In 1987, I walked into an Insurance company looking to see if they had any openings available. That’s what we did back then in the 80’s, we beat the pavement for work or found jobs by word of mouth or looked at the classified ads in the newspapers. Nothing was like it is today-online. At the time I was already working for a restaurant as an assistant manager at night, but I was looking for a part time job that would fill the other hours I had free. I was living at home, taking my last few college classes and I guess I was bored. I was approaching the finale of a very dead end relationship with a class ass jerk and I needed to fill my days with something constructive and positive. I've seen my mother work all of my life so what does one do when there is extra time? One gets a job.
I was hired on part time, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. as a clerical person in the claims department. I worked at the restaurant in the evenings and weekends and I peppered the couple of classes in the evening also. It all worked out well. During my insurance job, I was placed in the Workers Compensation department of all women, and one male supervisor. The next three women I’m going to talk about are women I met at this new job. The first lady is Becky. Becky is an older woman, closer to my mother’s age than my own. In fact, I think that Becky kind of took on that mother/friend persona to me and is one of my closest friends to this very day. I am now older in age that Becky was when I met her. Funny how life works out.When I first met Becky, I am ashamed to say that I thought that maybe she wasn’t seeing the world for what it really was. Even though she was a gem she was….you know….older. Keep in mind I was 22 years old and I naturally had a much “realistic” view of real people back then and certainly more than any aged wised 42 year old married woman with kids (Heavy sarcasm). Aren’t all young people know it all's? Not really. I was raised to have a healthy respect for my elders so if someone my mother’s age wanted to talk to me, I stopped and listen and often did what they told me because, they were my elders. I didn’t drink coffee back then but the ladies in my department would often go downstairs to the break room for coffee and if I wasn’t in the middle of a work project, I’d tag along. Becky was usually the one who invited me along and sometimes it would be she and I going alone. During our coffee breaks Becky would say things such as, “What do you think Lori meant by that last comment? What the hell? I’m telling ya, something is going on around here.” I immediately thought, “There’s nothing going on. Lori’s statement was innocent. Cuckoo. Cuckoo.” But of course I didn’t say that because, she’s my elder and she’s entitled to her opinion. Plus she was a super nice lady, funnier than hell and I liked her. Over the next few weeks of working with Becky and hearing her come up with, what I thought to be, wild accusations that weren’t really there I was shocked stupid when I finally saw the fruition of one of her previous statements. I actually tilted my head to the side and said to myself, “Ah….She was right!” From that point forward, I paid attention to the things she said and sure enough, a couple of days later, everything became clear. Becky might have been my mother’s age but the woman was very wise. She could look at someone and pick out a sentence that person said and have that person pegged. In other words, she was a "people reader". To further amazement, Becky was NEVER wrong. Whenever there was a moment when she wasn’t exactly accurate, she’d be the first one to admit it. Once this young pup learned to realize that respecting this elder wasn’t enough, I learned that respecting her wisdom and intuition would have only been a beneficial and learning experience to me. Becky has become one of my confidants over the next 26 years. She has invited me into her life with her dearly departed husband, her kids and grandkids. She was the first person I called after the birth of my first born (because my own mother had already been there) and I love Becky dearly. My relationship with Becky has taught me to not judge people from the surface. Take time to listen, really listen and I’ll find something worth more than gold.
Karen: I met Karen about the same time that I met Becky but Karen and I, though only a couple of years apart in age, had nothing in common in the beginning and therefore didn’t really communicate much. Karen was married, had a couple of tiny kids and worked all of the time. She seemed to run on this self enforced deep drive to bury herself in work. I thought that my work ethics were pretty dang good but Karen’s work ethics turned mine into dust particles. Karen would often be at work at 5:30 or 6 a.m. Monday thru Saturday and work until 8 or 10 pm Monday through Friday. On Monday mornings, she would sometime tell the group of ladies in our department how she scrubbed all of the walls in her house, rip up tile and replace new ones, scrub the toilets and cook meals for her family for the next seven days. Then she would tell us what she did on Sunday. Karen didn’t talk much in the office because…well, there was work to be done! Karen was always nice and respectful to everyone. Calling women "Ma'am" and men "Sir". She never said a bad word about anyone. Though it was clear that she probably saw more than your average 24 year old, she never spoke of what she saw and I admit, I thought that was rather strange. I wasn’t into gossip back then. Not much but would have sold some of my gold necklaces to find out what she knew. I wasn’t married, didn’t even have a serious boyfriend and I didn’t have kids so relating to this woman just didn’t match up. But what I could tell was that she was really shy; very uncomfortable with attention directed at her but she had a very giving heart. I learned that she could cook like nobody business and she happily did so to bring to the department. As Becky and I begin to work through her shyness to become friends, I learned that there were very valid reasons for our perception of her. As she opened up and told us her life stories, I realized that Karen was not odd at all. She was a fighter and she was strong and loving and giving and very often, misunderstood. Over the years, I’ve watched my dear friend morph into the woman she was born to be and away from the woman who was dealt a bad hand of cards. Time and time again, I’ve seen her reach past her personal demons and insecurities to extend a helping hand to someone in need and I admire watching that courage and strength. She and Becky are a strong foundation to me and I love them both.
While we are in the same time frame, I want to talk about another girlfriend who had a powerful impact on who I am today. She probably has had the most powerful impact on me to date: Carly.
When I was a clerical person in the Workers Compensation department, Carly was a Work Comp Adjuster. In fact most of the women there were adjusters, other than Becky and me. Carly was this tall, long legged, three inch heel, short skirt wearing, full of attitude, very pretty woman. When she walked into a building, the men stopped, the woman looked, and the women who thought her to be competition wanted to be her new best friend because she had this presence to her that demanded attention. When Carly spoke, she seemed to have the attention of everyone on the floor, even the people on the bottom floor out of hearing reach. But, Carly had a mouth on her though. I don’t mean just a mouth as in loud. I mean she could cuss like sailor and teach those sailors a few new tricks while at it. I had never met a woman who swore like her and at the same time Laugh at some of the things she said. She certainly was proud and not at all ashamed by it. She had a knack of insulting people, getting a good laugh from the office and the person she had just insulted. Was it always funny? No. But at the same time, you couldn't label it as bullying either. The combination of what she did is difficult to explain. I’m sure there was an intimidation aspect involved and some inner hurt feelings. Anyway, coming from where I came from, I'd never heard a woman swear like this and certainly no woman in my new home, suburbia. At first glance, I thought Carly was black, like me because we were almost identically the same skin shade but that’s where our similarities stopped. Carly had naturally long black straight hair, compared to my chemically processed straightened hair that would only last 6 weeks before it was time to do it again. She had a cute small nose and thin lips compared to my own ethnic nose and lips and I had a big ole butt and she didn’t. I once heard her tell people that she wasn't black, but French Indian. In my 40's I realized that she was either creole or cajun. Regardless, she was the girl I had wanted to be after figuring out at age 12, that “one of these things was not like the other moments” around my peers and that was me. I didn’t wear a lot of make up in those days, and often I’d go to work looking rather plain so I’m not sure what Carly ever saw in me back in those days but she sought out a friendship with me. It started out with us getting together to go dance clubs and dance the night away with each other or with guys. It was ALWAYS a lot of fun.