Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Little Work History Might Help

Start again.  Anew.  Rebirth.
With this project of my recollections from Greece and my first manic episode, I've thought that if I could just record what all I thought about at that time, there would be a book there.  But it's not happening that way.  So I need a different approach.  I think.
There were far too many thoughts to remember all at once there, during that time of duress.  You had the mingling of the cultures, the transformation from artisan to commerce economies, the lack of restful sleep.  Plus I was facing a grand transition in my career.  I had been working for the Engineering Department with the City of Santa Clara, which had been a big deal in and of itself.  I had traversed the topography of shift work for the Police Department before, suffering through a job that I had a lot of trepidation going into and a lot of dread to overcome as I became a permanent employee with the city after almost two years of working full-time but in an "as-needed" capacity.  I had worked my way into a position with the Finance Department as a utility meter reader, after a stint with the Sewer Department as an "as-needed" laborer.  This was after a period of unemployment after being laid off from my job while living in Sacramento.  I had moved back home with my parents, who were rebuilding their lives back in the south Bay Area after a long haul of eking out an existence in the Central Valley.  Funny how long it takes to get to the bottom of it all--  I could go back into details of suffrage for both of my parents in their careers, as well as with mine--  suffice it to say that we had been challenged and it took quite a transition to get back on our feet again.  I went from falling in love with a college friend who had a house in Malibu, and the possibility of relocating to the LA area (I even had a potential job transfer available) to being laid off with no prospects.  The long-distance relationship didn't last-- love couldn't conquer the distance.  So I eventually moved to Santa Clara and my aunt got me an interview for the job with the Sewer Department.  Time to start at the bottom and work my way up again.
After about five months with the Sewer Department, my limit on how many hours I could work was about up.  Just about then, I learned of the opportunity to work with the Finance Department as a meter reader.  They needed some summertime coverage, so it would be temporary, but would be quite a bit more money.  And as luck would have it, one of the permanent employees got injured, so I ended up working more.  I was making almost twice as much as I had ever made before in all my work experience, and I really liked the job.  I worked at my own pace, by myself, with no phones interrupting or supervisor's eyes leering, and I got to work outside and wear shorts.  What a coup!  I thought I had found the way to live my life.  If I could just get on as a permanent meter reader, I'd be set.
Over the course of the next year or so, I took several civil service tests to try and get on hiring lists to get in line for permanent positions with the City.  At that time, it was common knowledge that a person could gain a distinct advantage by taking any position with the City and fulfilling their one-year probation period.  Once that was achieved, an employee did not have to satisfy the one-year period again.  And if you were a permanent employee, you were given preference on the hiring lists.  Permanent employees were placed on a promotional list that was considered before the general public hiring list even got a call for an interview.  And you didn't have to score as well on the test to be placed on the promotional list-- if you just got a passing grade, you'd be added to the promotional list, and would get an interview before anybody on the regular list.  A distinct advantage indeed.
So such was the thinking behind taking as many tests as I could qualify for so that I could get a permanent position with the City and then move to the position of my choice once I had satisfied my probation.  The best laid plans...
While I was working as-needed as a meter reader I waited for the opportunity to test for the permanent position of the job I was doing and enjoying doing.  It came up once, and I did well, but since I wasn't a promotional candidate, I didn't get a call for an interview.  So when I got the opportunity to become a permanent employee as a typist clerk with the Police Department, I had to say yes.  It meant that we could qualify for a loan to buy a house, and by then I had met my wife-to-be and was building towards a life together.  It presented challenges, for sure, and I had a lot of trepidation as I said before.  But it had to be done.  It was the practical choice.
So I started work with the Police Department in November of 1997, and instantly began to dread going to work.  It was so much more stressful that meter reading, and there was danger and hazards and codes and privacy and so much to keep straight.  Plus I was working swing shift and graveyard at times.  And there was so much negativity, conflicting personalities, back-biting, and depression.  I'd get off work usually at 1:30am and go straight to the grocery store for beer or liquor and drink myself into the morning hours so I could go to sleep.  At the time, I was a newlywed and we bought a house, and soon we started to try and start a family.  I continued my efforts to find another position with the City doing something else, but it was not quick to happen.
It was about this time that we started having our difficulties with infertility.  The economy was booming in the Bay Area, and my wife was making very good money and traveling quite a bit, but she really wanted kids and we tried to make it happen.  After some time of tracking her cycles and trying on our own, we sought out help from an infertility doctor.  She had elective surgery to try and clear her tubes, we did the assisted insemination thingy, and we even got pregnant, once.  But it was a blighted ovum and we weren't blessed with a child.
By the time that we did get pregnant, I had managed a transfer from the Police Department to the Engineering Department.  Swing shift to day shift.  Back to the life of the living.  We were cautious about letting people know, but we were just too excited to keep it a secret.  So we celebrated with family and friends, and planned for the arrival of a future that never came.
When it happened, when we found out that we would be miscarrying, it was a shock and severe disappointment, for sure.  My wife was crushed.  But I felt inspired by the fact that we had succeeded to the next step and proven that we could in fact get pregnant, after a lot of infertility talk and diagnosis and plotting.  So I tried to be cheerful and encouraging as we set out on the next phase of our journey together.
I worked for the Engineering Department for a little over a year, and it proved to be just as stressful as the Police Department, but in a different way.  There weren't lives hanging in the balance on a daily basis, but there were important projects and dignitaries to deal with.   My co-worker had been hired a month before I was for the department, and all of a sudden she and I were running the show-- our supervisor left for a different position in the City, and then the department heads decided to take their over thirty years of experience and retire.  We learned on the go, and it went fast.  I continued to shop around for the right place with the city, and continued to take tests, even though the promotional rules had now changed and it was not as easy to move around (figures).  I came out number 2 on the meter reader list and was ecstatic.  Finally, I would have the chance to become a full-time permanent meter reader!
And so it went.  I accepted the position with Finance and set up my transition from Engineering.  By this time we had already been making plans to go to Greece to visit with my college buddy Armand and his wife as they celebrated their marriage in his homeland.  I would finish up my duties with Engineering and go away on vacation to Greece, and when I got back I would finally start at the job that I'd been trying to land for almost five years.  Things were falling into place, or so it seemed.
What I didn't anticipate was a medical crisis.  My mental health crisis.  One doesn't often see such things coming.  I most certainly didn't.

1 comment:

Gerri said...

I think this is a great start to your story. Keep at it...