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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Life Changes...

I took a trip back to where I spent the majority of my young to mid adult life just to see what was happening in my old line of work – social service.  I went to one of my first employments to see what has changed in how child welfare was handled there now; from the stories I had heard, there was not near the intervention that there was back in the day.  I walked into the building and immediately saw my old boss speaking to an old friend.  My old friend gave me a look of total disconnection – partly my own fault as I had lost touch with a lot of my past.  

I approached the two women talking and noted my old friend was being reprimanded.  Some things didn’t change at all.  But as much as some things changed, a lot had.  The business was now being run out of an alternative school, in what appeared to be maybe their old cafeteria yet the school was still active.  I sat at an actual school cafeteria table alongside new and old employees of the establishment and chatter started.  Past co-workers quickly asked if I was coming back to stay and resume working there.   They almost pleaded as if they needed some sort of assurance I would be there and have their backs.  Paulette, my previous “boss” was not always the easiest woman to get along with, and in my younger days, I didn’t take any crap – not even from her.  Back then, co-workers quickly gathered around my side, and I wound up being the go-in-between for them and the “boss”. 

Paulette and my old friend approached.  I gestured to hug my old friend and she whispered in my ear, “Ever since you left Deana, she has never let up on me!”  I whispered back my apologies and promised to help her, patted her on the back, and gave her a squeeze of reassurance on her arm that all would be fine.  Paulette than addressed me asking what was the honor that brought my presence.  I told her I was merely taking a trip down memory lane and touching base.   She quickly went on to tell me what all was new (the obvious- location, new staff) and of course left out what has never changed since I left (her cold heartiness). She then took a breath and asked me what I was doing these days and the rest surrounding us listened on and watched with curious eyes and ears.  I saw the nosey factor had not changed at all!  I proceeded to tell Paulette about my business and about my wonderful team.  You could see her employees’ desires to be even remotely acknowledged by their boss.  Paulette though typical of her norm, quickly stated, “Well you can’t make much money from a business of that sort.”  I responded, “Oh, you would be surprised!” She rebutted with how much she clears through her “social service agency” which I felt was an oxymoron in itself since it is a non-profit, but again typical.  I told her how wonderful that was thinking maybe she would drop the bankroll chatter.  Nope; I should have known better, it wasn’t enough to satisfy Paulette’s thirst for always having to be one up on the next person.  She responds, “Well how much did you clear?”  Drawn quickly back to my younger days mentality, gloves off, no holds barred by her snide attitude, I responded “We cleared over a mil last year and our predicted benchmark for 2013 is looking to be around 2 mil or more.” (Of course this statement was a very broad exaggeration, but I am told to think big now, so big I did!) There was some distance gasp from her work staff and an actual jaw drop from Paulette - but only for a second, as she had master the quick overcome years ago.

Paulette quickly asked me if I would mind going on an errand with her, that she was in the middle of starting a new foundation and would like my input.  Input my ass, she was looking for a hand out, but my curiosity was up so I was game.  She told me she had to take care of something first and then we would be out the door in 10.  I was good with that because I wanted to touch base more with my old friend first.    

I approached my old friend and asked her what was going on and she went on to tell me that Paulette is non-stop ragging on her about her work and her report writing.  Mind you, this is the oldest remaining employee on Paulette’s staff, the same one who trains all the new hires and could very easily take that business and make it one of honor rather than the sleazy reputation it has to date.  I reminded her of those FACTS and that Paulette’s problem is she is jealous of her and feels threatened by her at the same time.  The only thing that separates the two is Paulette’s two masters; my dear old friend has a bachelor’s degree.   I went on to tell her that whenever she has had enough there was always a place for her in my company.  She has impeccable writing skills and would be a wonderful asset.  However, her heart is with the children she services and fears if she leaves, the children who are already suffering from the lack of care received through the agency, would only become worse.  Needless to say, I told her the offer stood and that I was proud to call her a friend due to her undying dedication.  We hugged again, exchanged numbers, and promised to meet for dinner before I left town.
Paulette was now ready to go.  She informed me it was just a quick walk down the block and across the street to where we were heading.  The neighborhood, although never the best, has become increasingly worse, but I accepted the walk.  We walked down the street.  I had forgotten what it was like walking next to Paulette with her long as giraffe legs.  It took me 20 steps to equate to one of her strides.  I caught myself almost having to sprint to keep up, just to remain close enough to hear her pitch about her new foundation.  It came time to cross the street; a busy 4 way where no one gives a care about some pedestrian.  As we dart across the street through the oncoming cars, I see a group of young men and one boy (maybe 14) headed to the same corner as we were.  I divert my direction just down from the corner the young men (probably ranging from mid 20’s to early 30’s) were headed. I successfully crossed the street only making one car driver feel the need to honk. 

I noticed that the group of young men were not men but rather grown ass punks.  One of them, fully bearded, grabbed up the 14 year old from behind and was restraining him a good two feet off the grown when next I knew another one of the punks struck a full blown fisted swing into the 14 year old boy’s face.  My blood boiled!  I look over to Paulette and see her at the door where we were to enter; ringing the bell – everything stays locked now and you have to make your presence known first before gaining entry in the area.  I shout out to her, “Did you see that shit?”  She acted as if she did not hear me, but I knew damn well she did.  I turn to the group of punks - no further than 20 feet from me at this time and yelled, “Leave that boy alone.  Put him down!” along with quite a few other colorful words and threats.  Who the hell did I think I was at 48 years of age considering taking on a group of eight to ten 20 odd to 30 odd year old punks?  It didn’t matter to me at the moment.  I have a 13 year old at home and was only seeing my own sons’ face at the moment. I hollered at Paulette again and told her to call the police as I reached into my pocket and no cell!  How the hell could I forget my cell! It was like Paulette was immune to the violence that was taking place right in front of her eyes as she ignored my request and stayed focused on the door waiting for her entry. 

Before I knew it there was a 30 odd year old man in my face backing me into an entryway corner making hand gestures to my face as if he was going to hit me.  He didn’t say a word.  I quickly reached my hand out and grabbed him by the throat – without thought - and just started squeezing the shit out of his throat – no words came from him.  And as I felt my hand tightening around his throat, I could feel his cool skin and the excess of it in my hand, the squish of the skin -as if there was so much of it before I felt the bone in-between my thumb and fingers – I let loose and realize just what the fuck I was doing.  I began to yell at him telling him to be a fucking man and leave that boy alone.  It was all happening so fast, it seemed like forever, but was minutes, maybe even seconds.  He began to speak but no words came – he was deaf.  I had learned sign language early in my social service career and signed to him as if to confirm what I already knew “Are you deaf?”   

A sense of amazement took over his face when he realized I could sign.  I went on to sign “leave that boy alone.  WTF?  He is just a boy!  Be a man, grow up! Tell your friends to put him down now or I will call the police!” I turn to look for Paulette to see if she had called the police, she was nowhere to be seen.  Yet another Paulette oxymoron, as she is in the business to help children being abused yet turns away from it even when it is right in front of her face. I was on my own, no phone, no cars stopping, and no one else in the entire area giving a damn about anything other than themselves!

The man backed away from me some – it was like a door opened pointing me into the direction I needed to go. I need to help that boy and approached the group of punks with a vengeance.  Yelling and screaming and acting like a total crazy lunatic that just escaped 20 years imprisonment from a mental institute, I rush the crowd.  Signing at the same time as yelling - various threats came from my mouth along with various vulgarities, along with kicking and swinging, sometimes only at the air, other times making contact, I made my way to the young boy, face bleeding, tears streaming his face, and a look of terror I pray I never see again.  The dreams are hard enough.  I grabbed him although still being held by the other bearded punk.  I begin to plead through sign and words trying to reason with the group to stop the madness and to let the boy go but I’m really not sure what was coming out of my mouth or even what I was signing anymore.  

Maybe it was the madness that came out in me in that brief period that caused the group to dissipate leaving me with no more than a trembling boy in my arms – I am not sure, but no part of the experience was lost on me.  I found lessons to be learned in life, business, and personal growth in all of it. 

Although parts of this story are fictional, parts are not.  Can you find the life lessons, the business lessons, and the personal growth lessons in this story?

Who do you relate to the most? The old boss – Paulette? The old co-worker? The beaten down boy? The bullies?  The gang (group of punks) mentality?  The bystanders (employees)? Or Deana?                          
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