Today, my cell phone buzzed in my pants. It surprised me so that it made me leap up and startle the people standing around me. They all started to giggle as I walked away to answer.
Now, you must know that my cellphone never buzzes for any reason. I don't even know why I carry it with me. I was only in my pocket this morning because I had an interview on Monday and, although I was sure I didn't get the job, I still grabbed it this morning motivated by a small measure of hopeful cynicism.
I was expecting some telemarketer, but to my surprise the person on the other end said one simple phrase that caused tears to well up in my eyes.
A voice said, "Good Morning, Dr. Kroning, this is Kelly and we would like to invite you to join our team. If you were to accept you can begin whenever you'd like."
In an instant a wave of emotion flooded over me like a tsunami. I jumped into the air and silently yelled "Yippie!" then I regained my composure, swallowed and said, "Of course, I'd be quite pleased to accept this exciting opportunity to join your team."
The gigglers had by now deduced the crux of the conversation and were all giving me the thumbs up.
In an instant, three years of struggling to find a job...any job...had ended in one cathartic sentence. During that time, I have suffered the indignity of losing my home, watching my spouse of 14 years retreat from me emotionally mostly due to depression related to my failure to find any employment whatsoever.
All of that pain and sorrow, self-doubt, self-loathing, loss of self-esteem--all for the lack of that single phrase; a single phrase that was the culmination of a chance Monday morning interview with the friend of an acquaintance about a position of which I knew nothing.
There I stood, where I had been working in drudgery for the last 10 weeks with as much humility as I could muster for 11 dollars an hour as a junior file clerk at a government auditing firm...barely making enough money to pay my rent, car and groceries. There I stood...lifted by a swell of disbelief.
While I was at this place working as a file clerk, I hadn't let on about my education and training as a Doctor of Philosophy with a specialty in Environmental History. There really was no point and who would believe me anyway? It would have only made me look pathetic and a loser.
So, I just smiled and did my job even as I was spoken to like a little gremlin by arrogant ignoramuses who knew nothing about me or my struggles. "Go get me this file," they sneered. "What took you so long?," others remarked. "Make sure you put those files back in the right place!" More striking than the words, however, were the looks as if I were somehow beneath them because I was carrying around files instead of auditing or managing or acting as a law consultant.
I watched as my co-workers, all less educated, dealt with the daily snobbery and the downright cruelty by those who earned more than them and saw themselves as somehow more civilized and deserving.
All the time I was spied upon by a sniveling little 24-year old tyrant who ate 3 Subway sandwiches a day and greedily gulped down a 2-litre jug of Pepsi while watching a live feed of baby panda cubs in some zoo in China.
After I got the news, I walked around the office and shook hands with everyone who was kind to me. Some asked me where I had been hired.
I told them that I will be the Senior Editor at the Office of Risk Management at a major university here.
That caused some raised eyebrows and some skeptical "good lucks."
But, one kind man, one who always told me good day, said something that touched me. He said, "That doesn't surprise me. I could tell by the way you walked and the way you talked that you were more dignified than the job you were doing here. And, by the way, you did your job here very well and I for one was very pleased."
At about 4pm, I walked down to the office, turned in my badge, shook the boss' hand, thanked her for the opportunity and politely told her I wouldn't be back tomorrow. She shrugged, said, "thanks for your help," and went back to work.
I learned some valuable lessons there. But, the most important was that we must do everything we do in life with dignity and do not let ugly events turn us into ugly people.
I also learned never to lose hope.
On a final note, I am compelled to say that this place has done more to keep my hopes alive than any other outlet I have had in my life.
I need to thank all of you kind people who have spoken with me over the years. In this new Age of Information, I have learned it is possible to have friends and make connections across the ether that are as deep and meaningful as those we can make in person.
Therefore, I intend to use the first 100 dollars of my earnings to buy a subscription to continue to support this community.
Now, I need to go get buzzed on some wings and a beer.
My new life starts tomorrow.
Oops...just noticed this was on the Rec' list. Thank you for caring.
Now I'll probably have to pass on those wings.
UPDATE: Wow! Thanks for the kind words! I made it through my first day...conference calls, people asking my opinion...having to make decisions. People coming over to ME to introduce themselves. Nobody watching me to see when I came back from lunch. What a strange week. :)
Thank you everyone and Happy Holidays!