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Who Says You Can't Go Back?

You could say I'm a bad person because I never liked old people. My Italian grandparents died when I was young, and my Irish grandparents moved to Florida around the same time, so I never had that bonding experience helping them cross streets or whatever.  When I had my catering business, they tried my patience in the wholesale food store by asking the cashier to do stupid things like weigh their oranges separately to see which ones were the heaviest. I swore every time one gray-haired old bag got in front of me. 

Years later, I answered an ad for a sales job, not knowing that it was in a retirement community. I would never have considered working for, or with old people. When I was asked to come in, I figured I'd do it for the interview experience.  But the woman who took me around showed me active seniors doing Tai Chi and water aerobics, walking and biking on lush grounds, living in nice apartments in a planned Wrinkle City. Besides, they got their main meal in a beautiful dining room, so there was less chance of seeing them in the grocery store asking the cashier to figure out which cantaloupe was the heaviest. I was hooked. 

For over eleven years, I ran the events there-from brunches and lunches to grand openings and chairing parts of the major fund-raising galas. For the last couple, I also took on the office manager role as well-scheduling appointments, keeping the database and running the reports, doing the banking and ordering supplies.  I taught a class in autumn decorating, performed in the resident's plays, had my hair cut for charity while lecturing on breast cancer awareness and met some truly fascinating people even if they were old.  I'm convinced I'd be there today if it wasn't for Sock Monkey Boss.

In 2009, the parent company filed for Chapter 11 protection. Two RIF's and a year later, my amazing boss who had been there 14 years was out-replaced by a downsized corporate trainer who wore a sock monkey hat. A woman who had done the same job so badly at another location that her staff threatened to quit en mass if the company didn't get rid of her. The VP who brought her to the company found her the corporate trainer's job, and when that job was eliminated in the second RIF, got her the job running our office. Yep, she wore the Immunity Necklace and a sock monkey hat.  Four months after she started, Sock Monkey Boss via her VP protector let me go in a third RIF. I never saw it coming.  The HR director said I could come back after quitting time to get my belongings.  I refused, and instead, insisted that my co-workers get everything I ever brought there to take home with me right then.  Wreaths came off of office doors, Christmas decorations came out of storage.  I even took my Keurig coffee maker off the credenza and emptied the drawer of the coffee pods. I sounded like Steve Martin in The Jerk "I don't need anything except this ashtray...and this lamp..." as I left with two flatbeds of personal belongings.

Flash to the present.

My hairdresser has a friend whose parents live at the community. I met this woman who lives in Florida when we were seated together as a couple at a dinner party.  When her mom had a fall and fractured her back, she called and asked if I could look in on them.  What, go back to the place that rejected me? Please, she countered. Her dad was no Florence Nightingale and being home all day with her mom was making him testy. What the hell, I didn't have a full-time job, so I agreed to do it until she got better. And since I was invited by the couple, there was nothing the company could do to stop me from visiting the campus. Nah nah nah boo boo.

On my first day, I approached the gatehouse with trepidation where I was met with a big welcome from someone I knew in Security. So much for that hurdle. I signed in with the receptionist-the only staff member who sent a card after I was termed.  I was met with smiles from her, and then tears from my favorite Mexican couple who work in housekeeping. I've been hugged by bus drivers, maintenance guys, the hunky head chef.  Each time I hear the same thing "It hasn't been the same since you left". Sock Monkey Boss, take that.

It's been a couple of months now, and the reaction from the residents is even better. I've been invited to coffee in their homes and to dinner in the restaurants. The 90+ year old director of the plays asked me to star in his next show. Yesterday, a woman asked me what color the walls were being painted in some construction going on in the halls.  I gently reminded her that I no longer work there so I didn't have that information. Her friend, on the Resident Council (think student council for seniors) shared that with every miss-step Sock Monkey Boss made during her tenure, someone from council would remind the big boss that she was no Barbara.

Sock Monkey Boss lasted less than a year. There have been two bosses since her; the most recent a woman from California who is reportedly as cold as ice to residents and staff. As I was leaving yesterday, I saw the security member who greeted me on my first visit giving the Ice Queen a ticket for illegal parking. Something that I would get a call about when I worked there as a courtesy-move your car so you don't get ticketed.  Since she wouldn't take the call from security, the guard took real pleasure writing her up. She's no me either.

The woman from the council asked me if I found what makes me happy. I told her that I'm working through everything, but could be happier if I found a full-time job.  So if anything opens up at Wrinkle City...tell the big boss I'd love to come back.

And I promise-no sock monkey hats. 


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