Monday, September 10, 2012

Over Rated Water Coolers

After all is said and done, 10,000 jobs and counting, I have some how ended up here – communication / training / marketing specialist for a big wig financial organization. I’ll go back and describe the impacting steps that got me to where I am but let’s just talk today’s environment for now.
My role, to communicate and document mundane and drool corporate updates on technology. There are 3 levels of bureaucracy approvals before any thing gets sent out. Really? Because at this level in my career I need someone to oversee my spelling errors. And honestly, they correct things that don’t need correcting, like when I put a phone number in an email for the UK and some ditz corrects it because they thought I formatted the 01-888-xxx incorrectly. Um, no, that’s how you dial country codes – you’re in communications right – get a clue! Had you actually read the message and subject line as well as the To: field you would have seen that this is an EMEA only message. Oh, right you did all that and still thought I was wrong, so you really are that stupid but yet you’re checking MY work – perfect!
The best and worst part of corporate today – the remote commuter aka telecommuters who never leave the house, works from their computer desk in PJs all day or sometimes like me in their underwear with a towel on their head. The pros and cons list are pretty much equal in that – pro; I get to work in my underwear and con; I get to work in my underwear. Yes it’s a pro when you only have half an hour between conference calls and you need to squeeze in a 5 minute shower but con because you are shut off from the world except for your internet, email and IM all day, every day. It can get monotonous. While my 100+ pairs of shoes and countless pair of black pants get dusty and my makeup dries out I guess I save a little on wardrobe expense. Who am I kidding? I love shoes!
Don’t get me wrong, I take my liberties working from home.  But what have I given up – human interaction for a keyboard and flannels?
So, my water cooler these days is a few padded steps away located at the corner of family room and foyer called my kitchen. The refrigerator has it’s own ability to make ice and filtered water – without finding someone’s lunch in the ice maker! No more waiting on line for a cup of coffee only to find out that the turd in front of you took the last cup and didn’t bother to remake. I have no one to blame but myself if I skip lunch or don’t get a cigarette break. The water coolers are far removed from my world as is human interactivity and maybe all it was was starched white shirts talking about the latest episode of some nightly sitcom or sharing insightful blather on political views but now it’s text talk and emoticons. So has the corporate water cooler been officially replaced or only in my work world?

It's All About the Shoes!

Circa 1980. . .something.  Cue the eighties big hair and bedroom pumps, throw on a leopard dress and a smile, in walks me.  I’m on another interview for a temp job.  The position would be to fill in for an executive secretary while she takes maternity leave.  She has 3 or 4 ‘senior’ executives that she caters to.  I only had to meet one.
I’m greeted by what I would consider (at the time) to be an older, more distinguished handsome man (he was 37).  I guess I should tell you that I’m about 20 so anything over 25 was ‘older’.  Wearing classic 80′s attire, black leather pumps with a leopard design around the heel that put me at about 5’8 maybe even 9 (when you factor in the hair height), I follow him through a maze of people and partitions.   The interview is on and he starts rambling about word processing; I start spinning.  Not sure how he missed the glazed over deer in headlights look on my face.  Out of my element but looking fabulous what else could I do but play up the charm.  We’ve all been there so don’t judge, have you ever gotten out of a ticket in your life, then you know what I’m talking about.  Plus charm I was good at, I had that down – typing, filing, answering phones (other than my own), not so much.
It didn’t even take until the end of the day when I got the call.  Job was mine, I start Monday.  Happy dance!  Woohoo!  I would be making  $365/week – that’s a lot of shoes!
So I show up Monday morning – being punctual was never really my thing, especially on a Monday.  So I’m late, my first day, as a temp – you with me?  I was wearing a red mini dress, black stockings and 4″ patent leather pumps (this is important).  Prego is a total flake, worse than me but I guess she knew some stuff (office stuff – I don’t know).  I’m in a ‘cubicle’ outside the offices of the ‘executives’ – whatever!  I am bored out of my freakin’ mind and decide this sucks, time for a bitch session and weekend recap with my girlfriends. Five minutes into the conversation (cue the girly giggly chatter) and great, now there’s someone standing at my desk – I think they want to say something to me but I’m on the phone so. . .
Day two, I show up and am apparently flying solo (some pre-term labor issue with the prego)  Fantastic!    What is it I’m supposed to do again?? (By the way, I was wearing a long flowy skirt with sling back pumps.)  I was a mess, when it came to doing any actual work – but I looked marvelous (geez I feel like that gum commercial)!  Different day, new shoes; the days rolled into weeks and months and by some miracle I was still employed.
With very detailed instructions from OCD  Joe, I learned how to format a letter properly and get the Wang thang to print it out.  I can’t remember who shook their head more, me because really another friggin’ correction or him because really another friggin’ correction!  We were perfect together!  I spent a lot of time walking back and forth into his office – hmmmm.  Seriously I had no skills and he was basically teaching me how to be a secretary.  (Which by the way I had decided I did NOT want to be!).  He made up his own filing system, clearly the big heap on the end of my desk wasn’t really working for him.  He did his own expense reports, I made the copies.  He mostly wrote his own letters on a sheet of lined white paper and I would just type and print them out – I didn’t know how to take long or short hand.  By this time he had hired me full time as his personal secretary because I was so incredibly reliable and efficient.  Right!  I had already earned the pet name ‘psycho bitch from hell’ and had the t-shirt to prove it in case anyone was confused.  Among others I was also referred to as ‘subtle as a sledgehammer’ and my favorite ‘killer’.  I drove this man completely insane so why for the love of God did he hire me.
And there it was, the answer my friend came blowing in the wind when I worked one Saturday, it was just me and Mister OCD.  I actually worked one Saturday every month and it always seemed to be the same Saturday that I had my period so I was extra miserable, psycho and bitchy.  But this Saturday, I call Joe and say ‘I’m not coming – surprised?’  It was only two hours passed the time I should have been there anyway.  ’What you have a flat tire, I’ll come pick you up’.  Lucky freakin’ me!  Because I didn’t tell him that I had cramps or was sporting a hangover because I knew that wouldn’t score me any points, I lied and said flat tire – like Prince friggin’ Charming he was on his way.
I’m still wondering if I hadn’t shown up, if he hadn’t picked me up how this would have ever come up.  On the elevator he asks me if I knew why he had hired me.  Completely dumbfounded myself over why he ever did and kind of caught off guard I’m thinking oh shit, is he going to fire me!   I say ‘Nope’, and he says simply, ‘It was the shoes’.
Now I can go on and tell you the stuff I’m not so proud of that may or may not have happened in the span of a year and half between me and Mister OCD but why go there.  The point is I have always said this and still do to this day, it is actually something I learned from my mother. . . It is all about the shoes!
They can make you or break you!

Underwear Model?

I’m smiling, walking; people are staring at my ass.  Smiling, one foot in front of the other, crap is that a nipple!  Smiling, don’t look directly at them, head up, tits out, hands – have to find something to do with my hands.  Does this thong come with pockets?
I’m a non-model who’s modeling lingerie in front of hordes of strangers. Oh and  I’m not sure if that’s a pube poking through my seamless, crotchless panyhose. I blame my friend Maria and her aunt Maryanne for this.  I met my friend Maria at one of my countless jobs (shoe guy ‘OCD Joe’ – read my previous blog).  She was or is an engineer, I was an executive secretary (do they even have those anymore?).
Maria had other interests outside of our day jobs.  One was opening her own boutique and she was good at getting me to do things I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do.  Not because she had such a persuasive way about her but because she was commanding and when she asked you to do something it wasn’t really a question so much as ‘you are doing this.’  So when she asked me to model clothes for her in a local fashion show to promote her newly opened boutique I really didn’t have a choice.  It was more, ‘you are going to model clothes for me in my local fashion show. . .’  But when she introduced me to Aunt Maryann and the fashion became lingerie I had my reservations. Yeah, I still did it – whore!
My first fashion show was with real clothes, I had never modeled anything before but I knew how to put my pants on and work it.  I was an 80’s girl in my 20’s – you worked it every night at the disco.  Yes I said ‘disco’ it was the 80’s, get on my level!  The fashion show requirements were – fit a size, any size, because she didn’t want women to think it was a skinny girl kind of shop, if you had big hair you made it bigger, red lips you made them redder and plaster a smile on your face regardless of what you’re wearing.  I supported all of her local high school shows for the PTA, fund raiser type of events, clad yet smashing in the latest hideous.  Yes those were the days and I didn’t think they could be topped, I was wrong.
Aunt Maryann was also in the clothing / fashion business.  I use the term fashion extremely loosely because I’m not sure that underwear and house coats are really considered fashion.  This time I don’t even think there was a question, the plan was hatched, and I was part of it, there would be scantily clad me on a runway somewhere in Queens or was it the Bronx showing off the latest in bedtime boudoir apparel.  I figured what the hell; I’ll never see these people again.
When we arrived at the civic center in Co-Op City, a series of high rise apartment buildings in the Bronx, the people were waiting for a ‘show’.   There were rows of chairs setup theatre style, a podium in the front with Aunt Maryann at the helm.  A civic center, really?  No runway, no backstage or dressing room.  Just a big room with bad fluorescent lighting and a dirty floor.  This place made backstage high school auditoriums look like a Broadway production.   This was no ladies auxiliary crowd.   These people were here to see a bunch of women in their underwear parade around the room.  The show must go on right, fabulous!
The clothes racks had been setup in the back of the room and situated in such a way to keep us hidden from the audience.  Some creative positioning of the men’s bathroom door that we had wedged opened with our rolling racks of underwear, baby dolls and house coats kept us from view while we disrobed.    For three women, of varying size and weight hiding behind a rolling clothes rack with an open bathroom door on our left and a friggin urinal on our right it was a make it work moment.
We pushed and shoved and leaned over and on each other to get ourselves into wardrobe, awfully aware of our surroundings and frantically dressing while sleeves and panty hose hit the urinal cake trying not to let our feet hit the floor.  Imagine the scene from the other side of that clothes rack!  Loud out of control laughing – the kind that makes your belly hurt, the kind that leaves you breathless and the kind that gets you going again at the mere thought of what started it in the first place (urinal cake).  Three falling over broads who were about to come out and put on a show for the ‘audience’.  All I could think was “Do I really want to do this?”  Oh, yeah we’re doing this.
And then began the fifteen minute walk of ‘fame’ shame.  I kept my eyes unfocused toward the podium and Aunt Maryann.  She would give subtle signals that you needed to remove something as she described the pieces you were wearing to the crowd.  I tried to listen to what she said so I would stay on cue but the voices in my head were louder than she was.  ”It’s almost over, only 4 more outfits to go, keep your head up, tits out, these pants are way too short for me, am I wearing polyester blend, I hope my heel does not get caught in this robe, did I forget to shave my left arm pit, hands what do I do with my hands, damn I wish there were pockets, how ridiculous do I look right now in patent leather come fuck me pumps and a teddy bear one size fits all sleep shirt, is this the sleeve that hit the urinal cake, I have an itch, am I getting paid for this!”
At the end of the day, we all kicked Victoria’s ass and it was no secret!  Truth is I was pretty damn good at doing things Maria told me to do.  And if she had asked I never would have done half of them.   I kept an open mind, said yes and ended up with a great story. Next time anyone should ask (seriously no one’s asking for anything anymore) I’ll be ready to find my inner whore and work that bitch to death!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Retail: Behind the Rack

A little down on our luck I found myself driving 70+ miles one way to a retail job for slightly over minimum wage - the pay just about covered my commuting expense but at least I was working right?  I went from  $150 an hour as a consultant to $10.25 an hour and worked 100x harder.  There is something so wrong with that.   What I learned from this experience is that retail is almost as bad as the restaurant business in that it is extremely hard work with little to no benefits, the pay sucks and the people, employees and customers, are miserable human beings.  And they (employees) have good reason to be, like the fact they are not making $150/hour!  I know it made me miserable.

Understand for barely above minimum wage the un-glorified role I played as a sales person. . .cleaning, selling, counting, ringing (cashier), inventorying, merchandising, ordering, stocking, hanging, fitting, fixing, reporting, banking, financials, budgets, scheduling, managing, and smiling, while standing for four, six, eight or 12 hours a day.  To be clear this was a higher end women's retail store so I'm not talking about Kohl's where the sales people don't even know they sell shoes.  Obviously my fashion passion has an arbitrary line in the sand.

You're probably thinking, cleaning, you had to clean. . .yup!  And let me ask; do you seriously vacuum, dust, wash windows, wipe down shelves and mirrors every night at home - hell no, but all of sudden there I was doing it for someone else and I'm not even going to justify it by saying they were paying me because clearly the meager pay did not compensate for the responsibilities.

Selling and up-selling, OK it is retail so this part I sort of get.  But there is no incentive to up-sell to anyone.  I didn't get paid more if I managed to convince someone to spend more.  I still got what I got so who cares if the store makes more money - what's in it for me?  Nothing.

Inventory sucks.  If you had twelve shirts and didn't sell any you should still have twelve shirts. . .it's when you don't still have twelve that it's a problem.  And of course there is the annual New Years inventory bash that is mandatory for everyone to attend that starts after the store closes and lasts several hours into the night/next morning.  I'm not in college so I don't do all nighters anymore.  You got a shift differential for working but it didn't matter, I'm not sure how much money it would take to make it tolerable but what they offered wasn't enough.

Working the fitting room was probably the most degrading.  Women would try on countless items, fling them at you when they were done and demand to see something else or alternate sizes.  When they were finished more than half bought nothing and you were left to clean up their mess.  Let me  be honest, I do not do laundry, I don't fold, iron, hang up or put away - that goes for my own wardrobe, husband and three kids.  So why the hell am I standing here putting away some strangers shit - again, you could say it was my 'job' and I was being 'paid' to do it - whatever, I don't want to keep repeating myself but you can't really call it being paid when you consider what the job really was.

The odd twist in all of this is that believe it or not I actually enjoyed part of it - I know, you didn't see that coming because this has literally been a rant of what a horrible experience retail work is.  What I liked about it was that at the end of my day it was done.  There were no 'to do' lists left for the next day.  When I was there I was 'all in' and the clock restarted the next day.  Having worked in corporate America for the last 20 years or so it was some what of a nice mental break to get away from the office bureaucracy and political bullshit.  However if you ever find yourself in this situation do not tell your fellow co-workers you were a VP at some bank and were settling for this until something better came along.  It was in very bad taste for me to do that and I didn't win anyone over.  But when it came to customers I could have won the academy award for acting like a kind, knowledgeable, helpful, fashionista, I even had regular repeats that came in to see me.  Sure I was exhausted and broke but I wasn't panicked or stressed. 

They offered me a full time assistant store manager position at a different location, the pay was ridiculous, the hours longer and the commute just as bad.  I accepted and then that something better came along so I never showed up for my first day.  To this day I have not stepped foot back in that store.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Before the Biggest Loser

Who doesn’t need extra money every now and then and if you say you don’t you’re just lying to yourself.  I don’t care if you do or you don’t but at least be honest about it.  Some of us we’ll do whatever we have to do to earn a buck short of stripping or whoring, oh wait I’ve done that too.  But pretending to be an expert of diet and nutrition?  Yea, been there done that. 

It was mid 90’s and my husband and I were shacking up.  So while he continued to pay all the expense of his soon to be ex-wife’s home and their 2 kids we had to suck up the slack in our wallets by working random PT jobs on top of our FT jobs just to eat (and drink, alcohol has always been a staple in my life.)  He worked at an electronics store and played the role of annoying sales guy working the floor trying to get you to buy a warranty for a calculator.  I on the other hand took a quite respectable position working nights as receptionist for a weight loss center, Nutri System.  It was the big boom of shit flavored freeze dried foods guaranteed to shed pounds.

My job was to check these people in and out for their appointment – simple right.  I got to know the names and faces quickly so I was friendly and congenial when they walked in.  “Oh, you look good, how was your week.”  Random hopeful, “I hope it was better than last week, I really starved myself this week.” Me in my best academy award winning performance, “Well it shows.”  Excited random hopeful, “Really!?”  No not really.  Food is not always your friend, in many, many cases it is the enemy!  (I know this all too well now and thank Entenmann’s chocolate fudge cake, Little Debbie and whoever came up with Dots!)

Aside from checking the people in for their appointments I had to check them out which meant restocking their weekly menu.  They got to choose their 7 days worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Some of them just went for the snacks.  “Can I substitute all my breakfasts for snacks?”   "No, that's not how it works.” I had to wonder, if they don't like the food and they're going to eat what they want anyway, why were they here? Luckily I didn't have to answer that question because my only job was to put the food in the bag, not solve their life problems. 

For the FT counselors this was a stressful job, apparently they had goals to meet.  For me I never paid attention, just answered the phones, filled shopping bags with food and hung out.  Until one day a counselor did not show up for work and it was go time.  The manager asked me if I would be comfortable filling in, since I knew all the clients anyway.   Maybe I did but it never got personal.  I didn’t know what went on behind those closed doors, what they talked about.  Of course I did it anyway.  I was given a 5 second lesson in how to take and read someone’s blood pressure, count the first heart beat and the last – ok.  I also learned how to weigh people on the industrial scale.  I was never a mathematician, numbers, adding and subtracting in my head especially in the 3 digits not my strong point. 

I had to familiarize myself with client charts.  What their history was, how long they had been coming, what their weight loss or gain was week over week and then there were also notes, notes about their feelings, their lives, their weaknesses – what made them eat.  If the numbers had gone up there were questions like, did anything change or happen in your life to make you turn to food for comfort.  What the hell!  I am no therapist.  I’ve got my own issues to deal with; I need a therapist for God’s sake!  Other counselor’s notes read something like, ‘bad work week’, ‘lost job’, ‘kids were sick’, ‘fight with husband’ I never signed up for all this. I was happy just putting the shit in the bag. I had no interest in this level of responsibility. At this point in my life I could barely keep a plant alive let alone be in charge of someone's mental and emotional state.  So when the next thing happened I felt really bad at the time (kind of still do) but took no accountability for it whatsoever.  

I was weighing in one of our larger clients.  You can tell that she didn’t have many friends, she ate alone everyday (this was written in her chart).  No kids or family to speak of.  She was a lonely soul and food was her best friend.  We chatted for a few minutes and I asked her about her week.  When we wrapped up the idle chit chat it was judgment time, belly up to the scale.  I set the scale to the prior week’s weight, or so I thought I did.  By some miracle she had lost 11 pounds – a miracle she found hard to believe in.  I have to say it was a good feeling telling her that and watching her excitement.  I’m two days in on this new responsibility thing of weighing these people in and I had already formed a soft spot for them and I felt good.  I really wanted them to do well, I was now part of the journey and I would get to watch and weigh each week.  Two days in to my new confidence building counselor role and I’m feeling like Dr. Oz.    It wasn’t until after she left and I was finishing her chart that I realized I had put in the wrong starting weight and that she hadn’t actually lost 11 pounds but had gained 4.  Oh crap! That sucks and she was gone, not that I would be the one to tell her of my enormous mistake, she would find out next week when she weighed back in and gained ‘x’ amount.

That’s exactly what happened.  I never told any of the other counselors or manager what I had done.  I knew she would come in to see me next week and I could just pretend that she had a bad week and gained a few, it would all even out in the end – right?  So we chatted, she told me all about her week and how great it was.  She had been on a new high since last week with the amazing weight loss.  So much that she ate in the cafeteria at work at a table with other people.  This woman had gained confidence and I was about to shoot an arrow through her heart.  I did not want to be a fat counselor anymore but she was there, it was my job, I had to do it.  Up on the scale and I can’t believe the number, crap!  She gained 9 lbs.  But really I had told her she lost 11 which was not the case and she gained 9 of those fake 11 lbs back.  But it was too late I couldn’t tell her I had made that mistake.  Holy shit – she was devastated.  Apparently losing 11 lbs in one week when you weren’t really trying gave her the motivation she needed to actually try and it worked.  I mean 2 lbs is still a loss but to her it was a gain because she will never know.  I felt like shit.  I could not believe that I had such an impact on this woman; I just wanted a PT job answering phones God dammit.  The next few weeks she gained and gained, 13 lbs in one week.  After that she stopped coming in; after that I stopped working there. 

Obviously since I’m writing about it it’s something I still think about and wonder what would have happened had I done things differently.  And maybe things did happen differently; maybe she continued on at another weight loss center or hey maybe she is going to be the next ‘Biggest Loser’ – who knows, but I really hope so.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Magic Carpet Ride

I wasn't the best driver at 17 - there I said it.  My friends and family may argue that I am STILL not the best or even a good driver, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respectfully disagree with them.  I did however manage to total my first, hand-me-down car, the Cutlass (1979 Cutlass Supreme that my mother had purchased for herself - it was her first brand new car).  After totaling my first car my mom did what every other mother would do - bought me a brand new car.  And I did what every other 17 year old would do who just got handed a brand new car - bitch and complain that it's not the car I wanted.  So I drove this white Oldsmobile ('old' being key in the name of the car - it clearly implies you should be old if you're driving one), gave it a few dings and dents and righteously declared that I did NOT want this car.  And just like that, demanding like the brat that I was, a few days later I rolled into town sporting my brand new, kick-ass, white Chevy Camaro z28, pimped out with T-Tops, tinted windows and flashy ass rims (did they have 20's back then?). 

I loved this car and it took me to several jobs that I managed to jump to and from but the most memorable was down at the end of Wilson Ave in Newark, a trucking company that shipped carpet to local stores and distributors.  It was a dirty warehouse on one level with a dispatch room - a real trucker depot kind of atmosphere - while upstairs was bright and basically quarantined from the dregs below.  Literally they kept the door at the top of the stairs locked.  I was the unfortunate sap that had to go downstairs to fill the slots with the route schedules and bills of lading for the truckers each day so I was exposed to disgusting, creepy, dirty, old, men - lots of them (I was 18).  This has nothing to do with the story but just to put things into context for you, I was never shocked to find the owner of the company with his pants around his ankles, shirt tucked into his droopy boxers and the upstairs help down around his knees.  And when I say the help, I mean this nasty, cigarette smoking, wig wearing (if we were lucky), same clothes everyday, dirty fingernails, bean sprout of a woman who, forgive the cliche expression, looked 'ridden hard and put away wet'.  Did I mention disgusting, dirty, old, men AND women!  Man if sexual harassment had been a thing back then I'd own a carpet business right now!  <shutter>

Any who, this God awful job had security cameras every where because the other owner (they were brother-in-laws) was a neurotic, compulsive bean counter who watched his money. And his money was in the warehouse - expensive imported, hand woven works of art, that could have been easily stolen and found for sale on a corner some where in Newark along side of a velvet painting of Elvis. The cameras watched the platform where the trucks were loaded and unloaded, the gates where the trucks entered and exited and the cameras watched the cars, our cars that were parked in the lot.  Owners 1 and 2 both drove Mercedes, the southern girl who was forced to move here because of her husband's job drove an old Toyota, and the smelly, cigarette wench drove . . .wait for it. . .a wood paneling down the side station wagon (what else!).  Then there was me and my Camaro, until one day there was just me.  No Camaro.

Let's go to the video tape - nothing.  Apparently there was a brief moment when the camera panned and my car was just out of lens shot and it was within that very moment, that my car was stolen.  Police reports filed, rides were obtained, condolences passed around, it killed me.  The irony was I probably knew the person that had stolen it and it wasn't gone for long.  In fact, it was recovered the next day and the police officer who took the report was so kind, he called me personally to tell me it had been 'recovered'.  Then asked me out to dinner (he was 28) - did I mention creepy, disgusting, old(er) men!

I never went back to that job because of course I blamed them for not having the proper surveillance to protect my vehicle whilst on their premises.  And let's face it, after all the other bullshit that I had to put up with at this rat hole, quitting was within my best interest.  Another job bites the dust.

Side Note - before the car was actually stolen it had been broken into several times, windows busted, T-Tops stolen, tires stolen, column steering ripped apart, radio gone etc. etc. etc. - the actual theft in the end was some what anti climatic because all the thief did was drive it around for awhile.  They could have spared us both the time and effort and just asked for a damn ride.  I did sell the car after that, to my cousin and I watched her drive it until it died.  Karma, I should have kept the damn Cutlass.  As for Lou Boles Carpet Carriers, out of business.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Blue Cross: My Personal Shield

A long, long time ago - high school days ago, I landed a part time job.  A really good part time job, for the time that is.  My mother may or may not have had something to do with the job and application process, I can't remember exactly but I think she was definitely, maybe some how involved.  I was a claims examiner at Blue Cross Blue Shield, the insurance company, medical insurance (I think it still is an insurance company but the name has been changed).

Anyway, a claims examiner, completely un-glamorous!  I waded through stacks of doctor and pharmacy receipts stuffed into thick manila envelopes with a claim form stuck to the front of it.  It was my job to validate the charges, ensure the submitter had the right codes to coincide with the service stamped on the invoice and process it.  By process I mean manually type each and every dot and dash into a computer - my 'processing' of the claims made a difference in whether someone got paid or did not get paid - it was that important. . .yup.  

So why did I say it was a 'really good' job - because it paid $12 an hour!  in 1985 that was like a million considering minimum wage hovered somewhere around $3.55.  I hit the big time.  I had my own car.  I  worked 3.5 hours a day, no weekends - long enough to bring home over $100 a week, but short enough to get home before the night was over, so that I could join my delinquent friends in some raucous play that was always eminent with them.  And so for reasons other than monetary this may have been the best job I ever had.

I think it is fair to tell you now that I ultimately lost the job when I didn't bother to call or return after a weeks vacation turned into two (or more) at which point I had decided I really just wanted to hang out all summer, not have a real enough job that I needed to be responsible to go to everyday.  Lazy days, that was what I was into or wanted to be more into.  So they fired me or I quit.  Either way it was mutual and my permanent personnel record was inked with a 'do not hire' stamp that I could visualize even though I had not actually seen it, my record - or the stamp.

This isn't so much about the job as it is about the time we were in - I was in and how that job saved me from having a more severe permanent record, one that you would have to document on future job applications with a yes in the check box next to 'have you ever been convicted. . .'  The job is a very relevant, important piece of the story that you will soon understand.

Monday through Friday I got out of work at exactly 7:52, there were rules about working more than 25 hours a week or they would have to offer us benefits, therefore they (supervisors) made sure we came in just under 25, fine with me - the sooner I was out, the sooner the fun began.  Because I had to leave ever day just as things were being planned for the night among my group of misguided, teenage wanderer friends.  Where the gang was going that night, what we would be doing, drinking, smoking. . .so I was anxious to get to it.  I drove a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, it was brown with a one quarter vinyl roof - it was my mothers, or used to be.  Down route 78 East I would watch the needle bury in the dashboard registering only up to 120mph.  I got pulled over, a lot!  Lost my license, a lot!  But that's not even remotely relevant.

It's warm out, beginnings of summer, school is not over yet but people are starting to act like it is.  Staying out later, partying harder, I was one of them.  Descending onto the city from the 78 off ramp, I drove around town hitting all the usual spots, the big park (real name: Independence Park, it was very big - 1 block wide and 5 blocks long).  I drove slowly to check out the faces, looking for familiarity - I knew all the hang outs and who was hanging at them but I was looking for my regular crowd.  I cruised around some more, next stop, the little park (real name: little park? - it was very small with broken down swings and two cement mounds made to look like mountains.  A log nested in between them that went from one mound to the other - intended for kids to walk across, safety less of a concern back then).  The group had settled at the little park and I stopped when I saw them, a misfit bunch at best (names will not be mentioned to protect the un-innocent).  One of the very tall, lanky dudes was asking if he could put something in my trunk, it looked like a suitcase of some kind, black, nondescript. "Go ahead", popped the trunk, he placed the case inside, closed the trunk - nothing else mentioned.  Bottles in paper bags, quart size beers that were flat and warm were being passed around as well as joints.  I was still dressed in my work clothes, a business casual sort of style, while everyone else was in cut off shirts, jeans and ragtag sneakers.  They were a greasy looking bunch which is why the police probably stopped in the first place.

The police cruiser rolled up, no blinking lights, very casual and two officers descended on us.  Asking questions, frisking the man boys in the crowd, confiscating what they could of our provisions.  The older, staunchly looking one with more experience was back at the car and calling in back-up.  What had we done, seriously - a little over dramatic for just a bunch of tween and twenty somethings hanging out in the park (everyone drank and smoked - in the park or dark hallways, cars, abandoned trailers - it couldn't be about that).  The older officer comes my way - "Is this your car?" pointing at the cutlass which was double parked in the street.  "Um yes?" I said hoping that was the right answer, the one he wanted to hear.  "Where you coming from?", he asked.  I thought, duh but did not say that (a first for me because I never knew when to shut up especially if you were some sort of authority figure), "work, I work", long pause, "at Blue Cross Blue Shield, I'm a claims examiner", why the hell am I telling him this shit.  Staunchly looks me over, up and down, back and forth from the crowd to me, up and down again then stops, eyes on me looking me straight in the face.  "Get outta here - you don't belong with this bunch, go now before you get caught up in something".  It was an order, I knew that and I obliged.  Nervously I walked back to the car, glancing at my friends with their big eyes saying "you're leaving?" and I shrugged giving a head nod toward staunchly like, "he told me to go."

The next day we reconnect, a few of the crew had been arrested that night, possession charges, loitering, drinking in public.  I felt ashamed that I had abandoned everyone.  I did, I really, truly and honestly did.  Being the type of people they all were no grudges were ever held, not this time anyway (it's not like I kissed my best friends boyfriend, different story).  But the fact of the matter was the police didn't find what they were really looking for that night, because they had let me drive off with it, in my trunk.

Yes, Blue Cross Blue Shield saved me that evening and sometimes you never know how a job might save you. I know that many jobs have saved me in many ways over many years that I will continue to write about.  To catch up on previous 10000jobsandcounting stories click the link.

Side note:
I want to add that while I got lucky it was narrow minded to cast me off as a 'good girl' by the officer.  He had no idea who I was or what I may or may not have done.  I was simply wearing the right clothes in his mind and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It is an unfortunate scenario that is still true today, people judging, it is a sad truth that I am not overly proud to have been an example of.