Sunday, February 12, 2012


Barb working hard.
My friend, Barbara, received a great job offer from the University of Miami.  She's really excited and we're going to miss her.  Although we have started planning trips to see her.  Nothing like an all-girls weekend in Miami.  Of course, any plans will have to take a backseat to the challenge of a new position and the hard work we know Barb will supply to U Miami.

I started thinking about my first job.  Compared to my friends, I was pretty  lucky.  My aunt got me my first job at the company where she worked.  I worked after school for a few hours Monday-Friday.  I was even paid a little more than minimum wage at that time and had my own desk, typewriter, etc.  So many of my friends were working afternoons, nights and/or weekends at fast food places or in retail.  Usually the hours weren't great and they were making minimum wage.  I worked at my aunt's company for the last two years of high school.  Once I started college, I had to look elsewhere and was lucky to find a part-time job on campus that worked around my class schedule.

Naturally, this was in a campus library.  Lots and lots of shelving books and photocopying articles from journals.  The photocopy room was so tiny and the Xerox machine was so big (this was the mid-1970's) that we -- the student workers -- had an unofficial rule.  Make copies until you were so sweaty that you couldn't take it. Then it was the next person's turn.  It seemed fair.  We just had to remember to wear light clothing and drink lots of water.  It actually wasn't as bad as pushing huge book carts loaded down with heavy books and journals.  That was a disaster waiting to happen. The wheels on the book carts only turned on one end.  You were supposed to 'steer' from the other end.  Turning a corner and tipping the cart always meant the books fell off and you had to pick everything up (the books were usually in call number order on the carts), put them back in order and, oh yes, this was almost always in full view of students and faculty using the library.  Once I rounded a corner right at the top of the staircase that looked down into the reading area and lost control of the cart.  As each book fell off, it hit a metal shelf (what I was trying to get around) and, well, made a lot of noise.  A grad student who seemed to always be in the reading area studying actually looked alarmed and ran to the bottom of the stairs and asked if I was OK.  I was fine except for my pride.  It was mortifying to watch those books hit the shelf one at a time like dominoes falling over.

Compared to many of my friends, I haven't had a lot of jobs.  Other than a short but disastrous foray into children's retail in college, I stayed the course.  I have one friend, though, who tops everyone I've ever known for the sheer number of jobs she's had and how easily she gets a new one.  Eve has two master's degrees.  One is for teaching children with special needs and the other is a M.S. in Library and Information  Science.  When Eve became unhappy in her position when she worked in the library where I had my career, I was helping her put her resume in order to apply for other jobs.  When she handed me her updated CV, I was stunned.

Now, a number of these jobs I did know about from stories she'd told me during our friendship.  Eve had some of the best stories of anyone I've ever known when it came to her jobs.  Strange events seemed to gravitate to her.  When she was an undergrad at FSU (Florida State University), Ted Bundy, the serial killer, stole her wallet.  Actually, Bundy stole a lot of people's wallets.  Eve was eating her dinner with some friends at a bar/restaurant near the campus and Bundy was there rifling through people's coats and bags.  He seemed to be pretty skilled at this because Eve didn't know her wallet was gone until she got ready to pay.  She also had no idea that it had been stolen by a notorious serial killer (Bundy hadn't been caught yet) until after the cops found a bunch of wallets and billfolds discarded in a heap.  When Eve found out that Bundy had stolen them, she didn't want to keep it.  Who could blame her?  Of course, I remember when Bundy was finally caught after murdering a couple of FSU co-eds and a young girl.  Later when I read a book about him, he had told the cops that he researched universities in Florida before heading down here.  He narrowed it down to two.  FSU and the one I went to.

Eve's first job after she finished her master's degree for teaching children with special needs was in Washington D.C.  She hadn't even found a place to live yet and was living in a hotel out of a suitcase when she arrived for her first day of work.  The social workers who supervised her told her about a young boy who had wanted a bike for his birthday and when he didn't get it, he blew his entire family away with a gun.  Then they pointed her in the direction of a door to the next room where the kid was waiting and wished her luck.    

She once taught a small class of around 7 blind children.  A number of these kids had prosthetic eyes in either one or both sockets.   One of the things they loved to do was to pop out their 'glass' eyes and put them in backwards so that just the whites were showing.  They thought that was hilarious.  Eve took them on outings and one day they went bowling.  While they were supposed to be telling the guy behind the counter what size shoes they wore, they started goofing around with popping out their eyes, putting them in their mouths and putting them in their sockets backwards.  Suddenly there was a loud thump.  The poor guy behind the shoe counter had fainted.  Eve gave them a lecture on behaving in public after that one.

I really don't know how she handled so many of the jobs she had had.  I don't doubt that burnout had much to do with how quickly she left them and how easily she found another similar job.  I found it fascinating that during one of several times she taught autistic children (Eve had an autistic brother), she had them playing with blocks on the floor one morning when one of the kids suddenly stated, "The bridge fell."  Within an hour Eve learned that a huge bridge nearby called the Sunshine Skyway Bridge had collapsed after being hit by a freighter.  Eve had witnessed this type of behavior growing up with her brother and, of course, with numerous students, to the point that none of this surprised her.  She had also spent one job working with five young guys (she later cynically referred to them as her 'little darlings') to tutor them and keep them on the straight and narrow.  At the time I worked with her, one of them had died and the other four were sitting on Florida's death row. 

Even though I knew about so many of her previous jobs, I was still flabbergasted when she gave me her CV to look over and I counted over 20 jobs.  She was around 40 years old at the time.  Eve looked sheepish when she admitted that she had actually left a few jobs off the CV.  It was probably for the best.

My husband, George, spent over 30 years as a social worker.  He began working with the elderly which he enjoyed but by the time he knew he had to get out, his clients were younger and mostly mentally ill and he had very little actual training for dealing with people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Years before he began his career in social work (when he was between colleges), he had worked at the Library of Congress and enjoyed his time there.  I think his most interesting job, though, was his very first one.  He was an elevator operator for the House of Representatives.  To qualify, you had to be 18 years old and someone in the 'House' had to recommend you.  He had family working on Capitol Hill so he was able to get the job when there was an opening.  The elevators were the hand crank variety and they were only to be used to transport  members of Congress and the Senate and guests who might be with them.  Because of this, the operators had access to photos of the members so that they'd recognize them.  George told me at one point that the elevator 'boys' were allowed to have stools in the elevator to give them a break since they had to stand while on duty.  One of the nastier members of our government (I won't give a name since I'm not sure he's dead yet plus people are testy about this kind of thing) insisted that the stools be removed because it wasn't fair that the elevator operators could sit while those people being hauled up and down the floors had to stand.  I believe that the stools were later returned to the elevators.  The only other thing I distinctly remember George telling me about his job was that Ted Kennedy, by far, had the best looking women working in his office.  This is the kind of thing an 18 year old boy notices.

I've fallen out of touch with Eve but I was happy to learn that she has stayed in her current position for some time now.  She's a librarian (or as they're called in schools -- a media specialist) at a magnet school.  This one is a junior high geared toward the health sciences.  She rules with an iron hand and gets summers off.  Not too shabby.

I work from home now and I love it.  I had been working from home at least one day a week when I was still with the university but this is great.  The only problem is getting away from work.  If I'm sitting at my desk in my home office, I feel guilty if I'm not preparing auditions or keeping up with blogs of other narrators or recording for LibriVox.

I don't remember feeling this guilty when I sat in my office at the university taking time to goof off.  Tsk. 

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