The River's Badge

Friday, November 23, 2018

Finding Something I Was Good At ~ 1990/1991


I always liked getting in on the ground floor. When LaBelle's Department Store opened, all of us were new. It tends to even the playing field. Cliques have not yet formed; there's no, "Jenny never did it that way". Because there was no Jenny. US Healthcare was brand-spankin' new, at least in my city.

I knew nothing about health insurance, but I did possess a brain. I wasn't concerned about ranking at the bottom of the clump of thirty new employees. I didn't have to be the best, but I was not about to be the worst. If there existed a health insurance company in my town before US Healthcare, I plead ignorance. There may have been a two-room alcove somewhere above a furniture store that sold "health and life" to ranchers who couldn't legitimately form a group and therefore paid five thousand dollars a month for major medical. I therefore didn't know from whence the other twenty-nine girls were plucked ~ maybe they had a "semblance" of medical knowledge, like me.

Our new digs were a rented floor on the second story of a bank. We were granted parking passes, as long as we utilized the parking "arcade", which was a queasy sphere of lightheadedness I managed to maneuver each morning without passing out. In the office we were seated in sequential rows of five, in front of green-screened CRT's with impatiently-blinking cursors. Our trainers had been shipped in from Philadelphia and thus two wildly divergent cultures collided. East-coasters did not suffer fools or even semi-fools. Every raised hand was met with an attempt at a civil response, but disdain dripped like cheese steak from their lips. The travelers did not enjoy their sojourn to the hinterlands, as much as the idea had seemed like a fun lark when it was first presented to them. We were "rustic". Our local restaurants especially offended them. Amongst themselves, they pondered whether we had indoor bathroom facilities.

It had been determined that we would learn how to process eye exams. How bad could we fuck those up? If we managed to master that "skill", we might eventually advance to office visits. With three trainers and thirty trainees, one would have to hold her hand in the air for ten minutes before someone wended their way to the table, only to answer, "It's fine". Oh, okay. There goes my production, I guess.

Essentially, what we were learning was how to navigate US Healthcare's operating system. It makes sense in retrospect. But still, the scorn oozed.

On morning break, we all rode the elevator downstairs and streamed out to the concrete flower planters along Third Street. I gravitated to fellow smokers and found myself in a clutch of two much younger gals, Sherry and Marla. They may have told me where they'd worked before, but I have no recollection. After a couple of weeks, Sherry informed me one morning on break that I had only secured the position because someone dropped out. She didn't say it maliciously, but it still stung. At least I now understood why USHC had waited so long to call me. I don't know how Sherry knew and I didn't inquire. It might not have been true, but I think it was. Sherry was a nice person and she had no reason to jerk me around. Now that I knew I was an afterthought, I became more determined than ever to show 'em.

 Our local supervisors had been pre-selected ~ Kim, Barb, and Connie. They didn't do much during training; essentially hovered about trying to appear knowledgeable. When they ventured an answer to someone's raised hand, they were tentative, glancing up at the Philadelphia experts for validation. The rest of the day they huddled in a tiny back office and did...planning or something. There was also a manager; Marian, I believe her name was. She didn't stay long; I have no idea why. Maybe working with Connie was just too keen a punishment.

As the days dribbled on, I pondered who my supervisor would be. I liked Kim. He was an affable sort. Barb seemed a bit uptight, but harmless. Connie was a red flag. She didn't appear "real"; a person who went through the motions like she thought a normal human would, but couldn't quite pull it off convincingly.

Toward the end of our training, it was announced that three assistant supervisor positions were available. I applied. What the heck? Most everybody else did; I didn't want to seem unambitious. I didn't get it, of course. I didn't think I would. Girls named Carlene and (another) Shelly and somebody else who apparently was not memorable because I can't remember her, were granted the promotions. At least no one in my little three-person clique got it, so we could go on smoking and making small talk and anticipating our move to the new building on the north side of town that we'd all driven past a time or two and spied the formulating blue and white construction.

My supervisor would be Barb. When the building was completed, we moved into our respective units with their pre-ordained cubicles; Barb seated in her extra-special glass-enclosed case up front. Bye-bye sickening garage precipice.

And life went on.

As did country.

My man, Mark Chesnutt:


Pam Tillis:


And still there was Ronnie Milsap:


Some new guy:



Another new guy:


A new duo:




Yes, like me, all the way from '73, Tanya was still live 'n kickin':



Mary Chapin:



Some new group:


The all-time Dwight:














No comments: