Tag Archives: Stories

Working 9-5

9 to 5

When I graduated from college I started the job search. There was no living in my parent’s basement. There was no backpacking through Europe. I knew I had to work. With a double major in English and Sociology, I really wanted to become a famous novelist but had a backup plan of saving the world. The prospect of writing a novel was a thousand times more terrifying than saving the world so I looked for nonprofit jobs and anything that seemed remotely brave and sacrificing.

There was no internet, so my strategy was to cut out little ads from the Boston Globe, arrange them on a sheet of yellow legal paper and stare, looking for a sign. I should have recognized the giant sneeze that sent the ads scattering to the floor as a sign. Wrong direction. Go with the writing.

But instead I started interviewing. In preparation I went home to Syracuse and my mom gave me her Dey Brothers charge card so I could buy something other than t-shirts and jeans. I came home with an Evan-Picone suit jacket and skirt and a London Fog raincoat. My mother almost went into shock, not just at the price tag, but at the fact that I had any style or taste. But that’s a whole mother-daughter story for another time.

My first interview was at an all boys Catholic School in the North End of Boston. I didn’t have a teaching certification and had never taught, but neither of those was a requirement for Catholic schools. There were two priests and a lay teacher who looked stern and priest-like. The interview lasted about 20 minutes. but felt like 2 hours. They were looking for someone to teach juniors and seniors English Literature, American Literature, Sociology, Psychology and Criminology. And they wanted this person to teach freshmen Western Civilization as well. There was one planning period a day except 2 days a week you would have to cover study hall. The average class size was 27 and the study hall was for 45 or so juniors and seniors. Boys. 45 junior and senior boys.

They asked me how I would teach abortion. They told me women weren’t paid as much as men. I was sweating profusely. It was August and that Evan-Picone suit was wool. At the end of the interview I shook everyone’s hand, walked out of the school to the parking lot and found my keys locked inside my car. I teared up, swore, and went back inside to face my inquisitors. They were in the same room, their heads bowed together, murmuring about me no doubt. With no AAA, no idea who to call in the middle of the day, I did the only thing I could do. I asked for a coat hanger.

They found one, and then followed me out to the parking lot to watch as I untwisted the metal, made a long straight rod with a hook at the end, and broke into my car. Eyebrows were raised, odd noises emitted from the back of their collective throats. I pulled out of that parking lot at a dangerously high speed, ready to take off the suit, bra, the matching pumps, right in the car and drive naked through a Dairy Queen for a sundae.

I got the job.

And so began the wold of work for me. I’ve been at it ever since. Jumping from job to job, never quite saving the world, writing in fits and spurts on the side but never finishing that novel. Structure is good, money is good, but putting aside one’s dreams, well that takes its toll. There are, however, stories. Lots of them. And they percolate, inform, get me to write now and then, shape my outlook and days.

You are, after all, the stories you tell. I have so many from my work. More probably from childhood. A lifetime of stories. Don’t we all have a lifetime of stories?




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Arch Enemies

images-4When I take my teenage girls shopping for shoes they inevitably wind up in the clearance section trying on every pair of high heels they can find. And if you’ve never been in the clearance section checking out the heels, they tend to be a) the highest heels legally available in this country, b) made of animal print, neon shellac coating, or woven straw, c) adorned with zippers, chains, lace, leather straps, whips (No, no whips, that just came out), and d) so pointy in the toe you could open a can of cream corn with them (if you had that inclination).

They parade around in these shoes, well, actually, they kind of shuffle around, showing them off to each other, laughing, posing in mirrors, and then finding higher, more outrageous looking heels to try.

At times it reminds me of when they were little and played dress up. My youngest in particular loved this and lived in a Little Mermaid costume her entire third year. Other times they look strangely like drag queens, doing something they simply can’t resist with hyped up attitude, daring, playfulness and an underlying sense of crossing into forbidden territory.

I know I am supposed to hate high heels. They were designed by a sadistic man. They are terrible for your feet, legs, back, shoulders, boobs, ear lobes, frontal lobes, well, everything. You can’t really run in them or walk quickly or sometimes even walk. Just because you see it on TV does not mean it is so. And after a few hours in them your feet need CPR and an oxygen tank. And maybe they are even a feminist issue, adding to the objectification of women, placing beauty over pain.

Yet there’s something about them. And it isn’t just because they make your legs sexy, which they can do (but don’t do for everyone, buyer beware). They represent things or maybe just the possibility of things. Sex. Youth. Power. Beauty. Mystery. Elegance. Class. Femininity. Can shoes do all that?

Women are labeled by their love of shoes. Every women is supposed to be obsessed with them. I actually had a neurologist tell me to go buy myself a nice pair of shoes to take care of my foot pain (this was before someone smarter than him found out that the bones in my feet were eroded by Rheumatoid Arthritis). Men use this as a put-down. You women and your shoes. It falls into categories like: women are obsessed with shopping, woman have to have their pedi-manis. Translation: women are silly, not serious.

But shoes can be empowering. Shoes can make you feel happy, sexy, strong, balanced, put-together, in-the-know. It could be a pair of heels or a pair of hiking boots. I am never going to own a coffee mug that proclaims “shoe love is true love” or have a glittery high heel dangling from my key chain, but I respect the shoe. The shoe is full of stories. Complex, beautiful, cautionary, amazing stories. What’s not to love?


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So Much To Say

134170985_istockphoto_thinkstockYesterday while waiting to get a chest x-ray (see earlier rant about this  lousy winter), a woman sitting near me asked if I thought the Peace plant between us was real. Before I could answer she started talking and I learned the following about her:

She had stage three lung cancer but was doing fine now, just needed a chest x-ray for follow up. A few years ago she was homeless and the mother of her daughter’s friend took them both in, made sure they were fed and never asked for anything in return. She is on SSDI and is waiting for the next check to get her furniture out of storage. She wants to give this furniture to the mother of her daughter’s friend because recently her house burned down. Her daughter had a falling out with this friend but now they are talking again. Her sister had breast cancer but they caught it early. She thinks the woman living in the apartment above her has a thing for her husband and is trying to make a move for him. This neighbor (a 60 year old women, never married, no children, and now she knows why) watches for her to leave and then tries to bum cigarettes off her husband.

I learned all this in the 3 or 4 minutes we sat together before I got called in for my x-ray. Here’s what she learned about me during this time:

I like Peace plants.

At my next doctor’s appointment (it was a long day), there was a white haired women, probably in her eighties, wearing shiny gold bowling shoes. Her smile could melt snow banks.

Everywhere I go there are stories.

So much material, so little time.

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