Archive for jobs

Heart Side

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2010 by 1writegirl

I sleep on his heart side. Even when I’m in bed alone, I don’t cross over the invisible boundary into that space where he would be, where he will be, hours from now. I count them down, even while I sleep, as my own heart stops and starts again in irregular, unpredictable intervals. In my dreams I’m waiting for him, looking for him, pacing the floors, the streets, the skies. At last his face floats into view and I relax as he comes toward me. I smile and turn my face up to his. Mi corozon, I whisper. He kisses me in reply and I surface like an erstwhile, reluctant swimmer from a cold and murky depth into the warm, aerated embrace of life. I breathe in deeply and exhale his name. For a moment my eyes flutter open, just long enough to take in the sight of him, then close again as I drift back to sleep, this time to dream that he’s here beside me, memories and shadows and ghosts unseated by live, scented, sense-evoking flesh, enfolding me, freeing and cherishing me, all traces of boundary released and soon, so soon, forgotten.

Caretaking 101

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2010 by 1writegirl

One of the fun, exciting things I do to make money lately is “caretaking.” Caretaking is another word for getting a glimpse into your own potential future if you aren’t both careful and lucky. I have three clients, all little old men in their eighties.

I am due to pick up Little Old Man #1 at 2:15 to take him to a doctor’s appointment at 2:45. George is a widower with one child, a woman in her fifties who lives several states away. At 1:40 my phone rings. “Why aren’t you here yet?” he wants to know. “I can’t be late.” I could remind him that we agreed I’d be there half an hour before his scheduled appointment. I could tell him, “It takes ten minutes to drive there. We’ll be early as it is.” But I don’t, because it doesn’t matter what I say. I know, I’ve said it all.

“Just hurry up and get here,” he says, and hangs up.

When I get there, I knock as usual. “Come in,” he calls, and his tone is full of doubt, as if to suggest he’s not expecting anyone. When I walk in, the scent of Old Sour rushes over to greet me. “How are you, George?” I say, and he shrugs his shoulders. “Can’t complain,” he says. He stands up and grabs hold of his walker, and we head out. On the way to the doctor’s office he demonstrates that he can, indeed, complain. “You should see the crap they served us for lunch and tried to pass off as beef stew. I couldn’t eat a bite of it! And last night they tried to give me fish, even though I’ve told the office again and again that I don’t eat anything that comes out of the ocean. Did you know it’s supposed to start raining again by the end of the week? Goddamn rain, it makes my shoulder hurt twice as bad as usual…” And so it goes. I nod my head in sympathy and utter “bummer” every now and then.

We’re back at his apartment in less than an hour. “How about a shower?” I ask enthusiastically. He shakes his head vigorously, dismissing the idea. “Not enough time,” he says. “I don’t want to be late for dinner.” Dinner is served promptly at 6:00. It is now just past 3:00. I’ve tried to reason with this objection in the past. “It only take half an hour to shower and get changed,” I’ve told him, and, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be fresh and clean?” But, beyond logic or cajoling, George just crosses his arms across his huge stomach and stares at me, his lips pressed tightly together. What can you say to that? So today I don’t waste my breath. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” I ask instead. “Any bills that need to be paid? Any laundry to be washed, or appointments scheduled?” He gives his standard reply. “Not at the present moment.”

I gather up my stuff. “I guess I’ll be going then,” I say, and turn to leave. Then George clears his throat and says, “You’re getting paid for two hours but you’ve only been here for an hour and fifteen minutes,” he tells me. This is true. “You still owe me forty-five minutes.”

I sigh and put my handbag back down on the floor. George lives on a fixed income, as he reminds me on a regular basis. He can’t afford to pay for something he’s not getting. “George,” I say. “What do you want me to do? I offered to help you shower, but you’re not interested in that. And you have nothing else you want my help with.”

He just stares at me in silence for a moment and I am suddenly claustrophobic in this tiny room with its windows sealed shut and old newspapers stacked up on the bureau and the sour pungent smell of old unclean man permeating the air. I want to leave, and I want to leave now. But I know if I just walk out like this he’ll call my boss and complain, which he probably does anyway, but I don’t want to give him any ammunition. I need this job right now, until something better comes along. I turn toward him and suddenly it dawns on me what he really wants.

“Would you like me to sit here and keep you company for awhile before dinner, George?” I ask. “You could do that,” he says. I sit in the chair next to his recliner and for a minute we’re both quiet. Then George says, “Did I ever tell you about the time I found that little girl who was lost in the mountains?” “No,” I lie. “What happened?” He leans back in the armchair and smiles for the first time since I got there. “Well, it was like this…”

As I sit there and listen, I think that of all the little things I can do for him to make George’s life easier – driving him places, errands, laundry, helping him shower and dress, for example – what he really values and needs most from me are these little moments of relief from loneliness and the constant knowledge he lives with that his body is failing him even as his mind refuses to give up. This is really why I am here. And it is at once both the least and the most I can do.

Just a Job

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2009 by 1writegirl

Cleaning houses
Not what I saw
Myself doing

In college…
Ten years ago…
Six months ago

But the need for
Money
Is ever-present
And sometimes
You can’t be picky

It was a mobile home
2 bedroom 2 bath
Shag carpet
Greasy stove
Stained floor
Brown toilets

It had clearly
NEVER
Been cleaned

I toiled away for hours
Till everything
Sparkled and shone

No cobwebs
No dust
No grime
No spots
Splatter or
Splooge

Every muscle hurt
Every bone ached
My finger tips
Were blistered
My knees bruised
A knuckle bleeding
Mindlessly cut as I labored

Yet I still had
The front porch to do
Christ! Where the seven
Cats lived…

I’ll come back tomorrow
I whispered
And thought
If I’m still alive

I’ll finish the job
Bright and early
I didn’t realize
How long it would take

The next morning
I was there at eight
Finished up in
Two hours and ten

Alice paid me in full
Plus twenty-five tip
You did such a good job
She smiled

Pressing the money into
My hand
She said
And you came back!

As if I would leave it
Undone

I loaded my supplies
Into my car
Then headed to
Another
Smaller job

Helping Lola
Clean out her garage
And put together a bed

As I prepared to leave
She turned to me
Have you got a card?
She asked

I’ve got lots of friends
Like myself
Who could use
A hard worker
Like you

I thanked her and told her
I’d get some made
Then drove home
Thinking
If I did this often
My hands would toughen up
My muscles wouldn’t hurt
I’d be in fit shape
And my bank account…

A fast calculation said
6 houses a month
Would pay my rent
And then some

In the end, of course
Sprawled prostrate
On my bed
It felt the same
As any job
I might do
Or have already done

They all leave me
Moaning
Cursing
Pulling my hair
Telling myself

I’m too old for this
I’m not cut out for this
What’s the point of this
Oh god, why this?

It’s how I feel about all
Work for pay
And I’ve tried
My fair share
To be sure

It’s just a job
If it isn’t
Writing

Fuck, man
I’ve gotta
Sell that book…

Rambling Revelations I

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2009 by 1writegirl

The office manager in the urologist’s office where I work doesn’t like me. I haven’t yet been able to ascertain whether it’s personal or not. I suspect she wouldn’t like anyone who is currently doing the work she formerly did before she informed the doctor she needed help with her workload. I suspect she’s of the opinion, “Nobody does it better.” Or as well. Or if things continue on as they are, at all. Does that make sense? Not to me, either. But I’m waiting for her to corner me behind the water cooler and say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but you just aren’t working out here. It’s not a good fit. The doctor would have spoken to you personally but he’s extremely busy, well, doctoring, so he asked me to let you know. Go ahead and leave right now…”

Sensing the inevitable, I actually tried to quit last week, in an effort to save everyone the unsavory consequences of being stuck with an employee who “isn’t a good fit.” I came into the office, announced to OM that clearly I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of things, so much for that extensive college education, and why didn’t we all just cut our losses right now and I’d be on my merry way. After all, 72 other applicants applied for this job, surely one of them is still willing and available. She said she’d been too hard on me, would I please forgive her, and doctor would like to see me. I marched into his office where I presented the same speech, then added for good measure a bit about how I’d gotten spoiled from living off my savings after selling my house a few years ago, which allowed me to simply write and not have to worry about mundane and annoying little distractions like making a living. I told him, in a burst of bare naked honesty, that I realized after working in his office for two weeks, “how much I really detest office work.” He seemed surprised to hear this. “It’s not rocket science,” he told me. “Precisely,” I said. I waited for my dismissal. Instead, he announced he’d chastised OM for what he referred to as picking on me, and asked me if I’d give them another chance.

So here I am, filing charts and sending faxes and making appointments and dodging phone calls having to do with patients wanting tomorrow’s laboratory results today and nursing home facilities wanting to speak to doctor about the prescription for Mrs. Smith’s increasingly bothersome incontinence, and thinking what a relief it would be if OM really did fire me. Which is crazy stupid, because I need the money, and this is the only job, albeit part-time, I’ve got at present. Yet the fact is, I hold onto this position for that reason alone, and have to drag my sorry ass in to work it filled with compunction and reluctance every time. The fact is, I detest living in a world where your worth is based on what you do to acquire money, and acquiring money is the primary motivating force for your existence once you reach the age of “independence.” This world is so wrapped up in the exchange of performing some duty for receipt of an intangible which we endow with power and sustenance that those who reject the logic and benefit of such a system are shunned outright as slackers, bums, worthless leaches and downright losers. Creativity for its own sake is given no value whatsoever, and there is no such thing as the inherent worth of a human being. You are tolerated at best, and made to feel ashamed and inferior for your lack of “contribution to society” if you don’t throw yourself wholeheartedly into the pursuit of work for remuneration. That’s just how it is and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Still, I think I’ll secretly continue to fantasize about OM giving me a pink slip. Somehow the idea that it’s right around the corner makes it just a tad easier to bear when she sighs deeply and takes a chart from my hands, muttering under her breath, “I’ll just do it myself, that way I know it’ll be done right. Go and make 100 copies of that form, will you?”

And if I don’t ever get the hang of it? So much the better. As Bindo says, doing stuff is overrated. I mean really, what I long to do, what my heart cries out for – shit, gotta run. OM is coming and I still haven’t collected those urine samples…

Right-now Jobs

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2009 by 1writegirl

A friend called me last night to ask me how I like my new job. I thought for a moment about the best way to describe it to her. Finally, I said “You know your worst nightmare about having kids?” She’s childless by choice. “Yeess,” she said slowly. “OK,” I said. “Now multiply that by a roomful of 10 or 12 toddler brains in the bodies of full grown adults, who aren’t ever going to get any older mentally.” I gave that a moment to sink in. “Now, consider that some of these people have so little going on that they just sit there and stare at you, never saying a coherent word. Some of them, on the other hand, will babble nonstop, only what they’re babbling isn’t coherent either. But they’re demanding your attention and you have to respond. Some of them have ideas about what they want to be doing, which isn’t what they are supposed to be doing, according to the powers that be, which you have to reflect. So you’ve got a battle of wills going on to prevent them from acting out on their impulses, which don’t seem to be affected by being told a gazillion times that the particular activity they wish to engage in is off limits, no longer available to them, or my favorite, inappropriate.” I could hear my friend take a deep breath and slowly exhale. “Then you’ve got the ones that want to hold your hand all the time, sit in your lap if you’ll let them, and get upset when they discover you have boundaries.” I paused, and sighed. “You know how I am,” I reminded her. “I can only take social activities of any kind in limited doses.” I’m the one at the cocktail party on the fringe of the circle, sipping my drink and listening to what everyone else is saying, slipping off in my mind every few minutes to someplace else I’d rather be. “At this job,” I told her, “I have to be socially engaged every single minute, I can’t even retreat into myself to escape. All my energy is directed outward toward the constant care of these people.”

As I was talking, I was thinking about women who get pregnant in their 40’s with Downs Syndrome babies and choose to give birth to them. I was wondering if they have any idea what they’re in for. These people I’m caring for are in my custody for 8 hours a day. How could I manage to care for even one of them 24 hours a day, for years on end? It isn’t about a lack of compassion or understanding, it’s about having the energy it takes to try and relate to someone who will never, no matter what you do or how much love and attention you give him, be able to care for himself in even the most basic of ways. It’s about being surrogate mother to a dozen little kids when it’s all I can do to be a mother to my own teenager.

“I’m just not cut out for this kind of work,” I said. If it was my own child, my parent, even my spouse who could no longer care for himself, I’d find the strength and the will because of the heart connection. But I’m not altruistic enough to want to earn a living this way.

“So what are you gonna do?” my friend asked.
“For now, I’ll go to work, do the best I can, and save every penny possible. It’s not a forever job. It’s a right now job.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “I’ve had a few of those.”

We talked a few minutes more and hung up. All I could think about was crashing, I was so exhausted from my day. As I fell asleep I thought about what it must be like to see the world through a three year old’s eyes your whole life. It probably isn’t so bad for them. The ones it’s so hard on are the ones who love them most, their parents usually, who know they can’t always care for them, and who wish in vain their children could grow up to experience some sort of choice in life. Yet they never will. All their choices, large and small, all their lives, will be made for them. Many of them won’t even realize it could be any other way. For the rest of us, our successes and our failures – however affected by others, by luck, by circumstances – belong to us, if only because at some point, we were able to make a choice about something.