Shelf

“I think you should apply at the library as a shelver,” she said.

I had barely been out of my first temporary job, and she was already talking about the next one. (See Going Through A Rough Patch blog as to why my excitement was at an all time low about another job)

At least her suggestion was something I had an interest in versus a large department store. My mom would not be satisfied until I worked part-time and earned straight A’s in school. It would build my character, she said. And kill me, I thought.

“Do I need to call and set up an interview?” I asked.

“I already did.”

Of course.

After school one day, I was whisked away as her excitement ran high. She loved the thrill of reliving her teen years through mine. Meanwhile, I had bags under my eyes from writing research papers and taking final exams.

“I think this will be so great for you. You like to read, and books will surround you.”

I already had a stack of them on my bed with homework assignments due in less than twenty-four hours.

She gleefully walked in with me trailing behind.

“My daughter has an interview,” she said to the lady at the circulation desk, like she was my handler.

I was told to sit in a specific place and wait where two other girls were seated. One of them I recognized from school. She always wore her hair in two low braids with ribbons. This was 1984, where perms and high hair ruled the day. She complimented her appearance with patent leather shoes with frilly ankle socks. She was locked into a first-grade dress code.

I could feel her snooty attitude rippling out in waves. The whole package screamed perfectionism. Back then, we didn’t have handheld electronic devices to look at. We had to endure uncomfortable situations, fully engaged with people we would rather not be.

The girl next to her was called in while I took up a catatonic stare at the floor.

“I’m going to get this position,” she said. I looked up.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“My aunt works here, so the job is already mine. They always hire relatives before outsiders.”

I don’t know what bugged me more. What she said or the way she said it.

“You might as well go home. You are wasting your time.”

She was a vision of superiority and self-righteousness wrapped up in a floral print that was hard on the eyes.

Her name was called, and she flounced away.

When it was my turn, I was sequestered into a small room, asked why I was applying and what long-term goals I wished to achieve. My short-term goal was to get this over.

Getting past the firing squad of questions, I was expected to show how well I could put a book cart in order while timed. I did my best, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking how pointless this was if the girl with the shining personality had already gotten it. I was a formality.

In between classes at school, she saw me and said,

“I told you that I would get it.”

I walked past her as if she were invisible.

At the news of my unsuccessful attempt, it was on to another idea.

“I think you should work at the nursing home.”

“Isn’t that for old people?”

“Yes, Chris. They have a housekeeping and laundry position open, and they need someone for evenings, weekends, and holidays.”

I would be giving up the glamour of the library for washing clothes, sweeping, and taking out the trash, amongst other Cinderella-type chores. It sounded much more labor intensive than the other, but what choice did I have? She wanted to let all the neighbors know that her youngest daughter wasn’t lying around on the couch eating cereal straight out of the box and drinking right out of the milk carton. We had to keep up a good image.

That interview was set up, and once again, my mom was elated at the prospect of me launching into minimum wage slavery that would shape my outlook on life.

I breezed through the meeting and then went home to wait while they picked the most talented of all of us.

“I hope you get this one,” she said. “It would be good for you to work around the elderly.”

She had given birth to me at age 36, but I chose not to mention that I already felt plenty exposed to that daily.

“I want you to have a solid lead before school ends. Everyone will be out looking, so if this comes through, it would be great.”

I went back to my real job. I was trying to pass tenth grade.

A few weeks later, I was greeted at the door with her smiling from ear to ear.

“You need to call Joyce back.”

She was the one I had met with for the housekeeping position. She went across the room, took the phone off the wall receiver, and stretched it over to me—no time like the present.

The job was mine if I wanted it. I was shocked because I thought I would be back out looking again.

It was explained that I had not been their pick, but the rightful candidate had fallen through. I was the only one they had not reached to let know that had been bypassed for the job.

“We thought it would be easier just to give you the position rather than going back to someone we already said no to.”

With my mother standing there watching me like a hawk, how could I turn it down?

They hired the right person because I not only did housekeeping and laundry, but I worked in the kitchen, was a social worker after college, and was an assistant in therapeutic recreation on the Alzheimer’s unit. My accidental landing of the initial role benefited them for over ten years.

It wasn’t until I was looking for employment after my divorce I revisited the library idea. I had felt robbed of that for years. So when I saw that a shelver was needed, I applied. By then, I was nearing 40, and this time I was way beyond the age of my competitors. I flew through the interview with ease and did the timed test basically with my eyes closed. What a difference twenty-four years made.

A few days later, I was told I had not gotten the job as the woman who vacated the position returned from the military, and they had to give it back to her by law.

I could not believe I was ripped off again!

My daughter saw my disappointment and said,

“God will give you something better.”

A month passed before I thought of it again. Then I got a call.

“I would like to offer you a part-time shelving position. We kept all of your information from the application you filled out before this, and we think you would be a good addition here.”

The job was not at the branch I had just applied to a month prior, but the original library that I had been turned away from at sixteen.

“If you want it, orientation starts next week.”

I took it, and I can say I still have a hard time not straightening books at stores and random libraries.

God had given me exactly what I had wanted after a lot of years of waiting. If you trust, He will never leave you sitting on the shelf.

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