Chapter 71: “Indentured Servitude”
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My job search continued. The need for a better occupation was not only fueled by an unspoken desire to fall heavily back into games but also to finally pay down these hospital bills. An easy choice considering the hours at both franchisees’ Subways were still not enough for either.
The newspaper again proved to be the opposite of help and I was ready to go back to a staffing specialty office until my neighbor friend, Dan, offered an alternative. Dan had been working security for Securitas permanently on the EMMC campus. Dan – never one to settle for unhappiness – had been perusing the EMMC system for other jobs and told me about a Medical Transport job at the hospital (located conveniently down the road). I was reluctant to work at the same hospital at which I was treated but knew that this might have been a viable option to earn enough money to pay off those same medical bills once and for all. In fact, to me, the idea of using their money to pay off their bills was deliciously devious.
So I applied. I had no clue what the hell the job entailed until I pressed “send” on the application. Then, I discovered that the job consisted of moving patients from their rooms to various tests and appointments around the campus. I remembered these people; they always came to my room with either a stretcher or wheelchair (both unneeded in my personal experiences) and that job seemed easy.
I was enthusiastic for the first time. Transporters started at twelve bucks an hour and that meant paying bills off, buying games, and figuring out my school situation.
The first email I received in response to my application was the typical “we’ve received it so you can relax” confirmation. A few days later, I received a second email. This one stated, “Thank you for your interest but we’ve decided to go with someone who’s more qualified.” Who’s more qualified than me? A body-builder with a heart of gold?! I can move a stretcher while making small talk!
I tried not to be bitter about the response (as condescending as it had sounded). Instead, I checked out the other options on the EMMC website that didn’t require a Ph.D. or Bachelor’s Degree. Housekeeping? No, I didn’t want to clean shitty bathrooms. Pharmacy tech? What does that even mean; slinging drugs from a counter… technically? No, thanks.
Hmm, a Patient Foodservice Attendant. The ideal candidate will be able to be on their feet for 6-8 hours a day, be able to bend at an uncomfortable angle for part of their day, lift up to forty pounds, and push/pull up to 800 pounds. That was all well and good but was I qualified? I needed a year of foodservice experience? Done; I had that from Subway. Oh, well, what the heck? It only started at $8.85/hr. (just over the required State minimum of $7.50/hr.).
The website used the same application from the Transport job. Hey, seems as though EMMC is tech-savvy. I received the same “WE GOT IT!” email auto-response. Then, a few days later I got the same “No thanks–”
Wait a minute. “Your application has been considered for further review.” Well, how ’bout that?
I received a call later that day and was asked to go in for an interview on the following day. I wore my best dress shirt: a long-sleeved button-up that didn’t fit properly and my favorite tie from my MBNA days.
We sat in his cramped office and chatted about my work history and “Where I saw myself in five years;” you know, the usual B.S. In fact, it was one of the easiest interviews of which I had been a part. My boss then showed me my primary residence: the dish room.
I greeted the others in the “Hot Box” who would soon become my closest co-workers. The procession continued throughout the hospital’s kitchen and cafeteria like I was a fresh piece of meat on display at the local butcher. And to make matters worse, everyone in the place eyed me like I was fresh off of the cow. Or at least it felt like that. It was probably me overreacting again; for as a panicked youth I was prone to do that.
I ordered my uniforms and in the meantime, received a few shirts to hold me over. My first day was an orientation day. I stupidly wore my uniform instead of business casual and stood out like a damned fool. Oh well. There were two other people in the ‘Nutrition Services’ department with me. At least I had someone with which to converse.
The course was boring and it felt like it never ended. The next day was my first true day. The dish room was short-handed so I jumped right in with my trainer – an old codger named Bill – a die-hard New Yorker who smoked nearly three packs of ‘smokes’ a day. This guy was a character; like a meaner, sarcastic Dick Miller. We were on the “stripping side,” where we disassembled dirty trays and put the dirty dishes on the machine and chucked the trash in our personal trashcans nearby.
I could tell by the look on the faces of the shorter guys on the “dry side” that we were pretty slow. Luckily, I was a fast learner and it didn’t take me long to find a rhythm.
When I entered the kitchen I was welcomed by many a familiar face. There was the woman who took my orders, Linda, with the “Mainah” accent I once cringed at, the other Linda and Kathy, who brought me my snacks at night, and finally, the one “snack lady” whom I was most excited by, Deirdre, with the smile that wouldn’t quit. When I saw her I couldn’t help but ask: “Do you remember me?” Her smile beamed brighter than ever and she exclaimed, “Of course, I remember you!” She hugged me and we got on with the workday. Man, she was really friendly. And cute.
Another guy who worked at the hospital, Korey, told me that he almost took the job to which I had applied and – considering they hired internally first – he would have gotten it. I’m glad that he didn’t decide to take it otherwise I wouldn’t be getting paid more!
It was on my second day, however, that I learned a valuable lesson. I went along with my trainer and delivered a tray to the maternity ward and as I turned the corner, I saw a familiar transporter who had transported me a few years back. It was weird seeing him too, in this context. The last time I dreaded his face because it meant some uncomfortable test and now, he was training a new employee.
Hey, wait a minute, he was training the employee who got the job: a 4′ 11″ female who seemed to be rather shy. Is THIS the one who was more qualified than me? No offense to the better sex but she could barely look over the stretcher! And she was quiet and refraining from trying to soothe the worried patient!
I later found out that she was a nursing student and they gave priority to nursing students so they could advance within the hospital. This was the day I learned about favoritism.
Well, at least I had a job that paid better now at the place that gave me a new lease on life. Great. As soon as I pay off my bills then I’ll return to school.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.