Vestige of New York past

Not gonna lie. It’s been tough lately. Wondering “what’s wrong with me?” Why is this so hard? Starting to forget to be kind. The ugly side of the city has started encroaching: A man yelling at someone on the subway, another man refusing to make space when asked. The smells. Angry people in mean phone conversations. Saw one of the GIANT roaches in the basement yesterday. Six inches at least. Today I had a rude barista at Starbucks! They got my drink wrong (the precious Teavana peach citrus, etc.) and left out the lemonade. When I told her I’d wanted lemonade, she started lecturing me rudely about how I ordered, and that I’d ordered wrong, that I had to ask for it. I know that, bitch. She asked if I wanted her to put lemonade in it, or something, but maybe she was being sarcastic because I stood there for a whole minute while she continued making other people’s drinks and just left feeling ashamed for some reason.

But. I am determined to remember why I wanted to be here. So. One nice thing about where I work is it is next to Trinity Church, with this extremely old graveyard. Hamilton is buried there. I haven’t located his grave yet, but I plan to search tomorrow. I did find Angelica Schuyler’s. I don’t know if I ever mentioned that Hamilton’s last house, “The Grange” was (re)located just down the street from where I was living on Hamilton Terrace. I didn’t get a tour, but I did go explore the little museum they have set up. Hard to picture him as a white man after Lin-Manuel Miranda’s version fills my head.

Also, the part of Broadway I’m working on is called “The Canyon of Heroes”, and it has all these alley’s I mean to explore. After about a week working there I took a different subway exit and found a great shortcut to work up one of those alley’s. It’s all dark and scaffolded, but eight feet wide and cobblestoned, not shady. I see several around worth checking out. They’re like shortcuts to other parts of the city. Or portals. A couple of weeks ago as I was walking down the alley to the subway and there was a drag queen in front of me, all in hot pink and sequins. There’s a cement barrier block at the bottom of the alley, and when she got there she climbed up on top (in heels!) and her friend started taking pictures as she posed. She was truly fabulous. I wanted to take a picture too, but she glared at me very haughtily, so I left. Another world than mine.

On the Tuesday after Labor Day, as announced, they closed the West 238th street downtown 1 station. Options are to walk to the next stations at 231st or 242nd. Or, ride the uptown 238th train to 242nd and then take it back down. On Tuesday I walked to 231st. Mistake. I had to fill my MetroCard and the line was to the stairs. Finally, an MTA employee opened a door and told everyone to just get on the train and buy their cards later. I took advantage of the clearance to try to buy my card rather than hop on a now crowded train. Turned out one of the machines didn’t work. At least the part that takes a PIN didn’t work. I finally got it at the next machine, but when I went to inform the worker, she told me she knew. (So, put up a sign or something, sheesh!) I took the free ride, but it’s not worth that much when you buy the unlimited ride pass.

Today I found myself planning on writing out exactly how tedious the job I am doing is. In steps. So, here it goes: I get a block of cases in an Excel sheet with 500 entries. In the first column is a pdf link. Click on that and make it open on the second screen. (I have two screens.) Now on the right screen is a .pdf of a scanned claim form. On the left screen is the Excel sheet reflecting the information. Check for accuracy on the following categories: date of submission? Check. Name of Debtor? – There is one umbrella name and four sub-categories, so fewer mistakes here. Check. Name of Creditor. Now, this is my favorite because it’s where most of the mistakes are located. All these entries have been checked twice already earlier in the process, so I get a little thrill (very little, but I’m grasping here) when I find something. Most often it’s going the extra mile to add the middle name. These are all Spanish entries, so there is often a middle name, and always two last names (mother’s father’s). The creditor has four places to fill out their full name. Some do it, some don’t. Some scribble, some print. Some of the entries are typed. Some of the typed one’s are spelled wrong. Usually they will list a middle initial in the first entry but write out their full name in the signature block at the end. So, I always go through all of it to be thorough. I have a little narrative going of saving someone a lot of bother down the line by having as much of their personal information in their claim filed as possible, so their money won’t be lost. The first week we were entering the original material and even though it wasn’t required, I would enter SSN# whenever I found them. Thrill levels of satisfaction run from finding the full name (lower on the scale) to realizing that some Anglo misspelled the Hispanic name stupidly (today I found a “Gonzaliz”) and this mistake was missed by two sets of eyes. But not mine! So high thrill level in that smug superior feeling that lasts for a full 3 seconds. Final check is are there supporting documents attached or not and if so, are they acknowledged properly. This is just a “Supporting docs yes or no?” question. Sometimes that’s wrong too.

When we started with this we were told to average 2 minutes a claim. My personal best is at least three. I also push myself to do at least 500 a day. Along with playing little games with myself, like, I can’t check my phone for messages until I’m on a ‘ten’. I can’t go to the bathroom or take a break until I’m in the 50s. You get the idea.

But I find that with my discouragement, and lower mood, I’m getting more irritated. There is this very beautiful, very tall woman sitting next to me. Last week she had the plague. For some reason, she is always cold, and brings a blanket to put over her knees, while the other four of us (in our little room, the whole project is more like a 100 spread across the floor) are always hot, to the point of stifling. Especially at a certain point in the afternoon, it feels like they’ve turned off the air. So, last week she was sniffling and snorting, blowing her nose, sneezing, etc. I kept thinking to myself “don’t get me sick!” and washing my hands frequently. (The woman to her right did have a fever and stayed home yesterday.) This week, she seems better, but now she eats all the time. Not just eats food. Eats crunchy things. Potato chips. Celery. We all have to take a 30-minute break if we work more than six hours (or they take it out of the pay – one of those humane laws I could do without), and she goes to get her lunch, and then eats it at her desk while working. There’s nothing wrong with that, except it’s all so “crunchy”.

The woman who assigns me my 500 entries always seems to be swallowing a smile. I’ve only had a few quick conversations with my co-workers, but I gather they have all taken the bar, or are about to and are in waiting mode. There’s a lovely young woman who makes it her business to circle the entire office each morning wishing everyone a good morning loudly and enthusiastically. I kind of admire her chutzpah.

While I’m working there’s a hamster wheel in the back of my mind fervently wishing for something to happen. Not just wishing. Praying. And those of you who know me, know I don’t do that. But I am. Feels hypocritical, but I don’t know how to MAKE something happen rather than doing what I’m doing. Which is sending out applications every single day. At least twice a week one of the Indian people calls me demanding to submit me for a technical writer spot. Sure. Great. I’d love it! But they never pan out. Happened today too.

In case you’re ever in this spot and wonder what you’re doing wrong, rest assured there is a whole industry willing to tell you. Once you get on some job sites, there are a suspicious number of ads that start popping up offering webinars with the secret of landing the job and overcoming your mistakes. And these are tempting. The only reason I haven’t done it yet is because they seem to be offered at specific times when I’m working. Plus. I’m sure they are a scam and will ask for money eventually.

Today I did the I’m sure illicit thing of downloading a resume to the desktop and submitting it when jobs popped up in my email. Takes, literally, 1 minute, but I know it’s bad form. Some of the jobs I apply for I am genuinely excited about and would love to do and I think I’m qualified. Some I don’t think I’m qualified, or I’m overqualified, but wouldn’t they be fun? (Working as a writer at NBC comes to mind. Or an assistant to the writers.) Some, I just want the pay. The fantasy in my head right now in the “I wish” category is that one of the jobs I tested for and was told I did good but then mysteriously didn’t get follow-through all of a sudden is in dire need and someone somewhere says “what about that woman who was here in July, she could do it!” and Eureka! I get the call and I’m in without further ado (aka interviewing), and like that, I’m done. That would be so great.

Or, I get a call from one of the hundreds of jobs I’ve applied for and they are suddenly ready to move forward and I’m perfect and within a week it’s a done deal! I’d like that too. In the meantime, I just applied to continue doing the work I’ve been doing for the month, just in case. I also sent out another plea to all those agents I met in June who said I was “a gem!”, worth 90K.

I haven’t mentioned, but last May or so I applied for three theatre jobs. One in Maricopa AZ in a community college. One in UT Austin, in a counseling office, doing the exact same job I was doing for about the same pay. And one as Artistic Director setting up an applied theatre program at U of Virginia, Charlottesville. I got interviews with all three jobs, the first two just after I moved here, and the last one last week. I withdrew from the Maricopa job. I did the phone interview for the Texas job, but didn’t go further. I was supposed to do an interview for the VA job yesterday, but I pulled out in the morning. I signed a 12-month lease. I’m here. And I want more money than any of them were offering. I spent nine years not climbing up any financial ladder and I need to leapfrog.

So, in the end, I realize why I’m writing all of this. All day yesterday I was discouraged, and today I found myself writing in my head, and I had to come home and do it. And here I am, and it helps. So, thank you. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that something will happen. And it will. It has to.

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