14 October, 2007

Career blues pt. 2

In the waning months of my grocery store job, my sister had realized that I was not very happy there. She had been working at a very high class day care center and they needed a "maintenance man" (read "janitor"). The thought of cleaning toilets and mopping floors for a living didn't appeal to me. The place was in the next county and an hour long commute didn't appeal to me either, but I was desperate. I took a deep breath and called the director of the center to set up an interview. The interview went well and I was hired. I gave my boss at the grocery store the standard two week notice and hoped for the best. I wanted that job to go on, but it wasn't going to happen. The day came when I had to leave the store, and all my friends there, behind. I was scared and excited at the same time. I was going to work at a place far away from all that I had ever known and where I wouldn't know anyone except my sister.

I started my job at the center being trained by the teen-aged children of the accountant. Angela and Craig had been doing the cleaning while a permanent janitor was being found. I liked those kids. They, like their mother, were hard workers and very dependable. Craig quit soon after I started so he could pay more attention to football and school, but Angela stayed on for another year until she graduated from high school. In that first year I had gotten to know the rest of the staff and was very comfortable there. I was surprised to find that the rest of the staff, all college graduates mind you, treated me as one of their peers. I was at a job where I was given a large of amount of responsibility. I worked at night, mostly alone, and was responsible for the whole place. I had to do weekly tests of the sprinkler and smoke detector systems, which I didn't think much of until I realized that a couple hundred kids, from infants to six year olds, could be harmed if that system failed. Holy crap! I also got sick frequently. Whatever ailment was going around, I got. Pink eye, sinus infections, all sorts of cold and flu viruses... after four years of that job, my immune system was in top notch order. My third year at the center was a big change. I was supposed to have had a full time assistant and frequently did for the first two years, but the third year... I was it. I had a couple of part time assistants, but they came and went so fast that I never really got to know them. The work was also starting to take its toll on my body. Remember, this was a daycare center, all the sinks, toilets, drinking fountains etc., were down low. So, I was on my knees all the time and they began to hurt all the time. I was also doing the work of two people. At my two year review, I was put on salary instead of an hourly based pay. I didn't think much of it because at the time, I'd had an assistant. Then I was alone, working ten to eleven hours a night and only getting payed for eight. There was also the one hour commute to work and the one hour commute home to deal with. It got to the point where I was either sleeping or at work with no time for anything else. I'd also gotten involved with one of the staff. At this point and she was still married. That added some mental aches to the physical aches I'd already had. By year number four, I was looking for an escape. What had started as a good job had turned into hell. I had a short span of relief when the husband of another staff member came in to help me a few hours each day. He said he needed the extra money, but I'm sure that he and his wife saw how run down I was becoming. To this day, I have high regards for Haley and Chris. They were (and I believe still are) good people. I was scouring the classifieds desperately looking for another job. I was ready to take almost any position I could get. Working on cars was not an option. By this time I'd forgotten most of what I had known about fixing cars and didn't think there was a shop that would want to take a chance by hiring me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was at a dead end. I was miserable. The only thing that made me happy was my girlfriend at the time. But, that was a double edged sword. I'll write about her in a future post. I hated my job and thought that there was no way out. Then Peter showed up at the center.

Peter has been my best friend since I was fifteen. We had lost contact for awhile when he was in college and had been living in other parts of the state. Peter had been living in the same city as the center I was working in and we saw each other every now and again. One day, he called while I was working. I asked him what he was doing and where he was at. He was right outside the center! He'd come to visit me a couple of times, but this time was different. He was working for a courier company and had just made a delivery to the business next door. He asked me if I'd ever thought about being a mechanic again. I told him that I thought I was washed up as a mechanic. He didn't think so. He told me that the company he worked for needed mechanics and that he thought I would fit the bill. I told Peter that I'd think about it and would get back to him. I thought about it for a few days and asked my family and friends for advice. Their advice pretty much said "Go for it." I called Peter and got the phone number of the corporate fleet supervisor, Tim. I nervously dialed the number and for the first time, I spoke with the man that would change my life. I met Tim for an informal interview at the shop. We talked about what the job entailed, how the company worked and about my experience. I was completely honest with him. I told him about getting fired and the shame I had having failed at my career. I also told him that I didn't think that I was going to be good enough to do the job. He thought otherwise. That same day, I was sent into the HR department for a formal interview. A few days later Tim called me and told me that the job was mine if I wanted it. I didn't hesitate and said "I'll take it!" I was again scared, excited and heading for the unknown. What was laying ahead of me was the best job I've had to date and I'll cover that in part three.