policemen pointed me towards wrong directions. I found myself walking along the flooded streets of Malabon during high tide. I dozed off inside a passenger jeepney in the middle of a monstrous traffic jam in Novaliches. There was also a time when I couldn’t find my way out of a squatter’s area which resembled a maze.

I also found routes I never even thought existed, like the short-cut from Fairview in Quezon City to Montalban, Rizal, passing through rough roads near the Payatas dumpsite. I was lucky. My colleague, Ricky, once spent the night on Talim Island in the middle of Laguna de Bay, off the coast of Binagonan, because the outrigger boat or banca that was supposed to take him back already left without him.

There were uplifting moments, though. Some were nice enough to treat to me out to lunch, some offered me a ride. Others acted as if I were a long-lost friend, shaking my hands vigorously and enthusiastically asking me how I was. There were some who shared their life stories as if I were Kuya Eddie.

How I ended up doing all these after devouring articles in the Econometrica and other similar academic journals I barely understood, I don’t really know. I stayed for two years.

As my paddling team mate John once told me, the same oven that melts the wax, hardens the clay. Indeed. Because of it, I am now ten times a better researcher, which suits my current occupation. I learned to adjust myself to different situations, to read people’s minds and to anticipate their reactions. And I don’t easily get offended now. I’m made of sterner stuff.

As my former colleague Jasmin (who’s shifted careers and is now a nurse) and I would often kid each other, “Once a CI, always a CI”.