'How much' I gasp loudly looking at the horrendously unreasonable amount TfL is asking me for a weekly London travel pass, mentally revolting and taking a vow of nil by public transport.
Dramatically I mouth expletives and tell my friend 'it's almost the same price as a monthly pass in Brussels!'
Said friend rolls her eyes, looks at her shoes and feigns interest. 'Uh huh,' she says which means 'I don't care, STOP TALKING ABOUT BRUSSELS!'
For the trainees, or for me at least, the Euro bubble has finally burst.
In the last few weeks in Brussels, plunged into denial that the traineeship is ending, we trainees become a red-eyed mass of reckless hedonists bouncing from leaving party to leaving party with work somehow sandwiched in the middle.
The Stage Ball is the peak of this end-of-the-world excess; a drinking and kissing rampage reminiscent of a year 11 disco, culminating in vomit, declarations of love and eternal friendship and an awkward Monday morning.
Our office leaving parties are slightly tamer: we blush with modesty, false or genuine, as our Heads of Unit and Advisers applaud our contribution and predict 'great things for our future', in a non-Yoda sort of way. That said, my Head of Unit does bear a striking resemblance to Dumbledore.
At my leaving party, after he and my Advisor have finished their speeches I briefly consider flinging myself at them both and dragging them into a group hug, but I'm inhibited by a rare moment of social awareness. I try instead to make a little speech myself, as would have been the most appropriate thing to do, but I've a mouth full of cake and am about to cry so all I can muster is a warbled thank you and a splutter of crumbs.
Other trainees are also brought to tears at their leaving parties; perhaps because they too have formed close bonds with their colleagues, or maybe because being force-fed champagne and cake with a hangover is actually horrendous. Having to foot the bill for the party is another cause of distress - a bit like paying for your own wake but then having to attend. At some leaving dos this results in a dozen or so bureaucrats passing round a single bag of mini cheddars and conspicuously avoiding the boxed wine.
The final hurrah is the leaving conference. We give each other congratulatory smug grins as we are told that the future is in our hands; we are 'the next the leaders of the world'.
Then it's all over. For those of us facing an abyss of unemployment post-traineeship the deletion of our Commission email accounts is particularly brutal. While our @ec.europa.com email addresses alone gave some weight to our job applications; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org seem unlikely to have the same effect.
More experienced, skilled and connected, working in the European Commission has opened a lot of doors for all of us. Thanks to the state of the job market, however, for the time being there's still thousands of people trying to push through each of these all at the same time.
The bursting of our bubble thus causes ruptures in the trainee community. We split three ways:
There are those who find jobs quickly and saturate all forms of social media with their success.
Then there are those who seem to have no urgent need of a job; they also bombard Facebook and Instagram with photos from their prolonged holidays and glorious yacht trips.
And finally there's everyone else; bitterly watching the others' success on Facebook, probably whilst laying in childhood bedrooms at parents' houses, and applying manically for jobs until finally, in order to stave off poverty, as is the case with my friend Maeve, one finds oneself working in a call centre and forced to ruefully delete all successful former friends.
Personally, I came back to London and my old job for the end of the summer with the objective of saving money for my Masters, which was frankly idiotic as saving money in London is obviously impossible if you intend on eating, drinking, having friends, moving, or sleeping indoors.
Now I am an impoverished student again, and a homeless one too actually. Leading the world seems a very long way off.Suggest a correction