Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lucky Me

We are all at a stand-still here on Bell Street. I don't know why I always take this route. I should have taken Western. Bell is always the worst. I often wonder if there's some sort of accident up ahead. Perhaps I've chosen the path directly behind the carnage, and now we are being slowly and clumsily bottle-necked into one slow moving lane.

But that is rarely the case. There is simply too much traffic this time of day. I usually avoid the rush. I go to work at six or seven, not nine. The professional world is still in bed, trying to find the strength to face another day at the office, but I am already hard at work, organizing, packaging, filling counters, checking numbers and yelling at big burly boys with big sharp knives. I have to paint a fake smile on my face and greet those cantankerous customers as if I had invited them myself, but it's cool. They pay me, you know.

Not today. Today I am stuck in traffic with the sun-seeking world, trying to creep my way across town to my regular mechanic. My motor mounts need replacing, and I've been putting it off far too long.
I could tell you about the hell I went through last month with a mechanic who was not my regular guy, but it's really only of interest to me. To you, it would just sound like bitching.

That financial stress on top of my daughter and grandson moving to another state, Matthew being on the runaway list for weeks, Jacob and David jumping individually from one place to the next to the next, the situation at work...other things...

I'm stuck in traffic now. My fingers are wrapped firmly around the steering wheel at TEN &TWO. I am not rubbernecking to see what the problem is. I am not revving my engine to ready myself to change lanes at the first opening. I am simply sitting and waiting for things to move forward.

She's over there in her car with her elegant hand hanging out the driver's side window barely holding onto the cigarette between her perfectly manicured fingers. Her long hair has been pulled into a messy tail. It is bobbing back and forth to the music she hears. She is singing along with all abandon. I can almost read her perfectly painted lips.

Curiosity gets the best of me. I lower my passenger window just enough to identify the song. Taylor Swift. Of course.

For a moment, I wish I was her. I want to be that carefree girl who sings love songs in traffic during the morning rush. I wish I could turn it on, turn it up and croon it out with no regard for the cranky, stressed-out woman in the next car who doesn't particularly favor Taylor Swift.

The movement of my window grabs her attention. She catches me staring. Her face twists into a scowl. She changes immediately into what I can only decribe as a Harpy. She flicks her lit cigarette toward my car and flips me the bird.

I nonchalantly push the power window button. The glass returns to its original position, protecting me from her assault and her bad attitude. I look anywhere but her direction and smile to myself.

How lucky I am not to be anything like her.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foolish Anniversaries

I went to my job interview with torn jeans, ratty hair and baby sludge on my shirt. It really couldn't be helped. I'd been inadvertently locked out of the women's shelter and couldn't get a shower in time for the meeting. I was so embarrassed, I almost didn't show up.

Angie didn't want to hire me. I could tell by the look in her eyes. I looked like hell, and I was unsure of my availability. She frowned at my outfit, and clucked her tongue at my application.

I had been sent to her through a friend of a friend to beg for a job. She'd been coerced to give me the interview. She'd made no promises about employment.

I wouldn't have hired me.

I was a mess, emotionally as well as aesthetically.

I lied through my teeth when I told her I had a reliable baby-sitter for the four babies I'd left at my mom's for a half hour just so I could make it to the interview.

She offered me a wage that she knew was far less than what I was worth and evening hours. I tried not to let it bother me that much. I was determined to provide for myself, and I needed a job that had room for growth. I took what I could get and was grateful for it.

She'd hired me as a part-timer, but within two weeks she bumped me up to forty a week. Two months went by before she switched me to daytime hours. A year passed before I started receiving benefits.

Fifteen years have gone by. Angie no longer works for the company, but I still do. I'm in the "big city" now, and as chance would have it, Angie is here, too. I see her every once in a while. We never reminisce. We are both "here and now" girls, and so it is always good to see her here, now.

I have a hard time understanding how I haven't been written up, reprimanded, fired, or set on fire, not even once, over fifteen years. I am sure some of my co-workers, and maybe a couple of bosses have wanted to stab me at some point. I am loud, rude, bossy, demanding, opinionated...the list goes on.

Of course, I am also a fast learner, good teacher, a good listener, a hard worker, dependable to a fault. I am intelligent, creative and proud. I've enjoyed the company of most of my co-workers as well as my bosses- some more than others. It's never been about the job, for me. It's always been about the people I work with. The job is thankless. The people are priceless.

If they haven't been friends, they've at least been entertaining. Faces and names come and go and come back again, each one bringing something new into my wonderful, ordinary life. Kim gave me confidence; Jay taught me tolerance; Ashley brought me friendship; Sandy gave us toilet paper; Johnny just liked to give me a hard time. That's his way. I've been frustrated more often than not, but that fades away as soon as I punch that time clock. There's no sense in being miserable if I'm not getting paid for it. Life is too short.

I thought I'd work for a year until something better came along, but here I am looking back on fifteen years....

I've been a checker, deli girl, cook, doughnut maker, cake decorator, bread baker. I've worked in the meat market for ten years now, bossing boys around, but I'm not the boss. I've never been a manager, and never wanted to be anything that meant I'd have to sit at a desk for very long or bullshit with anybody wearing a tie. Of all the addictions that run in my family, I got stuck being a workaholic. Go figure.

I'm still waiting for Angie to call me up and say, "April Fools! You didn't get the job after all!" But she never has, and here I am fifteen years later with Medical, Dental and 401k.

The nicest thing about hitting the fifteen year mark is that I now get four weeks every year of paid vacation. When I get back from vacation, people hug me. I'm not sure if this is because they missed me or because they are tired of doing my job in my absence. Either way, more vacations means more hugs. Can't beat that.

I also get to pick an anniversary gift from a special catalogue. I chose a new MP3 player this time around. The old one had just fizzled out. Pretty good timing, if you ask me.