Monday, May 2, 2011

Make Your Breaks

I once met a man whose life was not turning out the way he had seen it unspooling in his youthful dreams.  Problem seemed to be that no one accepted him for the genius that he was (or considered himself to be).  He had a very good job in his 20s but quit that in a moment of peevishness, and then began that slow, sad spiral of descent that leaves those around him wrinkling their brows and shaking their shaggy heads.  He sold aluminum siding, but "Baltimore's a crummy town for selling something like that."  He worked in a retail store, but "I can't deal with these jerks, always wanting to buy something they don't even know how to operate." He worked for a drugstore, but "business is way down and I got laid off."  Back to his original line of work, he got an entry-level job up the road in the field in which he once was a supervisor, but that didn't work because "They were out to get me from Day One.  They knew I coulda come in there and run the place, so of course they wanted to keep me out of their lives."  Another job didn't work out because "they stacked the deck so I was physically unable to do the work."  

A cynic might point out that if aluminum were magnetic, most of Baltimore would be facing the North Pole, for all the siding on our houses.  It's amazing that people here don't have their cars enhanced with siding. Also, money spent by people on things they don't need or can't work right is called "money just the same" in most towns. The drug business around here - and I'm speaking only of the Rx's from your kindly doctor - means we keep seeing drugstores the size of the Astrodome on most big corners. No one is out to get anyone. Most firms welcome the chance to hire someone who might have innovative ways and usable ideas for the business. And employers with openings really don't have the time, money or the inclination to hire people clearly unable to do the work.  Employers tend not to have time to stack decks, unless they're in the porch business.

I thought about this man, whom I haven't seen in many a summer, because the other day at a work event I met a young woman who works for our local school system as a night-shift custodian.  I am fascinated by "off-hours" jobs like that, so of course, right away I had to ask if she ever goes to the band room late at night and pounds on the bass drum ("no") or blasts a note on the tuba ("No!") because, truth to tell, those are things I would do.  But we had a while to chat, waiting for something to happen for this event, and she told me that she and her husband both work the overnight shift - he as a nursing assistant in a nursing home - and go to college in the afternoon - she for paralegal studies, he for his RN degree.  Her sister lives with them and functions as baby sitter for their little girl and will do so for their little one on the way with a July arrival.  

That's a couple of heapin' plates right there: jobs, school, parenting.  She told me that she had seen people who just sat and waited for life to come to them, for all their dreams to come true, and she had vowed as a young woman that she would not be like that.  So she works, maybe not in the most glamorous of jobs for now, but she is on the track to making her life what she wants it to be.

And somewhere along the way, she realized that if she and her husband wanted the better things in life, she and her husband would be two fine candidates for the job of making that happen.

I'm willing to bet that good things will come her way, and even though cynics like my man above here will say, "Oh they got a lucky break/ they knew someone/ they were in the right place at the right time? etc etc etc," this lady and her husband will know better than that how they got there.

I don't know where I'll be in thirty years, but I bet I know where these two will wind up! 

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