Monday, June 19, 2006

I Love My Family This Much!?!

I moved to Louisville six years ago, to be closer to the woman who a year later would become my wife. Right before I moved here, I lined up a job working third shift at a home for abused boys. Much about that job appealed to me. I loved the idea of working with the kids. I loved the idea of being a part of something designed to reclaim lives. I loved, in fact, almost everything I thought I would get out of that job. It was an adult job - full-time with benefits. It would help me pay for my own place, and set my own course in life.

I was twenty-one years old, had flunked out of college, and was by far the youngest person I would work with. The closest thing to responsibility I had ever had was the summer I spent as one of only two employees of a local video store. The other employee was my twin brother. He worked days, I worked nights. One of us had to be in the store at all times. If I wanted a day off, he had to work open to close, and vice versa.

That video store job may have been, in hindsight, the best job I ever had. But I was eager to get out of it, eager to get out of Lexington, and eager to get out of my parents' house. So I took the adult job in Louisville, got my own place, and a year later got married to a woman who insisted that I never work third shift again.

See, while I was looking forward to that job, idealizing everything about it and anticipating my new adult life where I would be the master of my own destiny, I hadn't counted on the realities of life. Most of the people that I would work with there had worked with troubled kids far too long to think that anything they would ever do would matter to these kids. They'd given up. They didn't believe in what they were doing anymore, they were just collecting a paycheck. The kids weren't subjects to be shown compassion, they were objects to be controlled and dominated.

The hours were even worse than the growing disillusionment. As the youngest employee, I didn't know that you could turn down requests to stay on past the end of your shift. I was forever being called in to pick up shifts. I remembered vividly the literally longest day of my life. I worked my usual shift, from midnight to eight in the morning. While on that shift, someone from first shift told me that I had to stay on for that shift because someone had called in. So, I didn't get off work until four in the afternoon. I went over to my girlfriend's (soon to be fiance!) apartment to sleep on her couch for an hour before our date that evening. We went to a basketball game, and I got home just in time to sleep for another hour before I had to be back at work. In a span of 32 hours, I worked 24 of them!

While I was working third shift I slept, on average, three hours a day during the week. Then, on the weekends I would sleep maybe eighteen hours straight. My system got out of whack. At first I lost about 10 pounds, but then I quickly gained over 40. My eyes were almost constantly red, and my health was, to say the least, poor.

I swore I would never again work a job where I had to punch in to someone else's time-clock and do something I wouldn't do if they didn't pay me for it. Never again would I trade my time for only money. The next job I took was as a youth pastor, my first professional ministry job. For the next five years I worked only in churches (except for a brief stint when I got a second job helping out part-time at a local restaurant, which was a hell of a lot of fun since I knew I wouldn't be there for very long, and liked the people I was working with) doing only work which I would probably have done for free if only they weren't already paying me.

Of course, if you're reading this then you probably know what happened to my career in ministry. Since October, as you well know, I've been a full-time stay-at-home Dad, which is the best job in the world. But the pay, well, stinks. Since I haven't been able to make enough money writing to help my wife out with our bills, it became clear last week that I would have to get a job.

A friend of mine works as a lifeguard at the Ralph Wright Natatorium at the University of Louisville. He told me they were looking for someone to do some light maintenance and pool cleaning, so I decided to check it out. My ethics keep me from seriously considering most jobs, since I can't do many of them in good conscience. But I can't come up with anything immoral about cleaning pools, so I called the Aquatics Director and set up an interview.

Adam and I went to that interview this morning, and despite my having brought my kid along (I told them in advance that I wouldn't have childcare for when they wanted to meet me) the interview went just fine. Their main concerns were that I was in the country legally and would be willing to actually do the work they'd want me to do for tiny paycheck they could give me. Ordinarily those would be, judging from the quality of the job, serious concerns.

But, in truth, they had me long before I showed up at the interview. Over the phone I asked what sorts of hours they were looking for, to which the Aquatics director replied, "We're very flexible. We'll tell you what needs to get done during the week, and you can decide when you'd like to do it." That, my friends, was the magic answer. I can still be with Adam until he starts preschool this fall, and I can pick up a paycheck to give us some much needed cash. I'm re-entering the world of people who exchange their time for only money. Not the world's greatest exchange, but since I have a surplus of time and a deficit of money, it seems a sensible trade.

6 comments:

Tom said...

There were some other employees at the Video Store at times, and I believe Shannon work full-time there before you left. That factual inaccuracy aside (never let the facts get in the way of a good story) this was a very good story. Oh, and my condolances for rejoining the working world.

Sandalstraps said...

After the summer from hell we hired Shannon full-time and Robert and Lee part time. As I recall, we hired Robert because he had to get a job or his parents wouldn't let him go to the lake with us. We hired Lee because no video store would be complete without Lee.

But we spent at least most of that first summer just the two of us, which was hell. But not nearly as hellish as third shift.

Princess Pinky said...

Chris
Annabelle hired me. I was hired just a few short weeks after you. But as Tom said about facts and a good story...

Brian Cubbage said...

Congrats-- now we're both on the Cardinal payroll! We need to get together sometime this summer and have lunch, since I'm on campus every day.

By the way, I know a swimming instructor and coach over at the Natatorium. Great guy. If everyone over there is like him, it should be a great place to work.

Troy said...

Chris,

have you ever considered teaching adjunct courses online? Many colleges are now offering these, and you have the grad. degree (as I recall off the top of my head in a hurry) and it pays better than pools.

Sandalstraps said...

Troy,

Alas, I don't have a grad degree. In fact, after years of underachievement and procrastination, I finally got my BA only last year. I flunked out of two different colleges before I got married and went back to school. After that I did fine, but it put me chronologically behind.

By the way, I turned down the pool job, after all. I'm working on something bigger, which I'll write about when it happens.