By BB&W Crew Girl, “DeepWater”
An office setting is (mostly) always where I wanted to work. I started off in my teen years working retail, which did not suit me, and would look out of store window and see people going into the big office buildings in NYC and wanted to be a part of that workforce. I began my corporate career political telephone surveying, I was finally in an office building. In looking through the classified ads in the newspaper (prior to internet job search engines/sites) I’d see all kinds of receptionist positions that I could do. Answer phones, greet/meet clients or customers, deal with incoming / outgoing mail/packages and so forth. Man, that’s easy and went about the business of obtaining such a position. Loved it. Loved going to work in nice clothes, this was late 70s, early 80s, when jobs were much easier to obtain. I did that for bigger and larger companies, especially cool then with full dental, health, vision insurance, I was moving up that corporate latter.
I’d then move on to become a phone operator, you know, the old PBX boards, Dimension, Rolm, Seimens, you name it, I did it. Loved it. Got to know other businesses, but mainly, who was doin’ who, who’s still at lunch, who came in drunk, who was makin’ more or less money, you’ll be surprised what one can find out over the phones, bwahahahahaha.
A big opportunity came in my 20s while working for a process serving company (serving divorce/legal/lawsuit/financial papers to individuals and businesses). A Black attorney came running down the hall to our company (because we did some of the service of process work for them) and stated they needed someone to type up some pleadings for their case that afternoon, after their secretary had apparently walked out on them. What in the heyall is pleading? I thought. He stated that someone would need to take dictation (electronic), listen to the tapes and type up the pleadings for a then unknown word processing program to me at that time, prepare it make so many copies, put together exhibits (evidence leading to events) for said case. The company owners’ wife said that I should do it because of my typing speed (about 80wpm), more than they wanted but what was needed that afternoon. He and his two other associates agreed to pay X dollars, I said I’m there, bwahahahahaha. They did teach me a lot, being Black men attorneys, they were hard on me, their expectations high, because I had to be better, even as I later became their legal secretary, because that was expected of them so they expected that from me and it has made me a better person for it I have to admit. I have to give applause to those men because they were attorneys at a time they were told it wasn’t possible.
That was the beginning of the ascension not only legal skills but of real world work.
Through progression of work I’d then move into insurance, which now in present day requires a license even for insurance broker support. I started at a large insurer and had to go to company paid insurance classes which I took advantage of (you’ll be amazed that some people didn’t). That led to more difficult insurance (underwriting) work which I’d obtained in moving up from support work.
Loved it all, after all, I’m doing office work, always what I wanted to do.
Worked as computer/phone operator for an e-trade company in San Francisco, CA. I had the time of my life working there prior to layoffs in that department. Fancy office building downtown financial district, had to have fancy entry cards for the building, the elevators and the door to my department. Man, that was in the go-go 80s, early 90s when acquisitions and mergers were the big thing in business prior to IPOs (Initial Public Offerings, high tech venture capitalism). They bought us breakfast, lunch, and dinner should one work past 5pm. They had big ole party’s and even bigger Christmas parties. They’d rent out hotel conference rooms and somebody’s brick and mortar bar afterward and party through the night, word. With the exception of the law firm I was usually one of, if not the only, Black person around.
The last corporate position was a website developer that had proven business but was not run correctly in that a chairman was using (drugs) and the president was an out and out liar and would ultimately run their business into the ground, thus, deputies closing their business and us, employees, in the end, filing unemployment.
I’d thought within a short time, under 90 days, maybe, I’d be in another position and would be able to move forward.
That did not happen.
Next up, Homelessness, the descent.
Had to give up my place, which hurts me still, though I’ve now moved through and past that, and began to couch surf.
Couch surfing is difficult. Say the person you’re staying with IS working but not provide you a key to their place for righteous reason. That’s 8 hours. Say they go food shopping after work, another 1-2 hours or so. Say they get home, but getting’ ready to split to hang elsewhere (clubbin’, their friends’ home), you’re now, for lack of a better term, ass out. I had friends but that wears on them fairly quickly in that one is crampin’ somebody else’s style.
I did that for a time until I was informed of a shelter in 2008. Actually, a “moving” shelter, the church groups. Should one not have a place to stay they’d go to a church for the night with the same rules as a shelter, prepare your mats and covers to sleep on, that were supported by churches that were in a network for homeless women, prepare to bathe should church have said facilities, and be back prepared for lights out (curfew) at 10pm. One can read, listen to their music, or movies supplied by agencies that support said church network.
Did that for a couple of nights and not feelin’ that, so back to couch surfing. It was a lady whom seen me depressed that offered space until I could change my situation. That worked out for a few minutes (about a month) until she started getting’ on dating sites and started seeing men (whom started coming to the house) that’d stay over in her bedroom (and had a regular boyfriend) and started using these fellas for money, not lookin’ to get married. I could not deal with that because should one of these cats get hip they gon’ take it out on her, or by virtue of me being there, on myself. I had to split and that’s when I inquired about the shelter and its policies despite my depression, embarrassment, and shame.
The requirements of being in the shelter were simple, do an assigned chore, you’d have bed, shower, food (regular dinners served 6 days per week).
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I’d ever be at a homeless shelter. It doesn’t seem like it but the descent into homelessness is not a hard one. It took, after unemployment ran out, about six weeks for the descent to begin, about 3 or 4 paychecks away and the slide chute begins.
I’ve learned so many things while living between two shelters.
!) Women end up there primarily due to divorce.
2) Men, unemployment, particularly, seasonal type work such as construction.
3) Not all homeless folk use drugs or are mentally challenged though quite a few do belong in these categories.
4) Not all homeless folk are penniless. Folk do receive SSI, SSDI, retirement benefits, military benefits, etc.
I was fortunate that in the descent I’d landed into care providing (not really my thing but good at) that would put some change into my pockets.
It was then, while homeless, this man came along, saying how pretty I was (“fresh new meat” is what I’d thought he was thinkin’), so I made sure to not be available when he’d be around. He’s handsome I’d thought, but I don’t need a man right now, I need a job so I can rise up out of this mess, for real.
Next Installment – A Small Business Out Of The Darkness