Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My "Career"

(Yes, I had a career impersonating Meryl Streep.)

I suppose all the upper-middle class gals in 1973 took it for granted that they would be going to college.  That wasn't the world I lived in.

I fleetingly considered enrolling in community college, as a journalism major, but I was semi-serious at best.  The people I hung around with didn't go to college.  We got married and worked as office clerks.

In high school during the dark ages in which I lived, there were three course majors one could choose:  general, something a step above "general", of which I don't remember the term, and college prep. I initially enrolled in the college prep program, and stuck that out for a couple of years, agonizing through algebra and geometry, and (gasp) science.  But things were only going to go from bad to worse in my junior year, at which time I would have to take chemistry and physics, and I thought, no. 

I excelled at the subjects I liked:  English, history, languages.  I sucked at math, and still do (thank God for calculators....and my ten fingers).  I hated science, and detested dissecting things.  I didn't really care about the chemical makeup of a leaf, although leaves are pretty, and I like to take pictures of them.  And therein lies the rub.  I have my head in the clouds, and not buried in the pages of a chemistry book.

So, I didn't go to college.  I got a job.  As an office clerk.  And then I got married.

I've written about most of my jobs in previous posts, and most of them in actuality (not all of them!), I enjoyed to one degree or another.

When I had the opportunity to work in the health insurance field (for $6.25 an hour!), I was just trying to get out of a bad situation, and I figured, well, it's another office job.  I've certainly done those!

Turned out, there were things one actually had to learn to be a claims examiner.  Technical terms and procedures.  My only leg up on the other 36 people who started with me was that I knew medical terminology from working on the medical floor of a hospital for eight years (and really, that's what got me the job.  I found out later that somebody else's references hadn't checked out, so they hired me.  I was the last hire, and I was a replacement.  Ahh, the ego boost!)

We started work on the vacant third floor of a bank building, because the company had made a commitment to open a branch in our town, but didn't actually have a building yet.  So, we all worked side by side, row by row, in that stuffy room for three months, being trained by impatient, less-than-tactful trainers from Philadelphia, who took every opportunity to denigrate the less-than-stellar recreational choices in our little town.  Bite me.

At some point during the training, the three supervisors, who had been hired in advance of the rest of us, announced that they would be promoting two more people to supervisor, and three people to assistant supervisor.  I applied, of course, for one of the assistant supervisor positions (I was no fool).

I didn't get it.

All five people chosen had insurance experience.  Because, you know, that's the only qualification needed to supervise.  But those in a position to hire can be stupid, and not to generalize, but they usually are.

Eventually, the spanking new building was ready for occupancy, so we all drove our cars down the winding parking garage exit for the last time, and at last moved to our permanent location.  I settled into my own little cubicle, put my head down, and did my work.

At some point, one of the original supervisors, Connie, got an undeserved promotion, to assistant manager, so that created an opening for a new supervisor, and thus a new assistant supervisor.  My quality and production were such that, now, when I again applied for the assistant supervisor position, I got it. 

My duties were to process claims (still) and to go around every day, from person to person, and sit with them to answer their questions.  Oh, and to do some kind of needless paperwork whenever the supervisor had the day off.

And the business kept expanding.  More processing units were added, creating more available supervisor positions.  Thus, having my foot in the door, so to speak, I got to be one (not a foot; a supervisor).

I had, I guess you would say, a novel approach to supervising.  I tended to motivate people; to train people; to believe in people; to give them the opportunity to live up to the expectations I had for them.  And I tended to want to have fun while doing all that.

Perfection?  Ahhh, yes, that was me.  Especially the wintery day when my mentor, Carlene, and I stepped outside to have a smoke.  It was frigidly cold that November day, so I said, "C'mon!  Let's sit in my car!  It'll be much more comfortable!" 

"You know," I said to Carlene as we were sitting there in the front seat, engulfed in a blanket of white,  "Maybe I should brush off the windows, so we can see out."

"My snow brush, of course, is in the trunk, but let me just go grab it and do a quick dust-off."

So, I switched off the ignition, grabbed the key, and ventured out to retrieve my trusty snow brush.  Since it was early November, I hadn't yet transferred my brush to the back seat, where it would be within easy reach for any snow-related emergency.

In fact, my snow brush was so far forward in the trunk, I, at five foot two inches, couldn't quite reach it.  I had to climb into the trunk to be able to grasp it.

And that's when the jolly Dakota wind decided to make its appearance.


Darkness overtook me. 

I lay there for a moment, prostate and stunned.  And then I just started laughing.  "It's kind of cozy in here," I remarked to, obviously, myself.

Feeling my way, eventually, I pushed up upon the inside of the trunk door, and, prayerfully, discovered that it wasn't actually latched; just closed.  I climbed out, sauntered back to the driver's side door (to hell with cleaning off the windshield!), climbed in, and casually mentioned to Carlene, "I was trapped inside the trunk!"  Her response?  "I wondered why you were gone so long."

We made a pact that we would never mention this incident to anyone.  That pact lasted, oh, two minutes at the most.  Once back inside, Carlene whispered it to her assistant, who then initiated the whole call train, passing it along to an examiner in her unit, who passed it along to the next examiner, and the next, and inevitably it made its way to the people in my unit.

I was gratified, at least, to be able to provide my "number one of all-time" assistant and good friend, Peg, with something to mercilessly tease me about for the next eight to nine years of our lives. 

Flash forward to the third week of December.  The unit got together and bought Christmas gifts for me and for Peg.  When my turn came, I stood in front of the unit and opened each gift, as everyone gathered in a bunch before me.  I opened two gifts, and they were both lovely.  I felt humbled and embarrassed that they had spent money on me. 

The third gift was oddly-shaped, so I was eying it warily all the while.  My group imperceptibly inched forward as I reached for the package.  I tore open the wrapping, and pulled out.......a long, flat object, that looked to be a paint stirrer.  Up one side of the stick, someone had lovingly etched in red, "TRUNK PROP". 

My folks, one by one, began to keel over in fits of mirth.  I looked at Peg, and she looked at me, knowingly.  She had been the main instigator, of course.  I cried so many tears of laughter that I could no longer focus my eyes. 

The laughter of 16 people spilled over the walls of our unit, sprinkling the corridors of Acme, drawing curious onlookers.

See, my people liked me.  They thanked me.  They respected me.  They made hilarious fun of me.

They gave me a trunk prop.

And all that, combined, got me into a whole shitload of trouble.

To be continued........

My "Career" ~ Part 2 ~ Evil Bosses

My "Career" ~ Part 3 ~ Karma

My "Career" ~ Part 4 ~ Phil

My "Career" ~ Part 5 ~ Welcome to the I-Land

My "Career" ~ Part 6 ~ "Who Do You Think You Are?"

My "Career" ~ Part 7 ~ Another New Boss?

My "Career" ~ Part  8 ~ "Everything's Great!"

My "Career" ~ Part 9 ~ A Cold Wind

My "Career" ~ Part 10 ~ Thank You ~ Goodbye

My "Career" ~ Part 11 ~  Breaking the News

My "Career" ~ Part 12 ~ Loose Ends 

My "Career" ~ Epilogue


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