Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Galway: Getting to work

Today was my first day “on the job,” so to speak.

I decided that in order to have the full Irish experience, I needed to take public transportation, as I always did when I traveled to Boston. I think traveling like the locals helps me have a better connection with the city.

Like Boston and its Charlie card, Galway’s public transit system has the Leap card. You load it up with money and then swipe it when you get on the bus. The fare is debited from the card at a discounted rate, so instead of paying €1.90 for a trip, cardholders pay only €1.60.

So I bought a Leap card, “topped it up” (Galwayan for added money), and then went looking for my bus. At Eyre Square (which is the main transit hub in town) I caught the 409 heading to Parkmore East. Even though I was riding to the end of the line, I kept my GPS going this morning because I wanted to know exactly where the bus was taking me.

From the Parkmore East stop, I still had half a kilometer to walk to the Fidelity offices. That, combined with my uncertainty about the bus schedule, put me a few minutes late—but I am learning that here in Ireland, a few minutes late generally means that you’re still “on time.”

The security officer/receptionist issued me a new badge with the same picture I had taken when I started at Fidelity over twelve years ago. When I logged in to the laptop I was issued here in Galway, my Sametime groups were still intact, and I started getting the same unwanted emails that I had been getting from vendors and other businesses that I had been getting before I retired.  It was quite eerie—as if the system never realized that I had been gone.

One distinctly different feature of my laptop is the keyboard. It’s a qwerty, but some of the special characters are in different places. It just so happens that the two characters I use most often are swapped, so I keep typing invalid email addresses that have a double quote instead of an at sign to indicate the start of the domain name, and strings of characters are delimited as @My Settings@. Things could be worse, but I still have to adjust my habits a little.

Something that strikes me with a certain amount of shock and disappointment is the number of people who smoke—and not just older people. It is as if Ireland missed the whole anti-tobacco revolution. This makes me realize how much of a smoke-free country the US has become, and how grateful I am for that. Fortunately, smoking is not allowed at my workplace or on the buses here, so I don’t have to breathe second-hand smoke all day.

By the end of my first day of work, I had a pretty good idea of what was expected of me in terms of product delivery. I was amazed at how quickly a lot of the subject-area knowledge was coming back to me.  Not only amazed, but a little frightened, because I thought I had erased all that from my cerebral hard drive. Like on a computer, however, delete only makes the data unavailable, so in many cases it can still be recovered. Fortunately, so far my shift into “recovery” mode has been successful.

Though I haven’t wanted to admit it, I must have had a fair amount of anxiety about making this trip and being able to produce what the client expects. The primary manifestation of that anxiety has been in my gastrointestinal system, so I’ve been trying to eat carefully. For dinner tonight, I walked through the pedestrian-friendly (i.e. no cars allowed) section of the town to a seafood place recommend by my colleagues.  At Mc Donagh’s at the end of Quay Street, I had baked cod with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and some other lightly steamed vegetables, and felt satisfied.

I had hoped to hear some “trad” music at a pub after dinner, but the standard 9:30 p.m. start time is not going to work for me until I feel more at home in the Greenwich time zone, so I opted to walk back to the hotel and call it a day.

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