Posts Tagged ‘work life’

SpiralBound, Minneapolis, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, on the Day of My Solar Return, July 22, 2022, photo © 2022 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Roots that bind. Binding roots. I came home from work last week to find an empty yellow pot on the marble island. “Look,” Liz said, “I transplanted the rushfoil. It was so rootbound, the roots at the bottom became one with the pot.” I peered into the spiral chasm. “Hmmmmm. That’s kind of cool,” my lips said. My heart translated the fused tendrils as a metaphor for my earthbound feet stuck to unforgiving skeletal bones. Heavy and unmoving. Same old job. Same old routines.

But all that is changing. 

The supervisor at work (only a few months into the position) seems to see us as baggage on his journey through the company’s future. Monday when he wagged his finger at me, I pulled him aside and told him to stop treating us like robots, to cease micromanaging a team that has been efficient and exceeding our corporate goals for a decade. To stop silencing us and treating us like neophytes. He is not rooted to the way things were; he comes from another division. He moves like lightening. He makes mistakes, but he doesn’t care. Forward, at all costs.

For a team who pauses and pays attention to details, it’s maddening. Unnecessary. There are compromises that have to be made in the spaces between the 7000 steps I walk at work every day.

I retire from corporate employment at the end of the year. Next spring we rip 38 years of roots out of the bottom of our Minnesota home and transplant them to the mountains. Liz told me she had to grab a steak knife from the kitchen drawer and scrape at the sides of the clay pot to get those roots to budge. And still….the remainders are part of the clay. The croton (rushfoil is the common name) was a gift from a coworker after my dad died in 2017. She has sprouted new buds in a 13-inch frost green pot butted up to our north facing windows. She is happy. Thriving. I transformed the worn pot into photo art. Another metaphor? On the day of my solar return, I feel scratchy and unsettled.


10-minute Writing Practice on the WRITING TOPIC: ROOTS, Friday, July 22nd, 2022

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Ms. Kiev: She Who Rules The Roost, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s been a long week. Except for the house noises, it’s quiet as the wind. Liz went to the hardware store to buy a new shower head. For the first time this week, I’m alone. It was a hard week. I felt sick on Tuesday but went to work anyway. After becoming a national statistic earlier this year, for the last few months I’ve been driving a truck, delivering parts to machinists to be electropolished, drilled, deburred, picking them up again. It’s Saturday morning, a sacred time when I can actually catch up on reading my own blog.

Weekend hours are sweet. I promised Kiev during her morning ritual with Liz that I’d post a photo of her. She’s the only cat in our family who hasn’t made it to the cover of red Ravine. (Mr. Stripeypants was published for his support of Obama; we lost sweet boy Chaco this year.) I was sitting on the couch, writing. Liz called me on the BlackBerry from the bedroom; I picked up to hear her whispering that I should come and see the cats. I tiptoed in and took these camera shots. Family time.

The first photograph is alpha cat Kiev in her favorite position. Liz places her arm just so; Kiev curls up in the crook, same position every time. I have discovered that Kiev is difficult to photograph. She is jet black and her catty panther features all blend into night. I guess I need one of those umbrella reflectors. I do the best I can.

How do you spend your days and nights? What are your weekends like? Do you take any downtime, time to do things you can’t get to during the week? Or are you retired, off of work, and every day is the weekend for you. It seems like when I have time, I have less money. More money, less time. Where’s the balance?

In catching up on red Ravine, I see that Bob was moved by Anna Deavere Smith in our Writing Topic — 3 Questions. Our guest Buzz explained some of the nuances of basketball banter in his poetry post Hoops. ybonesy wrote about art as play, community art, something dear to our hearts on red Ravine. The renga has heated up in the Daily Haiku. And we made April plans to go to Lake Pepin in the Midwest writing group I am a part of.

I’m relieved to know that even though I feel dead beat at the end of my truck driving day, the creative world goes on around me. And sweeps me along with it. I’m grateful for that.

For Christmas, I may ask Liz for a pocket protector and a few cotton work shirts with my first name stitched above the pocket, but I’m still a writer, a photographer, an artist. Still full of wonder at the animal track flannel sheets in the photo behind Kiev. Making a living as writers and artists isn’t easy. All of you make it easier. Thank you for that.

Morning Rituals, Mr. Stripeypants: Paw Over Hand, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 5th, 2009 with gratitude to Liz who holds up the other half of the sky, my family and friends who check up on me, and Roma, the best blog partner a woman could ever have

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I made a list of all the jobs I’ve loved before…who’ve traveled in and out my door…um, I mean, all the jobs in my life, which is the first step in this week’s topic post (Job! What Job?). I thought I had a lot more jobs than this. I guess I’m more stable than I care to admit.

July 13, 1974 summer diary, all rights reserved, ybonesy 20071. Babysitter: Starting at about age 13. From my Summer Diary of 1974, a few excerpts on babysitting: 

  • June 7: Dear Diary, Well, school’s out. I’m glad. I got st. A’s. Gonna babysit tonight. After school we went to Alvarado. I got my yearbook signed some more. Lisa wrote me today. I babysat the H.’s. I made $2.50. I went at 7:30 and came back about 11:45. Got to go. Bye.
  • June 10: Dear Diary, Well, I went to swimming lessons. My instructors name is Mark. We mostly just got organized. We did do some of the back float and front float. At first it was scary but it was fun too. I babysat A. and A. Got $2.25.
  • June 14: Dear Diary: Today in swimming lessons I got to dive. Michelle didn’t go. The Brody’s moved today. I babysat the B. kids from 2:00 to 12:00. Boy, were they BRATS!!! Bye.
  • June 18: Dear Diary: In swimming lessons we dived some more. Not off the high board! Mark says that this guy is a baby! He is! I like Mark. He’s nice! Also funny! I forgot to tell you yesterday but my guppy died. I babysat the B. kids. They weren’t real brats. I met their reletives. Boy, some more weirdos. Now I have about $25.00. Bye!

2. Dentist Office File Clerk: The next summer, age 14, I went to work with my sister at a dentist’s office. We drove in her brand new red MG convertible. I filed all day long while she worked the reception desk. It was the most boring job ever. After the first day of standing in front of the giant set of file cabinets pulling out identical manila folders and filing dental x-rays and insurance papers, I knew I never wanted to have anything to do with teeth again.

3. Retail clerk, Hallmark shop, age 15, where I stole something almost every day. I think the owner was on to me.

4. Banquet waitress, Albuquerque Convention Center, age 17. Got fired, along with all my friends, the night after we dropped water on debutantes and their escorts and essentially did a lousy job working the Senorita Ball

5. Hostess, age 17-18, at a restaurant housed in an old haunted building. I got to drink in the saloon after work each night even though I was under-aged.

6. Picture framer, age 19, for two different frame shops. From the second one I quit and got fired in the same instant. Good news is I can cut my own mats, and if I had the equipment, I could do my own framing. Given the cost of framing today, I ought to splurge and buy myself the tools.

7. Researcher for the Vargas Project, age 20ish. Beautiful flourishy hand-writing of the Spaniards who entered New Mexico. Otherwise showed me that I wanted nothing to do ever again with historical research.

8. Waitress for a university-area restaurant, early 20s. I never wanted to go back to waitressing, but then I discovered I needed tips to survive.

9. Account Executive for a Santa Fe advertising agency, mid 20s. Learned it’s all about image. Also learned I’m not.

10. A bum in Spain.

11. Research Assistant for a handsome Brazilian graduate professor who unlike other professors didn’t even make me grade papers (and I didn’t even sleep with him! He was just a nice guy.). I guess I was lateish 20s.

12. Program manager for a university program that did internet publishing related to Latin America. This was a cool job–got to travel all over Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean. Went to Cuba. Salary sucked. Started at age 29, quit at 35.

13. Internet trainer. Attempt to supplement my university salary. The role took me to Mexico a bunch of times. I learned how to say “mouse” and “click” and “ftp” and “telnet” and all sorts of early-internet words in Spanish.

14. Corporate sell-out, age 35. By then primary breadwinner for my family. I’ve had about six or seven different jobs in my almost eleven years with the company.

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Do you want to know something strange? For three years I worked on the fourth floor of my company’s five-story building and never saw the guy who sat in the cubicle next to me.

I heard him on the phone almost every day. I knew when he was talking to his ex-wife by the way he’d cut her off: “Sheila, Sheila, SHEE-LA, I’m in a meeting…” I knew he wasn’t really in a meeting, but when he was, then he used his smooth salesman voice.

I knew his first name, Tim, and I even remember his last name (although I won’t reveal it here). Tim. Three years next to Tim, and I wouldn’t know him from Adam if I saw him today.

I’ll say this about work. Everyone has a story, which is easy to forget when everyone also has a badge with a photo and an ID number. At my company there are nearly 100,000 people worldwide; a couple or so thousand at the site where I work. People always ask me if I know this person or that person. I rarely know the name, much less the person. And, then, in unison, me and the person doing the asking: “It’s a big place.”

There was a time when I was both bothered and fascinated by my work environment. It seemed so impersonal. As an experiment I decided to count the number of faces at work I was seeing for the first time. I divided the people I saw each day into three categories: Never Seen Before, Seen But Don’t Know, and Know. I found that most people fell into Never Seen Before.

I would get into the elevator and look around at the people standing in there with me. It was awkward, those doors closing and then my peeking at the faces of fellow riders, trying to recall if I’d seen this face or that one. Staring at people in an elevator is bad elevator etiquette, so I had to do it discreetly. On a given day, I’d see six or so Seen But Don’t Know faces but I’d see maybe 20 or more Never Seen Befores.

I was amazed I could work at a place that long (when I was doing this I’d been there about seven years) yet bump into more strange faces than familiar ones. It was odd this notion of moving among strangers year after year, never saying much more than “Fourth, please.”

There were exceptions, of course. There was Mario, from Valley High School. He reintroduced himself to me one day in a stairwell. I couldn’t place him at first; after more than 20 years his hair was gone. There was Andy, who had been a high school hunk and who all the girls, including me, had a crush on. Andy lost most his hair, too. And the class clown, Lorenzo, I discovered worked there.

On my very first day of work, the New Employee Orientation trainer exclaimed to me as I picked up my course packet, “You look exactly the same!” I peered into her round face as she said, “Don’t you remember me?? I’m Ana! Remember?? We had Mrs. Wood for first and Mrs. Salisbury for second.” I smiled one of those mouth half open smiles that said, “I think I remember who you are, but give me a minute to really get it.”

I remembered the teachers, but who wouldn’t remember Mrs. Wood? She looked like Marilyn Monroe; at least, she did in my memory. Most the kids at Armijo Elementary had brown hair and olive skin and surnames like Chavez, Garcia, Martinez, Ulibarri. Mrs. Wood was totally different, which I guess meant we liked her all the more. Mrs. Salisbury also stood out. She was a lot older than Mrs. Wood and more maternal. I remember she hugged me more than even my own mother did. She was Black, probably the first Black person that I’d ever known and certainly the only Black teacher I had until I reached high school. She wore her shoulder length hair in an old-fashioned flip, and she wore tortoise-framed glasses.

Ana the trainer had hair so thin on top I could see her scalp. She was short and shaped like a marshmallow on a stick. “I can’t quite place you,” I admitted, squinting my eyes as if that might give me x-ray vision into 1967.

In the end, I never did pull the six-year-old Ana from the adult Ana’s face. My one chance of connecting with someone who’d known me before almost anyone else (minus my parents)…and at a huge company, no less.

I know a lot of people would refuse to work in the place I work. Not even factoring in what the company does nor that it’s for-profit, the very environs would be a turn-off for most creative types. The carpet is bland. The walls are white. There are no curves, only angles. And then rows and rows of square spaces with people sitting in them working on computers or talking on phones. I once described it as a “cubicle farm – people in cubes like calves in cages.”

I’d like to say the structure of the place serves the function that structure often serves, which is to let wild mind run free. I’m not sure this is the case. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Instead, I look at it this way: I like many of the people I work with, I’m paid well, and I’m challenged. I’ve stopped questioning whether I should accept my career and my company. There is no such thing as job security, but there is another kind of security. It has to do with showing up for the things you’re signed up to do.

This is what I signed up for. Here I am.

-from Topic post, A Place To Stand.

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