Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gangrene Shoots

So I settled in outside of the Washington Post. It was now December 2009 and all the talking heads were talking about green shoots and used expressions like, "moving forward" or "going forward." The recession was now over. Despite these pronouncements people were still losing their jobs but I continued to feel confident nonetheless. I had a long history of working hard at many things and I was a proven quick learner. So naturally I disregarded everything being said in the big media about how rosy the economy was improving knowing things were really tough. But I'd been through stagflation and recessions before.

After taking a few weeks off I began applying for positions for a number of jobs like graphic artist, editor, proofreader, auto mechanic, etc. Those first few weeks after leaving the Post my wife enjoyed having me around doing the chores. We had the thousands of dollars the Post paid me to leave voluntarily, my wife was really starting to make some unbelievable income and though I was not working I was working harder than ever around the house. The bills were getting paid and my wife didn't have to do any of the house chores especially dishes or cooking. In fact, to jump to the present, she has forgotten these skills completely now and is helpless in a kitchen unless she has to boil water to make her OWN coffee. Well, coffee is what the label says on that container of freeze dried brown water she drinks as a sort of cafe-like beverage. I drink freshly ground French roasted espresso so I'm a java snob. Be that as it may, my wife works the graveyard shift at the hospital since getting her nursing degree. She was like the runner up for the Valedictorian at the college. She got A's in everything I'm telling you.  After graduating lots of hospitals made her offers and she finally accepted a position at the Washington Hospital Center. She really loves her work too. She didn't hate being a housewife for the first twenty years we were married especially being with the kids. But she detested doing housework and preferred ignoring it mostly in favor of reading romance novels - mindless drivel don't you know?

Anyway…I began packing my wife hot dinners-to-go for her to take to work. She loved eating my homemade bread so I thought I's send her to the hospital with a loaf or two one evening. She returned in the morning with demands from her coworkers for more bread. Hence began my pastime baking bread. My wife's nickname is Deni and the hospital staff began referring to my bread as "Mr. Deni's Bread." We have a couple of fig trees out back that produce more figs than you can imagine and I'm glad we choose the dwarf trees to plant instead of regular size. I used the figs to make walnut fig bread. However my wife's coworkers seemed to like the cinnamon raisin the best.

So add to my chores being the family/hospital bread baker. In addition I had been the gardener, auto mechanic for all friends and close family, plumber, brick layer, firewood splitter and hauler, upstairs and downstairs maid not only for my wife but also my daughter and her husband who were living with us and our three sons. Mind you they ARE slobs. Perhaps my son Matt is tidy about his room and my son-in-law is saddled picking up after my daughter. Fortunately they all work steady jobs except at that time my youngest wasn't employed yet. He's since joined his siblings in the workforce. Feeling fortunate to have them all working I figured cleaning up after them a bit wouldn't kill me and I had the time to do it. To sum up, I took on all jobs that popped up around the house with the exception of the electrical work which my wife handles. The reason for that is some unfortunate attempted remodeling which required some drilling where an electric wire ran behind the wall. Somehow I nicked the wired four or five times then drilled throughout it tripping the breaker and luckily not electrocuting myself in the process. Then wiser heads prevailed and it was decided that my wife would from there forward do all the electrical in the house or hire an electrician. She lets me replace the bulbs still because I tall.

But even accomplishing a huge number of tasks around the house and making my family's life easier doing the cooking and other chores I figured eventually I'd run out of things to do about the place. So I continued putting in those application. The shocking part was there was no response. Of all the applications I put in I only received one interview and that was as a mechanic for a gardening center. Although I'm an excellent mechanic, which shall be discuss somewhat later, I have little paid experience beyond my days with AAA driving a wrecker. Having said that I have worked on my own vehicles for forty years now because I'm too cheap to pay mechanics but that would not help me land the job. I kept putting in applications as 2010 arrived. I began another project that consisted of taking an old free brick wall from N.E. Washington DC, demoing it, hauling it back to the house and using it to construct a front patio and pathway around the side of the house. In addition I started digging the big Koi pond that runs along that pathway. Currently, I'm redoing that pond enlarging it but that is another story too for you Koi pond lovers.

I never really got down about not immediately finding work. I was too busy around the house and my wife really loves having me as a housewife. Also, at that point my list of things that needed doing continued to grow. Naturally, though I have not before mentioned it, my family is in reality a gang of automobile destroyers. They have this illusion that all cars need is a bit of gas once in a while and they'll run forever. Then when my wife car breaks somehow like when she and my son Matt combined to blow up her Corolla engine, she looks at me with one hand on her hip and say, "My car is this or that…" with a look that establishes beyond reasonable doubt that I have been somehow negligent. Then I get on and scrounge up a replacement engine for $800 buck delivered, swap it out with the blown engine and she's back on the road. Well back on the road until a year later she ran it hot warping the head and forcing me to rebuilding the replacement engine. Ah but that too is another story I may or may not need to tell. But throw in my oldest son's 1990 Camaro with a fuel problem and my time was pretty dear. Still I wondered what my future role would be.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Last Days At The Post

I'd already signed the separation severance contract in Costa's Office. He'd reminded me I didn't have to go. At the end of the day I was a good worker who didn't missed work, showed up on time, worked my entire shift and did it with a smile most times.  I didn't hold any grudges against anybody there. Everybody had their reason for doing whatever they did and I figured mostly it had nothing to do against me personally. The Washington Post had gone from the workers' paradise to a barebones operation continually shrinking leaving the remaining employees living in fear. In the golden days if you said or did something management deemed inappropriate they'd send you to charm school like with Ronnie. The Post would coach you up to be a better employee. Now you were gone if you screwed up. Gone.

I arrived at work that last Friday on time as usual. Most of the others like Crystal had already left but I held out as long as I could because the income was nice. But doing little to earn the money for a corporation that I now suspected of involvement in insurrection against my country was not tolerable. I needed to get out. I wasn't at work more than fifteen minutes when my manager, whose name still escapes me, came over to my desk and informed me I could leave. She was giving me the whole shift slide out of work that last night. I thanked her and gathered my things. That lump gathered in my throat as I saw the people who I would not see anymore most likely and I thought about all the people who'd already left. That made me sad and I walked around the floor saying my goodbyes. I said goodbye to Dailin who I do speak with still to this day. Then I was walking down that darkened hallway to the elevator for the last time. I'd already given my badge to management so when I said my goodbyes to the guards the last time I left the building forever.

I got into my Toyota and started down L Street for home. The neighborhood was a different place in the new economy. In better times L Street was hopping as long as legally possible at night. Now most of the clubs were shut and the street was dark with few people. One street over was the old red light district but since there were no customers with money even the oldest profession was in a depression. However, only a few weeks before leaving the Post for the last time I was putting my things into my car to leave for home after finishing my shift. A woman about 35 or 40 years old came down 15th Street looking a bit intoxicated. She looked at me in a gesture that asked me if I want to purchase sex from her. At the same time she had that look of shame and desperation. It looked like she'd walked down 15th Street from a bit north where it was residential. Who knows what situation drives an apparently middle class woman into the streets as a prostitute? The economy was changing radically and it was seizing up. I declined her offer.

I didn't miss that drive home though most nights it was a piece of cake. It amazes me how in the middle of the night on a straight road people can crash their cars. I'd seen my share of nuts coming home. Like the guy who flew past me in the snow. Before long he was several hundred feet ahead when his car spun around sliding backwards scraping against the median divider wall made of concrete. Let me tell you it's a shock to suddenly see some cat's headlights turn around then pointing at you. By the time his car came to a rest I past the idiot and thought I'll bet you won't be acting like a damn fool anymore. I was wrong. In my rear view mirror I see his headlights spin around and in less that a minute the nut passes me again!

But this last drive home was quiet. I figured I'd get another job somewhere. I have lots of skills and I'm a hard worker. Those things come in handy when looking for work but what really gives me an edge is my ability to speak. In all the interviews I've ever been on I was offered the job except once. Even then they called me when the guy they picked didn't work out. So I felt confident about the future and certainly much more principled not working at the Post any longer.