Sunday, December 18, 2011

Middle-aged Women Don't Bounce: Part 7

June 1, 1976 dawned pleasantly cool and sunny.  The birds were happily chirping in the trees long before the sun had risen and I had been awake far longer than the birds, dressed and ready to go.

Carl came over to my parent's house to see me off on my first day of work.  He had several months of freedom before he had to go to technical college for machining in the fall, which he spent working for his father in the family wrought iron business.  As long as he was over so bright and early, I fried us both an egg for breakfast before I left for work, though I found I couldn't eat much of anything.  My nerves were really frayed.

Armed with a kiss and a hug from Carl and a cheerful wave from my mother from the barn door, I carefully backed the Nova out of the garage and headed for All Casualty Mutual.  I drove as carefully as I could, but it sure felt odd to be going all this way alone.  I turned the radio on for company and tried to take my mind off the butterflies in my stomach.  As the miles went by, the scenery changed. At first there was the beauty of woods and farms and lush green pastures where the cows were heading out to after the morning milking.  When I noticed the cows, my throat became very tight and I had to blink back tears.  I was homesick already.  Soon I was driving through newer subdivisions and finally the city proper.  My hands were gripping the steering wheel so tight they were aching.

I got through the worst of the traffic but there were a few gut-wrenching moments when a detour for road construction that wasn't there when Dad and I had made the trip threw a monkey wrench in my carefully planned route.  Oh, great, now I'm going to get lost and I'll be late for my first day of work!  This was only the second time in my life I had driven in the downtown area but as luck would have it, somehow I ended up on Main Avenue again.  Since ACM was the tallest building, I spotted it and pulled up right across the street.

Dad and I had noticed there were parking meters when we were there on Saturday, so I had come prepared with change.  I plugged the meter for the longest time limit; two hours.  Two hours wasn't very long, but I didn't know what else to do.  The lady from Employment had told me on the phone a week earlier to park close to the building. There wasn't any other place to park that didn't have parking meters, either.  Not even on the side streets. When Dad and I had noticed the meters on Saturday, I asked him what he thought.  He figured I should do what the lady had told me, so I did. 

There were so many cars, trucks and people out and about, bustling around and once again, I noticed the foul smell of exhaust and asphalt.  I made my way to the crosswalk and finally entered the lobby of the insurance company through the big, revolving door.  There was a security guard standing in the lobby who looked at me rather suspiciously.  I was glad when the elevator door closed on his unfriendly face.  Somehow or other I found my way to the Employment Office.

Once there, I was greeted warmly by the pleasant receptionist and ushered into a room with a table and chairs and told to have a seat and Alice, the personnel manager and the lady who had hired me, would be in shortly.  There was be a short orientation meeting before being taken to my actual post.  It turned out two other people started the same day as I did and had arrived before me.

One was a guy a few years older than me and I recognized him right away, though he didn't know me from a bale of hay.  He had gone to the same school I had, but had graduated at least three or fours years before.  I assumed he was fresh out of college.  I'm not sure what department he was bound for, but he rose very high in the company, the last I heard, all the way to upper management. He was busying himself with his briefcase and didn't notice my entrance. 

The other person in the room was an attractive blonde girl who looked me over rather disinterestedly. Her name was Judith and she had also been hired as a clerk in Records. (Ok, no it wasn't her name, but I'm changing it to protect the innocent.)

Alice came into the room and bid us all good morning and a pleasant welcome to our first day.  Then she had us introduce ourselves and reveal where we were from.  When the young man heard me say the name of the town, he peered at me closely, and then promptly flicked his gaze away.

When it came his turn to speak, he, of course, named the same town, too, and Alice said, "Oh, how delightful!  Are you two acquainted?"

"No!" he hastened to say.  "We've never met."  

For some reason, I felt more uncomfortable since he was someone from my hometown.  It made me more self-conscious, especially when he was so quick to disown me.  Gee, I had taken a bath the night before.

Alice then turned to me and the blonde girl and said, "How nice that you two girls are starting on the same day and in the same department. You'll be able to lean on each other as you learn the ropes." 

I was thinking the same thing, it was a stroke of good luck and maybe we could be friends.  God knew I needed one in this lonely place. Judith and I smiled and nodded in tandem agreement with Alice.  Then I chanced a shy smile at Judith on my own.  When her steely blue eyes met mine they abruptly slid away and her forced smile melted like an ice cube on a sizzling hot sidewalk.   I got the feeling I'd had so many times before.  Apparently I wasn't going to be a Cool Kid at work, either.

I really didn't have any more time to worry about the frosty reception I'd gotten from my new comrade; Alice swung into her well-rehearsed 'Welcome to ACM' speech and presented us with paperwork for insurance and all the other necessary information we needed to fill out for our careers.  She informed us that her portion of the new employee orientation would be rather generalized; once we were taken to our actual departments we would be fully indoctrinated.

As I sat there listening, I kept watching the clock.  One hour was already almost up.  The meter was ticking.

She asked the three of us if we had any questions.  If not, we were going to watch a short video.

How I hated to ask the question, but I felt I had to. 

"Alice, I have a question about parking," I began.

"Oh, yes, parking....well, parking here at ACM is on a seniority basis.  We do have three lots with assigned parking stalls for our employees.  Unfortunately the number of employees on staff far exceed the available lots, so we simply ask that all employees who are not eligible for our private lots find alternative parking in the city ramps nearby.   You will find them located at a convenient distance from the office. If you don't wish to use the metered ramps or lots, there is an alternative employee lot located at a slightly greater distance.  The choice is yours.  You may ask my assistant, Ethel, for directions."

Oh, dear.  Mistake number one.  I had gone and parked on Main Avenue, right smack across the street and my meter was about to run out.  Now what?

But before I could tell her what I'd done, Alice congratulated us again and turned us over to Ethel, for now it was time to watch the video. 

I sat there and my stomach was doing backflips.  Time was running out and fast.  Would I get a parking ticket?  Or would they tow the Nova?  And, if they did, how would I find it in this concrete jungle?  I had no idea where the impound yard was or the police station. 

Finally, fifteen minutes later, the video was over and the lights were flipped back on.  Ethel then asked if we had any more questions before she took us to our departments.

I heaved a big sigh, and said, "I'm sorry to bring this up again, but I need to know what to do about where I've parked my car."

My fellow new employees looked over at me curiously as I stood there, blushing furiously.

"I can give you a pamphlet that shows the lots Alice described, " Ethel said.  "Then you can make your decision based on that.  But as Alice already stated, there are no openings in our private lots for new employees."

"I understand, " I said, "But the problem is, I'm afraid the meter is about to run out on my car."

By now, I could only see the tiles on the floor, because that's what I was staring at.

"Why would it run out?  Those meters are good for at least eight hours," Ethel asked."Which ramp did you park in?"

I gulped and said, "I parked on Main Avenue, right in front of the building."

I heard the snort of derision from my hometown guy and saw Judith roll her eyes at the ceiling as the two of them joined forces in disbelief.

Wow, talk about green as grass. All I needed now was for the elastic in my underwear to fail and my humiliation would be complete.

I missed the cows at home all the more now.


Anonymous said...

Your not having a good day are you.
Judith needs a good poke!!!

FlowerLady said...

Oh my gosh Karen ~ I've been reading along and today had to finally make a comment before I get to the end of this series.

I feel your angst and discomfort. I want to leave before the door hits me in the a** and they don't know I've left, and want to get back to the country and farm where all is peaceful and calm and comfortable.

I take as many back roads as I can to work, and am relieved when I arrive there and back here to home sweet home.

People can be so callous and cruel.

You are a dear, sweet, lady who has taken guff and turns it into stories for the rest of us to learn from.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Cathy Wiechert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy Wiechert said...

Ok...I'm hoping "Judith" gets her just reward by the end of this tale. I'm smelling those fumes, right along with you....

Alison said...

Flower Lady said it so well, especially the part about turning the guff into great stories. You are a very talented writer, don't ever let anyone tell you different. And that makes you one of the coolest people I know.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

I am reading this Karen and all I keep thinking is you need to publish this as a short story. I wish we lived closer, I would become your agent, ha, ha! At least make one of those blog books out of this, too great to have lost on the internet.


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