July marks several anniversaries for me.
July 3, 2000 found me starting a new job at the omnipotent megalith hereafter known as The Bank. I have told this story in a blog before. Whilst I was in orientation with the HR person, I was informed there was no early leave at The Bank. My initial thought was , “Why are they talking about retirement when this is my first day?” I found out that since July 4 was a holiday, I could not leave early. Really? My manager sent me home at half past two o’clock. My plan was to stay a year. I live outside of NYC but NYC is my place to work. Unfortunately, most people have a bad sense of both geography and commutation. It takes me less time to get into the City than people who live in the other boroughs. I needed a year back in to quash the naysayers. Overall, I was there more or less for 15 years! My mother used to say, “Do two, maybe three, strive for five.” My parents were totally anti-corporate which also means no pension, no benefits. I started. I hated it. I tried to get another job immediately. The Bank had surveillance cameras throughout its offices. No one knew if they really worked. I am sure they must have as literally hundreds of millions of cash and checks passed through there daily. When I first started there people could actually make cash deposits. I remember seeing a 25 million dollar check being casually processed. Back to the cameras. So, every morning I would look up at a camera and carefully enunciate. “I hate working here.” No luck. I went on a business trip to California with my manager and his manager. I am a technical trainer so I was training the staff on how to use technology that did everything a real teller in a bank could. Due to space limitations, the managers had to be in the room with me. They loved my approach. In a last ditch effort, I told the senior manager that most days I felt like a square peg in a round hole. He told me he felt the same way. So, instead of becoming my ticket out, it became my ticket in.
2001 arrived and I made ready to move on. September 11 happened. And here are parts of the reason I never liked The Bank. NYC on September 11 was an odd place to be . I was in Midtown but no knew what was really happening. People started leaving. The Bank’s policy was to never expense employee meals unless travelling. Even then they had a global policy of $45 daily for everything if you w ere travelling. By the afternoon, one of the managers said he would buy pizza for everyone still there in our department. He was admonished and advised he would not be reimbursed. I ventured back into NYC on the 13th. I had been due to teach a class on loans. I felt that needed to be placed on hold as people adjusted to our changing world. I went to the floor where the students sat. It was just past 9 A.M. And the first day back in Midtown for many of us. You could have heard a pin drop as people sat at their desks, heads down, working furiously. I still refused to teach the class.
I worked in the IT area and was hired specifically for my non-techie self. Someone there told me I would like “The Big Bang”. It’s because some of the people were just like that. Despite all this, I stayed even after my group was let go. I was brought back as a consultant for another 11 years. It worked. I was mostly on my own. Despite the lack of benefits, I made nice money. Almost too much money as it were because it was difficult to get something similar. I worked alternate hours 7:30 – 4:00 or 4:30. Eventually, I worked 7:30 – 3:30 but I was always available before and after hours. In fact, due to my West Coast following, I took calls and emails till 9:30 or so. I also worked remotely on Fridays as commuting became dangerous for me. I also worked remotely in bad or hot weather. This was the job where my mobility began to give out. My standard line (feel free to use as you see fit) was, “It’s not contagious. It’s not cancer. It’s not terminal. And, there is nothing wrong with my brain.” For the OMG! OMG What happened to you crowd, I would laugh. “I am just falling apart.”
It all ended badly. My reasonable accommodation was removed. I was made a truly insulting offer to become an employee which was totally unacceptable.
I struggled to find work. I was a woman of a certain age who had been at a company too long and walked with a cane and the spectral leg aka brace. Hey, my canes were seasonal and pretty. I finally found another position more than a year later. Enormous pay cut and more responsibility and work. So, this represents another July anniversary. On July 14 last year, Bastille Day, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite,; I walked out. I could still do that. I had the misfortune to work for a mean girl from high school. I loved the company and the people. It hurts. I had more personal interactions there in 5 months than I had in the 15 at the Bank. People miss me both places.
My feeling, rational or not, is that losing these two positions has severely impacted my health. And I hate the phrase, “losing a job”. I know where it is. It’s not lost. At the Bank, I walked 10,000 easily and often. The building was a city block and I walked to Grand Central , walked through Times Square Station and then Penn. The next job had much less walking but phenomenal people.
So, this week I am marking a year without working. I have become officially disabled and un officially retired. This is so not what I wanted or envisioned. It’s hard. I miss getting dressed – clothing is my life. I miss people. I have been demoted to a walker. It hurts me to look at it.
All losses are relative. July was bad before the Bank. If you have read me before, you know I have left a swath of dead boyfriends and other lovers behind me. Bobby was one of my favorites. Once, I was asked in therapy, of all the guys I had been involved with, who would I have liked to marry. Immediate answer – Bobby! Uh, a small problem, bisexual? Well, he left me for a man. But… But we went to the same school and bore similar scars; we liked to cook and eat out; we loved to shop; we loved Dylan’s Black Diamond Bay; we walked in Washington Square on warm evenings; we loved to go to the movies and theater. Big missed hint and clue: We saw American Gigolo three times and we had to get tickets to Bent. He died of AIDS before his 30th birthday which was July 7. It’s hard to imagine that he’s been gone longer than he was here. I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral as his parents blamed me for his death. He used to tell me if he ever married me, it would kill his parents.
July 7 also marks the day my childhood friend, Julie died. Again, way young. She died around 40. She was real and funny and loyal. You always knew where you stood with her. She arranged for her father to take the photos for my first wedding because I hate those forced, frozen, fixed photos. Her husband had diabetes. She used to tell him, “Chuckles, I am going to dance on your grave when you die ’cause you didn’t take care of yourself.” Ovarian cancer.
So, to put it in perspective, what’s the big deal with not being able to walk. How can I possibly measure not working against not living? Well, it’s my pity party and no one else is invited. Mourning is mourning. Respect for all deaths and departures. And then? Then there is summer and its warmth.