I’m quite lucky to have a job that I don’t hate. In fact, there are many days that I LOVE what I do. Now don’t get me wrong, as often as not, I’m watching the clock for quitting time, but sometimes I get wrapped up in a project and almost don’t want to leave the office. And I HATE getting up in the morning, but once the coffee kicks in, I usually don’t mind being at work. But Jason wrote a post the other day that got me thinking about other jobs I’ve had and a lot of memories started coming back to me.
My first job was a part time gig in the billing department of a large system of medical clinics. Many of the patients we served were on Medicaid and Medicare. In many ways, it was a very rewarding job because we served people who might otherwise NOT get quality medical care. My days were spent processing payments, answering our switchboard, and filing. One family sticks out in my mind from those days–the mother always had this look on her face like she was being electrocuted–wide eyed and nervous looking, I suspect she was strung out on something most of the time. Her children were loud, poorly groomed, and had never gotten the benefit of positive discipline. But that’s not what makes them memorable. The mother had named each of her children after what she craved most during her pregnancy. Her eldest daughter was LaZonya, her middle child was Koffee, and the baby was named Alka (middle name Hall, naturally). I wonder whatever came of those kids.
Another patient, who had to be well into her seventies, would come in dressed like a Britney Spears back up dancer…short shorts, low cut sleeveless tops. She had the look and demeanor of someone who had lived a very hard life and loved every minute of it. Visible above her left breast were faded tattoos–all men’s names. Her doctor confided in us that the tatoos continued down her torso, and she had proudly told him that it was a list of every man she had slept with. He further reported that, even at her age, the list was getting longer–as there was fresh ink during several of her exams.
One summer during college, I worked as a telemarketer. It was NOT as bad as it sounds, even though most of what I did was call to offer credit cards and long distance service. Whenever we made a “sale” we had to record the confirmation part of the call as we repeated the customer’s information and terms of whatever product they wanted. I was on fire one day–it was right when Caller ID was becoming a big thing, and I routinely racked up a couple dozen sales of a new phone feature package during my shifts. Right in the middle of a recorded confirmation, it turned out that I wasn’t the only thing on fire. I heard a loud “whoosh”, a few screams, and stood up to see a cloud of smoke pouring out of our server room and a sea of people running for the door. I calmly informed my customer that our building was on fire and that I would call him back to complete the order as soon as possible. It turned out to be just a malfunctioning chemical fire-supression system, but my recorded escape from the building (and subsequent call back/sale) was a running joke all summer.
For two more college summers, I also manned the phones–but as an order-taker for a sporting goods catalog. It was a fun atmosphere, low stress, and very low pay. I often worked the overnight shift, usually with only one other employee. We had been warned that the “Bike Pervert” frequently tormented the night shift, and that we were free to terminate any call that we felt was inappropriate. My overnight coworker was a good little church girl–somewhat sheltered and timid, but with a great sense of humor. And we had many run ins with the Bike Pervert. He would generally begin the call under the auspice of a legitimate order–filling his cart with bike shorts/supplies/etc. before turning lurid. One night, I got a few hang up calls–a sure sign that the bike pervert was calling (he would call until he got a female). My coworker got a call, and after a few minutes, let me know with a wink and a nod that it was indeed the bike pervert. She switched the call to speaker phone so I could listen in.
“What’s the inseam on those shorts?” he asked, “I wanna make sure I don’t hang out the bottom.” Always the professional, my coworker didn’t miss a beat.
“These are our best sellers, sir, so I imagine they must work just fine for most men.”
“But I’m almost nine inches long.” he insisted, clearly trying to get a reaction. She wasn’t giving him one.
“Oh, well, I’m sure you’d find these satisfactory, sir. We sell thousands of pairs a year, and I’ve never heard any complaints about the fit of them.”
“You realize that’s quite a bit bigger than most guys?”
“No, sir, I didn’t.”
He laughed, “Well how big do you think an average man is?”
“Gosh, sir, I don’t have much experience where that’s concerned. But I’d probably say about twelve inches, so you shouldn’t have any problems with these shorts. Now, would you like us to send those out regular or express?”
Click. Dial tone. We died laughing.