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Retirement - At Last!

July 20, 2017

Twenty years ago when I entered employment for the state of North Carolina at the age of 40, retirement seemed like a destination a thousand miles away. "I'll never make it," was my mantra, and I repeated it over and over through the years. My primary job was customer service. That means, no matter how bad I may have felt on any given day, (I have Fibromyalgia, so some days I barely felt human) I had to receive people, both on the phone and in person with a smile on my face and a pleasant demeanor. It didn't matter if they were hateful, crabby and mean. I still had to maintain as if butterflies were flying from their butts. And, I was working behind bullet proof glass. That was a plus - real good to know if someone walked in with a loaded gun I would probably be the first person they took a shot at. I was the one who buzzed people in and out of a secured door. You could say I was the "front line."

During that time, different management came and went. And, while some were better than others, I never felt a deep down warm fuzzy feeling for any of them.

Sara is a former editor of FOCUS Newspaper

There was no real consistency in management. Working for a state agency is all about politics and making numbers. Oh yeah, and lots of high drama. Not a day went by without drama. Sometimes it really was about helping people in need, but the spectre of government and the personalities of management loomed large. My inner self kept reminding me there was something wrong with that picture.

The facility was very old. It was also very haunted. I once saw a heavy wooden door open all by itself when no one else was around. I also saw a business card holder fly off a coworker's desk while I was in his office. Ironically, the day before Halloween one year I saw a dark shadow in the shape of a man walk out of an empty office and down a short hall. And, if you got to work earlier than usual, you could hear a man whistling, even though you were the only person in the building. The elevator would go up and down at will. Every year snakes would crawl in, we had roaches the size of rats and, since the air vents had never been cleaned, we were breathing in God knows what. Several people kept respiratory infections year round. We had times when we had no water, no heat and no air. When the building was renovated (which was a joke) the windows were made so they would not be able to be opened, so we had no fresh air circulating in the building.

And, here's the thing, I have been in other state agencies where the windows glistened, the baseboards were clean, the bathrooms were spotless, and the air was fresh. Their furniture was new and up to date, whereas much of ours was cast offs from the late '50s. And their lawns were perfectly landscaped. Ours was seldom even mowed and instead of grass we had weeds growing everywhere, including the cracks in the cement. I still don't get it. WHY was our agency so neglected? Who was advocating for us in Raleigh?

As you may have realized these were all things I was screaming in my head. Management would have meetings, lots of meetings. They wanted to know how we "felt." Hell no they didn't. If I had said how I "felt," I would have been busted for insubordination. I'm not saying everyone who has a master's degree behaves this way, but the ones who had master's degrees where I worked treated the support staff like mere house servants. So, here's another thing I thought but did not say: We are called "support staff" for a reason. If your royal highnesses did not have support staff to write authorizations for payment of services, write your appointment letters, take referrals, do your filing and copying and answer your phones you all would be dead in the water."

Yes, thank God I made it, with the help of Xanax and an ice cold shot of vodka waiting in the freezer every day. It's a damn shame that's what it took to get by. (Mind you, I never took them both at the same time).

No one was walking around with a smile on their face every day, except for me maybe, but that was because I had it tattooed on (not). And nepotism was the order of the day. We had a sister and brother working there at the same time and a husband, wife and daughter-in-law from the same family there too.

Now, I'm not entirely sure, but I think that's a no-no. And, also there was fraternization, as we had a director who hired her very good friend as a lead secretary. Really? I mean REALLY?

I was very fond of some of my coworkers, the ones who didn't have a private agenda, who genuinely cared about the people they worked with and the clients we served. Some of them would have given you the shirts of their backs.

As my retirement date drew close, suddenly everyone was my friend. I was getting hugs and well wishes from people I knew had stabbed me in the back on a regular basis. I got hugs from the biggest gossips there, too. One gentleman I was fond of asked me what I was going to do when I retired. I replied "Whatever I want to do. If I want to stay up until 3 am eating Oreos in bed, then that's what I'll do." He got a real chuckle out of that. I guess he had a visual of me with cookie cream on my face and crumbs on the front of my nightgown. On my retirement card he wrote "Congratulations. Don't eat too many Oreos." I had to smile. I always liked that guy. Another of my more acerbic cohorts wrote, "I'm right behind you (soon!).” I'll miss that guy and his very dry wit. He was always very quiet and only shared his sarcastic side with someone who would appreciate it, which I did.

Management had asked if I would like a retirement party to which I replied, "No thanks." I was not interested in having a social at which I was the honoree. It would have seemed ingenuine, to me at least.

I worked right up until 5 pm. On my last day. I received my retirement certificate and handed over my ID badge and key to the building. I gathered up my retirement cards and a couple of gifts and, yes, just for the hell of it, I let that door hit me in the fanny on the way out.

 

 

 

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