Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Job Hunter

It’s hard to know now how my mother felt about having to go back to work, but my oldest brother is pretty sure she was unhappy. Perhaps she just wished to stay home and raise children. Mother eventually spent twenty plus years working in the Cardiac Clinic at Grady Hospital as a nutritionist, and Daddy the same amount of time working for Douglas County Schools in their central office as Curriculum Instructor for Elementary Schools.

When Western Auto gave Daddy the news that he would be transferred with his job once again, Mother and Daddy searched for a solution. At one point Daddy worked for Fulton Cotton Mills, and my brother Hunter has memories of  going to Daddy's job with him and "chute" surfing.

My parents wished to plant roots for their young family, much like the memories that both had of growing up in a solid community, and making the decision for Daddy to not move on with Western Auto forced them to seek other means of income.

In the early 1960s, mother and daddy bought into and opened an employment agency in downtown Atlanta called the Job Hunter. Since my oldest brother’s name was Hunter, in my young mind, I thought they had simply named their business for him. Margaret, my sister, remembers that it was the name of the business that made the move to buy into it serendipitous. Well, except not.

Since they would be working full time in the business together, it was somewhere around this time that my great Aunt Josie, a widow, came to live with us, and mother and daddy began their great adventure as small business owners.

Setting up their agency in Atlanta’s second oldest skyscraper, which was built in 1898, we all have fond memories of visiting and playing inside the Grant Building.  Known for its Chicago style of architecture and the carved and very ornate arches that hovered over its two entrances, the building seem impressive, important, and grand to me, and when I got to “go to work” with one of my parents, the visit brought excitement and anticipation of fun.

Eh. I was easily amused. In fact, we all were. :-)

On the bus route from southwest Atlanta where we lived, we paid a dime to ride the bus downtown and exited in an area of Atlanta near Five Points. I wish I could remember the name of the bus we took-- but I'm pretty sure it was 27 University Avenue/Five Points -- and its travel took the riders down a main thoroughfare that ran parallel to the newly built four lane and eventually took a right into the downtown area. The bus passed small businesses, gas stations, churches, bungalows, and eventually made its way by a small industrial area and in to the intersection of the few "skyscrapers" that Atlanta had.

The Grant Building loomed tall on Broad Street, and mother and daddy rented an office space on the third floor. At one time or other, each of us spent some quality [also known as lengthy]  time there where the expectation was for us to “amuse“ ourselves without committing felonies. This “quality” time mostly was on a Saturday when one of them had gone in to "the office" to catch up on paperwork, and they simply divvied up the parenting. Other times it might have been as a type of “time out” for each of us from the other.  As close in age as we were, we never seemed to get along well for any extended period.

The Grant Building’s huge arched doorways laid out a warm welcome to its cavernous lobby that rose higher than one level. A wide marbled lobby lay directly inside the doors but narrowed in the center to designate and allow for the waiting area that fronted the four or maybe six elevators; I can‘t remember how many.

My shoes made a loud echoing sound on that floor as I clomped in to await the elevator. I have faint memories of removing them and taking advantage of the high polish and slick surface those floors provided for pretend ice skating and for some less than “organized“ slipping and sliding. I imagined we ran with all our might and then let nature, and high polish, take over.

The elevators, a throw back to a different era, still had the chained gates and allowed a view of the hoisting  mechanism and other such pulleys that carried a rider to the upper floors. Thrilled to be the first to push the "up" button, that lit up with a touch, and awaiting the arrival of the elevator, its clanging and thumping and groaning, with more buttons to push once inside, seemed a singular experience and one to be savored. On the ground floor above the elevator doors were indicator lights that highlighted the floor on which the elevator was stopped. I loved watching the little squares lights that  marked "10 or 9 or 8" change as the elevator moved through the floors. 

I spent hours riding up and down, and if my sibling were available, chasing him in some sort of unwritten but mad game of hide and seek or the best game -- elevator racing  -- which simply means getting on separate elevators and pushing the top floor button and seeing who arrived first. Yes. I made myself stupidly giddy with that anxiousness and excitement as I stood there with my mind chanting "Come on, come on," waiting for its arrival.

I pretty sure my brothers cheated at this "elevator riding" game. 

The Grant Building also had a wide stairwell that proved to be a playground as well as a place to hide -- well, when hiding was needed. In the hallways and available to tempt me were the glassed-in fire extinguishers, resplendent in their red with folded hose behind them, with the warning, “In case of fire, break glass.”

The thought of that glass breaking made my palms itch.

The third floor made up many offices with the titles of the business blazoned in black lettering on the opaque glass and wooden door that fronted the individual waiting areas. The Job Hunter, Suite 308, featured a small front room with a few hard chairs, a table with well-used magazines with missing pages that I flipped through numerous times,a couple of floor lamps, and two doors for the two offices that my parents used for meeting clients. Above the doors to the offices were transom windows that let in light, and when the windows were opened in warm weather, the bustling noise from Broad Street filtered in to the rooms.

In the winter, old radiators hissed and rattled, but on Saturdays when it was cold, the place emitted a bone chilling cold that allowed me to see my breath.

I liked to sit in the chair behind one of the desks and play “office.” Stamp pads, paper clips, rubber bands,  binders, small flip top notebooks, carbon paper, and rubber thumb protectors were just a few of the items  to handle and examine. Pretending to answer the phone, opening and closing the desk and file cabinets drawers, scribbling on paper, shooting wads of paper at the trash can, and pounding the keys on this ancient adding machine or type writer gave me oodles of early office experience and whiled away time; perhaps this early training led to my later office supply addiction.

Mother and Daddy never made a satisfactory income with their small business and closed the Job Hunter after two or three years. Its short tenure, regardless, left my siblings and me with some great  memories.

My brother Kenneth remembers taking the assessment tests intended to gauge a client’s skill level and “acing” them. He swore I was good at them too. If it had math, I doubt it, but I could put some words in alphabetical order.

Margaret and Hunter tell how one client couldn’t pay for the job counseling, but instead worked out a deal and bartered his fee by offering  mother and daddy a huge kitchen table and chairs in payment. They took it, and  in order to get it home, Hunter and Margaret rode in the trunk of our Oldsmobile holding the chairs as Daddy drove it from the Grant Building to our house in southwest Atlanta. “Daddy took surface streets” Hunter remembers, and the trunk lid bounced up and down smacking the chairs and their hands. My sister adds, "I have no idea how we got that table home."

BTW: In this day and age, Daddy would have been arrested for cruelty to children.

We ate at that table for twenty-two years, and when our parents sold my childhood home in 1978, that table disappeared. None of us knows what happened to it.

The other solid memory we all share comes from the “leftovers” from the failed business: business cards, boxes of letterhead stationery with The Job Hunter, 44 Broad Street, Suite 308, Atlanta, 03, Georgia in red and blue across the top and the matching envelopes, as well as many full boxes of fat, white pencils with the Job Hunter displayed prominently on their sides.

When we cleaned out mother and daddy’s house after their deaths in 1995 and thirty-five years later, we found a few of those pencils in drawers and pencil holders as if frozen in time.  In essence, I guess they were--


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Since I got my splint off two weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about my first blog post.


Should I tell my readers about the joys of one handed-ness?

No washing dishes.
No folding of laundry.
No opening of water bottles, zip-lock bags, or jars.
No buttoning.
No pulling of zippers.
No driving.

A lengthy list it was, and it actually surprised me.

Wait. I can’t unlock a door with a key?

Can't pull up my pants? TMI?

I’m now in therapy twice a week.

BTW:  I love telling folks that I’m “in therapy”  -- I feel so modern. Most of them are sorely [no pun intended] disappointed to find out its of the “wrist and thumb” variety.

The Snap, Crackle, Pop title of this blog comes from my “therapy” experiences. My therapist, Jamie, works with my hand, -- and those noises -- *egads* -- emote from my wrist and thumb.

Jamie puts me through some awesome [except not] stuff.

A hot corn cob swirl -- I dunno what this thing is called, but I put my arm in a sleeve that feeds into a machine that slings hot kernels around my hand [to warm it up]. It’s my favorite part of therapy -- it feels so good. I can’t explain it. The machine is old. How do I know that? Not digital. It cranks and whirls, and the plastic top that keep the kernels inside is cracked. Jamie places old People magazines on top to keep the kernels from going air-borne. For the last two weeks, I’ve been looking at Tom Cruise and worrying about his marriage. Except not.

A wrist gym -- this mostly looks like a huge potato masher, but my therapy is to move a bolt from one side of its wire parts to another. It’s boring --- but I’m really good at it. Like competitively good -- well, with other lamers.

Putting pegs, screws, bolts, and other tiny items into little bitty slots -- enough said.

At the end of each session, Jamie brings out this gargantuan ice pack, frozen stiff like a shank of lamb, that weighs forty- two pounds. That sucker is super cold. And super heavy. It takes two hands to remove it, and that's not part of my therapy -- that's Jamie's job -- and she likes to prolong it.

Thankfully, Jamie’s quite witty herself and responds to my humor, unlike my orthopedic surgeon who was impervious to my charms until I told him, after seeing the swelling on my hand, that the “screw [you] put in my bone was too tight.”


BTW: My orthopedic is like 30 and reminds me of so many of the young men I taught. I just want to assign him an essay.

Note: There are some weird side effects to breaking a bone and having invasive surgery -- one of them? A vein I had on my left hand, that I knew very well its geography, changed longitudes. 

And that’s all you need to know.

I’ve read about fifteen books and have caught up to July 30 on my New Yorkers; one of the articles I read was seventeen pages and about Ben Stiller.


Cause I had time.

Here’s a sampling of the books I’ve read:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield --- a gothic tale about a successful  author who asks a journalist to write her biography as she dictates it to her. The only problem for the journalist is that the truth seems elusive as the author spins new tales each time the journalist probes for answers. I finished it, but it kind of got on my nerves. The journalist was both gullible and foolish. Plot point, I know.

The Good German by Joseph Karon -- never hold me to my exclaiming that I am done with historical fiction about World War II, but I totally loved this novel.  Part history, part spy-novel, part mystery, Karon weaves a dangerous tale about a US Army correspondent in search of his old girlfriend in post war bombed Berlin. I loved the history, the story, and the characters even though there was enough of those “wait, how does he keep from not getting killed?” in it to see that it would make a good movie. After I finished the work, I looked it up online -- duh, it has.  The opening scenes where Karon’s describes the desolation of a bombed out Berlin were effective, and some of the best description I ever read.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Forman --- Intrigue, deception, power plays and women  in 18th century English politics --- unusual, but apparently, Georgiana led the way in being England’s upper-crust female who manipulated, changed, and set the tone for some of the most famous struggles for power in their history. BTW:  All of these people, as presented by Forman, were  either philanders, gamblers or both.. How could people with that much money be that much in debt?  Man, addictions, I’ll say.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler ---  I knew of Phillip Marlowe from the old Humphery Bogart movies, but I had never read Chandler’s fiction. Full of the vernacular of the time with words like “dame, juice joint, and gadfly,” Chandler takes his time setting the scene,  and defining the characters, even though most of them are denizens who lived in the under-belly of Los Angeles and commit the crimes typically caused by people who operate under the religions of passion and money, but I enjoyed them.  I also read Lady in the Lake -- it’s a collection of four of his works.

Duel by Thomas Fleming --- yes, it’s probably the most famous duel in American history, and I didn’t know squat about it. What I learned from this in-depth look at the events that led up to Aaron Burr’s fatally wounding of Alexander Hamilton is that politics are ugly, and the people involved in its shenanigans will do almost anything to retain power -- including, in this time, to kill each other in a sort of accepted way. Huh?  I, for some reason, felt more for Burr than Hamilton, but that’s based on nothing more than reading this book’s perspective and determining that Hamilton was simply unlikable. This book also made me dislike Jefferson, darn it!

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson -- it was the time period of this novel that hooked me as Thompson sets the story in the early 1970s and does a fabulous job of capturing the time. The hardships, both small and huge, of this mid-western family were very real -- and her dialogue, characterization, and plot believable. After reading this novel, I also read a collection of her short stories, All You Need is Love, and found them with their contemporary themes well-done.

All the Living by C. E. Morgan --- eerily Faulkner like, Morgan tells the story of a young couple who return, after a tragic accident, to his paternal home and try to make a go of a farm he inherited. The lyrical prose with its nature descriptions were staggering in their beauty in spite of the threat of a well-worn theme.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer -- set in Hungary prior to WWII, the ominous cloud of knowing where the Jewish protagonist is headed did not deter this  from being a fabulous story of heartbreak and survival. Orringer’s narrative kept interest throughout -- and surprisingly, her descriptions of the work camps seemed new and eye-opening. Yes, I read yet another WW2 novel. Argh.

I also finished the last of the Anne of Green Gables novels. I’ve blogged before about how delightful these are to read. In her last one, Rilla of Ingleside, Montgomery uses the ugly background of World War I to finish out the series.  Amazing how she conveyed its impact on the residents of this small town in Canada.

That’s all I got.

I’ve missed blogging and reading and commenting on other blogs.

I’m back.

OMT: I tried Twitter.

*runs and hides*