Octavia was about 5’4”, light brown with long, wavy black hair, and chiseled facial features. Her demeanor was polished and professional in slacks and a pullover top.
“Glad you could start right away. They told me a lot about you. Madame Senator’s real excited you’re coming on board.”
“So, where are you going? On to bigger and better things?” I asked, stuffing my purse into one of the two empty overhead shelves she pointed out at the desk. “Didn’t you just start this job a couple months ago?”
I knew the answer. She had been there three months. I also knew that before Octavia took the job, another woman had worked it just one day and quit.
“I came, I saw, I went,” she said.
She exhaled deeply. Then, as if suddenly remembering something, she opened one of the lower desk drawers and retrieved another folder she stuffed into her tote bag.
“You came, you saw, you went,” I repeated. “Got the tee-shirt?”
“Got the lumps,” she said. She thumbed through drawers pulling papers from folders and personal items. “I’ll show you where to go for your I.D. and parking pass. You will be driving, I hope?”
“Nope. I’ll be on the train,” I said.
“You’ll need a back-up plan. Some nights you’ll be working long after the train stops. And you know cabs don’t pick up Black folks,” she said.
She pulled her chair under the desk and I pulled up a chair next to her. “I’ll show you where the cafeterias are and the vending machines. Also, there’s a gym and a dry cleaners, and a shoe repair shop. You’ll love the amenities,” she said. “You can rent movies from the Blockbuster machines, and, if there’s any book you need, any book ever printed, you can call down to the Library of Congress and they’ll have it brought to you.”
“Cafeteri-AS?” I asked. “The last couple of places I worked in barely had a vending machine in the building.”
“There’s one full-scale, sit-down cafeteria with breakfast and lunch served. Then there’s a carryout that only serves sandwiches and salads down the hall from the cafeteria. In the Longworth, which you can get to through the tunnels when the weather’s bad or you’re in a rush, there’s another cafeteria, a Starbucks, and a general store.”
She pulled up her e-mail account and deleted blocks and forwarded some, as she explained the campus amenities.
“Oh, and a supplies store and a gift shop,” she remembered. “Girl, these cats made sure they wouldn’t want for nothing. There’s a barbershop, a doctor’s office, and a nurse stations, too. Oh, remind me to pick up my clothes…”
Octavia had one small box and a large canvas bag stuffed with envelopes to take with her from the desk she was turning over to me. She had a checklist of things to do and things to tell me, and she went through the list almost mechanically, crossing off items as we went.
“Let’s see how much of this we can get through before shit starts popping,” she said, studying her list. “Oh, and I might as well warn you, just because they got all this shit up here don’t mean you’ll get to take advantage of it. The shit ain’t cheap for one, and you really won’t have time.”
“It’s still nice to know it’s available,” I said. “My last job barely had toilet paper in the bathroom, and at one point the only water cooler we had was collecting dust because we couldn’t pay for refills. All this stuff at the ready? I done died and come to heaven.”
She said rather flatly, “You keep that attitude.”
- Measure the growth. Compare your current job (even if you are unemployed and your job is applying for jobs) to the worst job you’ve ever had.
- How did your worst job help prepare/position you for your current position?
- Now that you understand that worst job was part of your growth process, what kind words can you say to that former boss/employer?