Boy, this year has gone fast! As always, especially the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas speed by. Tonight, I start my new permanent job. Technically, I started last Monday when I got “trained”. Thankfully, the temp who has been covering the shift will be with me for the first two weeks, so I’m not quite getting thrown cold into it. The training showed me a lot of basics (where the bathroom is, operation manuals to answer my questions, etc.) but was pretty skimpy on the actual word processing. I am hoping the co-worker tonight will help me learn more ropes. My boss, also named Christine, told me the shift is either feast or famine. I’ll either be really busy or have nothing to do. I suspect the next two weekends, just before large holidays, will be slow, thus making my first shift alone, the first “feast” shift. Hopefully I will be up to speed by then.
Another bonus. When I went to training on Monday and Tuesday, I was informed there is a transportation allowance of $10 a shift. Since I don’t really need to take a car in or out, I am applying that money to my wage, which raises it by 83 cents an hour! Also, since I was in the office at peak holiday time, I benefited by free pizza bought by Christine for her employees, and a delicious apple pie, which apparently the firm bestowed on all employees (a partner was handing them out) each year. The other workers gave theirs away, and grumbled they could do better, but Gali is visiting and he loves pie, so I took it home, and I though it was delicious. So, did Gali.
Backing up two weeks: I had to pass a drug test and background check before being officially hired. On Monday, the 10th, I got up extra early and took the bus to the drug testing place in the Bronx. I had a “pass” from the screening company that was supposed to make it quick and easy. The bus was right outside the front of my building, so I figured I would make it to work by 9:00am. Best laid plans, and all that. First, I waited 20 minutes for the bus. Once I arrived at the place, it was full of people. Probably over 50, all sitting or standing like at a DMV. My pass did help me past the line, and I was directed to a desk on the other side of the room, next to a bank of lockers. The woman there took my paperwork and ID and told me to wait. After a few minutes she gave me a large plastic container (at least a whole cup-size) and told me I’d need to fill it to the line [she drew in marker], and preferably to that line [another slash of sharpie]. I had to lock everything in a locker, and then make my way through the crowd to one of three bathrooms, sans sink, to pee. The one bathroom for public use (as opposed to drug testing use) was labeled out of order.
I went in the little cubicle, and tried to do my business, and I could not fill that damn cup. The instructions had advised not drinking too much liquid as it would dilute the test, but I guess my morning coffee and water weren’t enough. I sat there for at least 10 minutes trying to eke out a bit more urine for the test. Then I begin wondering what was the worst that could happen. Maybe she’d say “Oh, I don’t really need that much, you’re fine.” I considered adding toilet water to what I had to fill it to the line, but the water was blue, so that wouldn’t fly. Finally, I gave up and took my little sample back to the counter, apologetically. Would she let this pass? Nope. She instructed me to go back, dump it in the toilet because she couldn’t use two samples. Then drink water and try again. Damn. So much for getting to work early. She gave me a tiny Dixie cup and I made my way to the exterior sink and drinking fountain, where I drank, and drank and drank. Then I stood near the counter, every chair was full, and hoped it wouldn’t take to long for the water to reach my bladder. I also figured that standing might help gravity get it there.
Behind the first desk was a very friendly man in scrubs shouting out directions to the roomful of people, while more entered every moment. The newcomers were instructed to stand in a line near the wall, to help confidentiality. Others were called to the desk one-by-one and given a clipboard to fill out their personal information. At one point they announced that all those with clipboards were to line up and pass them in one at a time. If people did not have a clipboard, it would be their turn in 30 minutes. Grumbling ensued.
A large TV played the same information over and over on a 20-minute loop. Which is why I know that Aquaman opened in China before opening here. And there was a Bronx center having a special Hanukah celebration. And a woman organized a large gift donation for homeless kids but couldn’t attend because she went into labor herself the day it took place.
After about 30 minutes I approached the desk, but the woman wouldn’t let me try, she told me she wanted me to be sure, and to wait another 30 minutes. Fine. I drank more water. People were going to the bathroom and returning with their little vials of pee. The ones waiting in the long lines apparently had to see a medical professional for their tests. Once their names were called, they went into a back room. Maybe they had to do blood tests? Almost everyone there were older females, too. Not your expected druggie crowd. Weird.
A well-dressed woman in the line next to the entry at the wall was expressing her displeasure at being made to wait. She threw a right temper tantrum. A woman in a hijab near me with a melodic African accent muttered “We all have to wait, it does no good to get mad.” We made eye contact and shared that thought a few times, but the angry woman was directed to the counter where I stood and got in and out before I left. She either had a pass like mine, or she knew how to squeak the wheel.
Finally, I was allowed to try again, and I was given a large cup. An open cup with measuring lines on it (a real measuring cup) no lid. I filled it with no problem and wove through the crowd with my sample. Something so ridiculous that it must be ignored: walking through a crowd of people with cup of your own urine. When I returned to the counter, I was instructed to pour the sample into two smaller vials (with lids), and then dispose of the excess. So, I carried all this back to the bathroom, and did as I was told. Then my samples were labeled, and I was free to go. I’d been there over an hour. The subway to work from that part of the Bronx took an hour. I didn’t make it until 11:30am. So much for getting up early.
I have started loving breakfast sandwiches, which I eat while working around 11:00am. If I can’t make it myself, I stop at one of the delis on the way to buy one. I decided to try a deli on 238th street near my subway stop. I’d never been in before. The two young men behind the counter both wore red Manchester United jackets and were very sweet about taking my order. I imagine they’re brothers. I pickup a drink, some fruit and my sandwich and make my way to work. They call me sweetie, sometimes. The roll of sandwich is sometimes old, but I don’t mind because they’re so nice. It’s my new go-to place.
I only did one temp shift that week, on Thursday night. Same law firm as before. Everyone was nicer than they’d been last time I was there. Although I still have that adrenaline anxiety of not knowing something and afraid of asking. Afraid they’ll take the ignorance I have about how they do something as total ignorance about what to do.
On Friday I did a proofreading test at another law firm, so I dressed nice with heels. Then I met the wonderful Jeni Wert at the MOMA with her sister. Jeni had texted me earlier that she would be in town, and I was so glad. Jeni was in my first cohort the first year I started my job at WMU. She stayed with me throughout her undergrad (done in 3 years) and her masters (done in 1). She performed as my assistant, and in at least two versions of Food Prisons, (a musical play I wrote and produced several times on eating disorders) which she incorporated into her Honor’s Thesis. She’s kind of a genius. When she graduated, she did Teach for America, and moved to Texas where she got married and has birthed a daughter. One thing I miss about my old job is having former students come visit me, and she has been a steady visitor. So, having her come to NYC made me very happy. She’s now becoming a Physician Assistant, doing her training in Texas, but getting the degree through Yale. I mean, she’s kind of the shit.
I had assumed we would meet for coffee or dinner, but right off the plane she and her sister were headed to MOMA. This was only a few blocks from where I tested (also where my new job and my temp job are), so I walked over there to meet her. On the way taking a beautiful picture of these giant Venus di Milos in front of my future workplace in the twilight. As I stood in front of the MOMA entrance a man in front of me kept pointing to his left and saying “free tickets, go left” to everyone who passed by. After a moment I asked him what he meant. Turns out MOMA has a relatively new policy of free admission of Fridays after 5pm. I texted this to Jeni, but she’d already bought tickets on line. I decided I would partake of the savings, if there wasn’t a long line, so I headed off to “the left”. Walking down 53rd, to the corner. St. Thomas church, a beautiful gothic, construction. Tourists everywhere. Hordes, traveling in packs of 10 or 20. You try to turn a corner and suddenly your caught in a stream, pushing against the current. And they’re on their damn phones, so they run right into you. I turned left at the corner, a woman was yelling “This isn’t the right one! It’s not St. Patrick’s”, a note of betrayal in her voice. As if she’d been lied to in her mistake.
I made it to the corner of 54th and 5th avenue, and still saw no place for free admission. I recognized a few others who’d followed the man’s advice, but they were as lost as I. I tried to follow a few, but soon realized they’d given up and were going in another direction, so I trekked back to the 53rd street entrance. I approached the man again. “Could you be a little more specific?” What do you mean, a young woman asked. She wore a MOMA lanyard, so at least I knew she was affiliated, the other man could have been anybody. “Something more than, ‘go left’?” “Oh, it’s at our other entrance, directly on the other side of the building. So, they meant go left, go left, go left. I made it to the 54th street entrance and saw a huge line inside, but when I entered, it turned out the line was for coat check, there was no wait for tickets. I got mine and Jeni grabbed me from behind. We hugged, and the savvy lady went to the counter and they refunded her tickets! Told you she was smart.
Jeni’s lovely sister Riley was completely obsessed with NYC. She reminded me of myself when I first moved there, and just felt that it was my place. Jeni admitted she liked it, loved to visit, but didn’t really want to live there. I’ve known many people who hate it on sight. I think NYC (or any city/place, really) affects everyone differently. But when you’ve found your place, especially when you’re a wanderer, like me, you know it.
Jeni and I gabbed non-stop (as is our wont) while Riley explored the museum. I hadn’t been there for years, and didn’t know it housed so much Dali, Magritte, and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Which I could barely see for the crowd. In the end it really was a perfect meet up, because we caught up, and saw cool things. They had a virtual reality exhibit that I thought Gali might like and noted it for later.
Afterwards, I walked them to the TKST booth, showing them all the buildings along the way that I have been interviewing, temping or working in. It’s 6th Avenue, and so exciting – everything is lit up and fantastic. By the time I made it home Vincent and Gali had arrived.
On Saturday I wanted to take Gali to another play, like The Play That Went Wrong, but once at TKST he said he didn’t want to see it, and there really wasn’t anything else I could afford. He finally settled on Chicago (which I’ve seen numerous times on and off Broadway), but I figured anything to get him interested and went to the booth. The board had said tickets were in the $80 range, but when I first approached, they didn’t have three seats together. Vincent volunteered to not go, so I re-approached. Total was near $200. I just couldn’t do it. So, we went to The Green Book instead. We stopped at a diner, best place to find food Gali will eat, and then made our way to 42nd street. So crowded, and slow going. There were some very interesting street artists, though. The usual caricature artists. I had to stop and take one pic because the model had a rather odd face, and his caricature was more handsome. Ironic. They also had someone sculpting faces in small lumps of clay, about the size of a doorknob. Kind of cool.
The Green Book is excellent, and I highly recommend it. The actor playing Dr. Don Shirley, Mahershala Ali, in his Oscar acceptance speech a few years ago for Moonlight, thanked his teacher Ken Washington. Who was my teacher too, in undergrad. Kenneth was a singular teacher and artist who touched many people. For the first half of the movie I kept fantasizing writing a letter to Mr. Ali, asking if he were channeling Kenneth in his character: an extremely talented, graceful man whose hand gestures spoke for him. Maybe I’m projecting, but it reminded me of Kenneth.
I had thought my contract job would be ending, and I’d have more time to spend with Vincent and Gali this week. I worked two six-hour days in “training” for the new job on Monday and Tuesday, and when I returned to my contract job on Wednesday, I found that we’re moving into the next stage of a project and expected to go for a few more weeks (again). Now I had to confess I’d be in Montreal next week, and how to handle working 8pm to 8am on Sunday, and then work on Monday?
This is a dilemma I’ve been wrestling with as I continue to get calls for contract jobs that would be Monday thru Friday. I keep applying, because what do I have to lose? I figure I could work 7 days a week for a few months, hoping something will become more manageable. And also, I have yet to actually get an interview from one of these calls. So, why not apply?
I decided to come back from Montreal on the bus, take a day to myself and return to work on Friday. We’ll take it from there. When Monday morning arrives, and I’ve finished this weekend, I will have worked 57 hours this week. Sheesh.
Another sign of my son’s incompatibility with NYC: he doesn’t like the pizza. So far he’s visited The Cloisters, the Met and MOMA with Vincent, which is pretty good getting out for him. He doesn’t get out much.
Final notes before the holidays. I have not worked my first shift. Not too bad, in terms of sleep. No work, as it is the weekend before Christmas. I’m catching up on all my last minute things at work, since no one is around, and there’s nothing to do. It’s kosher. I got home after the first shift at 9:15am, and slept from 10:00am to 6:00pm. I think I’ll make it through the day tomorrow, and go to bed early. I am excited about the holidays and what the new year will bring. To all of you, the very best of joy and happiness!