In an ideal world, this post would be a romantic, tear-jerker of a story. Probably one involving a chance encounter, a railway station platform, and me wearing a kicky little hat. Because every time I entertain this fantasy, it’s always the 1940s for some reason. Moving on…
The reality, as always, is much more prosaic than that, and like most people we know, Terry and I met at work. When I say “like most people we know”, I mean that literally, by the way: most of the people Terry and I know met their partners in exactly the same place I met Terry. Which was a call centre. No one’s ever going to want to make a movie out of this, are they?
So, the call centre – or the “Phone Farm” as I always used to think of it. Terry and I both worked the weekend shift there, in order to help pay our respective ways through university. And then when we left university, we stayed on, to pay our way through the M.A.C counter, and the shoe department at House of Fraser. (Can you guess which one of us I’m referring to here? Yes, Terry really needs to ease up on that cosmetics habit of his!)
I started work at the Phone Farm first, and by the time Terry joined the company, I had already worked my way up to the giddy heights of “Personal Trainer”, which meant that I was responsible for moulding the minds of the constant influx of new recruits (Which could be anything from 10 – 40 people per week at busy periods. It was – and is – a huge organisation.). That’s why, to this day, the Phone Farm has a large number of staff who believe whistling is banned AT ALL TIMES, and who would not, under any circumstances, use the phrase “just sayin'”.
Although I was to come to detest the Phone Farm more than I would ever have believed possible, at that time, I had yet to realise that the job was slowly SUCKING THE SOUL RIGHT OUT OF MY BODY, and was weirdly ambitious about it. I was a Personal Trainer now, but by God, one day I might become an ‘Experienced Operator’ (snigger) or even a Team Leader! (I did, in fact, become a Team Leader, but by that point I had lost the will to live, and accepted the job only because it came with internet access, which the rest of the staff were forbidden, on pain of death.) I also had this weird idea that when I finally graduated, I would probably become a high-flying business woman of some kind, and that the Phone Farm would provide a good grounding for this. I have absolutely no idea WHY I thought this, because there is nothing I would hate more than being a high-flying business woman, but I kept getting this mental image of myself, wearing a snappy little business suit and talking excitedly into a cellphone, while striding out of my office on the top floor of a New York skyscraper. I was an absolute idiot, I really was.
Anyway! I was young and I was stupid, and I was ALL ABOUT being a personal trainer, and upholding the laws of the Phone Farm. And then, one day, Terry arrived. “Of all the call centres, in all the world, you hadta walk into this one,” I said, with a drawl. (No, you’re right, I didn’t. I totally made that up. Sorry.) It would be great if I could say here that the moment our eyes met across a crowded call centre, I collapsed into a swoon and knew he was The One. But I didn’t. Actually? It was dislike at (almost) first sight. For both of us, I’m sure.
I still remember my first ever conversation with Terry. He called me over from my important job of pacing up and down in high heels and “supervising” the other new recruits, (The high heels weren’t a requirement of the job, by the way. That was just a requirement I placed upon myself.) and asked me if he could phone his friend, who worked in another department of the Phone Farm.
“WHAT?” I said, amazed at the sheer cheek of the man. “You’re not allowed PERSONAL CALLS! You don’t get to phone a friend! What do you think this is, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
(OK, OK, I didn’t say that last bit either. I just thought of it later. Much later, that is: I mean, I don’t think WWTBAM was even ON back then. This would’ve been a much more interesting post if I HAD been quick with the smart comebacks, though.)
At that, Terry calmly picked up the phone and called his friend. And I marched over to my boss and told her I couldn’t possibly work with That Guy, because That Guy wouldn’t listen to a word I said, had totally failed to recognise my supreme authority as Personal-Trainer-Who-Would-One-Day-Have-a-Glass-Topped-Table-in-Her-New-York-Office, and OMG, wasn’t That Guy SO ANNOYING? And my boss laughed and said to give him a chance, maybe he wouldn’t turn out to be so bad. She’s like the old, wise woman in this tale, who’s constantly saying weirdly prophetic things, except she wasn’t actually old, and I think that was the only prophetic thing she ever said to me. Well, that and, “Amber, I think you’re just about to spill that coffee down your…oh.”
So, after those Wise Words, you’re probably expecting me to say I came into work the next day, and Terry was bathed in a halo of golden light, and that was when I knew he was The One. Or even that we became good friends, and it was totally like When Harry Met Sally, but without the bit in the restaurant. But no. It took several more years for Terry and I to even be able to be in the same room as each other without bickering, and although we worked in the same department for some of those years, we didn’t really talk much. Or, you know, at all. Sometimes to this day I will look over at him and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I actually married That Guy! How trippy is that?”
In fact, Terry and I probably wouldn’t have gotten together at all if it hadn’t been for the Phone Farm’s policy of always seating people next to someone they hated. I’m not joking about this: they would change the seating plan every few weeks, to make sure you didn’t get too friendly with the person sitting next to you, because that would mean you might actually start ENJOYING work, and can you imagine the anarchy that would break out if people were having FUN? By this point, Terry and I were both “managers”. It was a small department, but we had still avoided ever becoming friends, so naturally the people in charge decided to make us sit next to each other. And THAT was their big mistake! Because Terry and I got together just to spite them, mwahaha!
Well, no, we didn’t. We did start to talk, though, and then we started to talk some more, and eventually we talked so much that we were all, “Hey, why don’t we swap email addresses? Just so we can make sure both of our email addresses are working properly?” Then we started emailing. Then we emailed some more. During the week, I was working in my first job as a journalist, and every morning I would come in to work and find a sweet little email from Terry waiting for me: often with funny illustrations, which he would draw in MS Paint. (Look, he was a student, he couldn’t afford Photoshop!) This is how he won me over: it was all because of the MS Paint.
The rest, as they say, is history. And it’s a chapter of history that involves a work night out, too many vodka shots, and Shania Twain singing You’re Still the One. I think that chapter is probably best left unwritten.