It was a dark and damp November morning and despite my navigational incompetencies, I’d managed to find my way through the bustling London underground, quickly familiarising myself with the ‘No Eye Contact, All Elbows’ Code of Conduct of the capital’s commuters.
It was an urban circus of sodden hats and serious faces. Everywhere I looked there were suits and boots and shiny shoes, soaking wet umbrellas with posh wooden handles perched up against the doors, and people holding on tight to the slippery yellow rails above their heads as we made our way westward along the Piccadilly Line.
Morning chaos swarmed in and out of the tube at every stop, but the mood was sombre; eyes were fixated forwards in a trance and everybody was listening to something in their ears. Fingers and thumbs scrolled and typed and swiped while others turned the pages of a book. Nobody looked up and nobody seemed to smile. But that didn’t stop me — I was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
When the train pulled up at Hammersmith Station, we poured out onto the platform like molten lava made of human bodies and I began to vibrate from head to toe with a twisted combination of nerves and excitement. I felt sick with happiness.
I skipped through the bus station, strutted back through those big glass doors, past the friendly security guards and over towards the sparkling white reception where four words glittered out gloriously in gold lettering.
“L’Oréal- Nothing Is Impossible”.
I was greeted by a beautiful lady, maybe in her early fifties with big powder blue eyes and a warm smile painted to perfection in champagne pink. Her butter blonde hair was combed neatly into place and a thick black satin headband rested on top. She was wearing a smart black dress with a chartreuse coloured blazer made of velvet with puffed shoulders and oversized cuffs. Pinned to that blazer was a gold name badge that read Josie.
“Good morn-iiiinnnng” she sung cheerily, keeping hold of the ‘-ing’ a little longer than usual, making even the simplest of greetings sound enchanting — the way the French tend to do.
After scribbling down my details on a new-starter form, I bent down to pick up my brand new tan leather Michael Kors bag and navy woollen scarf that was now waterlogged with London drizzle. “Ooohh la laaa! Elodie, what have you done with your hair? C’est magnifique!” Josie squealed as she stood up from behind the desk, raised her arm, and with her perfectly manicured fingers, gestured me into a pirouette.
I was wearing my favourite brown tweed checked pinafore with a matching blazer and a pale blue pussy bow blouse with an oversized bow. On my feet were a pair of burgundy coloured loafers that I’d just about mastered the art of walking in; shiny patent leather shoes with oversized tassels, gold buckles and four inch block heels.
My hair was backcombed up a little and pinned with twists and curls into a 1950s style roll. I guess it was some sort of Equestrian Brigitte Bardon’t kind of look but it was me, and I was okay with that – plus, Josie seemed to like it too. I gave her two gracious twirls and a very flattered “merci beaucoup” before heading into the lift and sandwiching myself in amongst the cologne-soaked crowd.
There were twenty or more bodies pressed up against each other, our nostrils intoxicated with all sorts of scents. Immaculately dressed guys and girls with coiffed hair and flawless faces. I stood there with my back pressed against the wall and my neck stretched high, looking around at the faces of strangers I’d soon call friends and smiled contently.
It was buzzing – a total contrast to the morbid tube ride I’d endured just a few minutes before. The energy was sending electric shocks through my body and an even bigger smile had spread its way from ear to ear.
“Wow.” I thought to myself, “This is it. My first day at L’Oréal – the day I’ve been dreaming about ever since I can remember.”
Yin to my yang number three – writers live twice