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First Day on the Job

Posted by Lauren Rugani on February 21, 2011

After a relatively sleepless night I clocked in to my first day at CERN this morning. The Rugani family will appreciate the following story:

Because I still write for some of the same publications as I did at SLAC, I had plenty to do besides sit around and wait for someone to come up with an assignment for me. But my computer would not go online, so I had no access to email, notes, or saved drafts of stories. The computer services guy came and fiddled around for a bit before telling us to try to find a PC repair person (CERN uses mostly Macs, and my computer is property of Fermilab in the US). So we put a request in.

Meanwhile, I had to register with the users office to get my email and whatever else accounts all set up. On visit number one I was missing a bunch of paperwork. Luckily it was in my room just a few buildings over so I could get it easily. I also needed to fill out an application and get it signed by my group leader. Turns out the group leader as well as the three people below him were all out today. I finally tracked down someone who thought they were authorized to sign the paper, and brought it back to the office.

On visit number two I was informed that this person, in fact, did not have authorization. It seemed as though I’d have to wait a day to get the proper signature, until miraculously one of the three absent people came into the office for some unofficial reason. I got her to sign the paper (despite her having a broken wrist and cast) and went back to the office.

On visit number three, I was informed that because I will be here longer than 3 months I need to have both a French card and a Swiss card, which I guess are like residency permits or something. However, I only have a Swiss visa, not a French one, so they wouldn’t issue me a French card, which is bad because you need both to be a full time employee. I explained to them that my French visa was not issued to me because of an error on THEIR end. They suggested I return to the US and get a French visa. Finally they agreed that if I secure a permanent address in Switzerland within the next 2 months, I can use that address to acquire the French card. Phew.

Then they told me that because my offer letter states my first day as January 17, they won’t authorize me to stay past July 1. I again explained to them that today was my first day, not January 17, again in part due to their error processing my paperwork. Again, we negotiated with a supervisor and all was well.

In the midst of all these trips to the users office I actually worked. We had two meetings in the morning. The first was just 4 of us because the rest of the office is out sick or traveling. The second meeting was conducted entirely in French, although they acknowledged that I neither speak nor understand it. I guess a good way to pick up a language is to be thrown into the fire and have to figure out what’s going on.

After lunch I got my own computer and brought it back to the office so I could finally get some work done during my last two hours.

When the day was over I decided to walk up the road a bit and get some food to keep in the hostel with me. A pretty mundane chore, except for two things: the view of the snowcapped Alps in the not-so-distant distance, and my first taste of Swiss chocolate. I know I promised to take a picture of the mountains, but by the time I got out of the office it was nearly dark, and I had to make it to the store before it closed and didn’t want to carry my camera with me.

Can’t wait to see what Day Two brings!


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