For a couple of years, I worked part-time at a social work center in Detroit as a receptionist / writer / records keeper, all-around Girl Monday through Friday. The first thing happened was an older female social worker named Mary who took it upon herself to teach me to make coffee (I knew how, but she insisted on this really strong terrible stuff that would make even my hair stand on edge) and talking to me as if I were a slightly retarded child (later on, I would find out that she had ten children and one was indeed autistic) and keeping me chained to her filing cabinet engrossed in endless case histories dating back to the sixties. I stood so long that I fainted one day, and it wasn't from excitement. Mary drove everyone to drink by treating them as if they were slow, but I learned to respect her in that she could work an almost impossible system to get the very best things for her clients. She hadn't been around the block; she poured the cement for it. After a little while, Mary told me how smart I seemed and had I ever thought about going to college. Yes, I said, neglecting to add that I had a doctorate in creative writing and was teaching part-time at the community college to make ends meet.
Of course, my co-workers who knew me got a good laugh out of these interchanges, Mary trying to get me to see the importance of my education and how much more I could be doing with my life. Eventually she learned of my background and apologized for treating me the way she did. No harm done, I said and there wasn't. I'd learned a lot from her just by observing her way of cutting through the bullshit. I was far more insulted by an older client who kept coming in to harrass the help and telling me that I could go to Harvard if I wanted, meaning the Harvard Coney on the corner. You're a good little worker, darling, he said. Your life should have taken a different turn. You could have gotten married, I'm sure. I smiled and cursed him in my mind. My days consisted of financial despair, exhausting work, romantic woe, and the endless task of putting out fires at all my jobs. I have, I said. I'm now a lesbian. My fellow co-worker spit his coffee as the client turned red. Is that true? he asked. That can't be true. Two of my co-workers were lesbians, and he'd done his best to deny that reality -- of course, my thin fiction wouldn't fly. Want some coffee? I said. I made it myself. He took the first sip, put it down, and never ever spoke to me again. I thought about my first day in the office and learning how my way around the coffee machine, silently thanked Mary, and laughed.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I'd always loved to read and, eventually, I began to want to learn to write. It seemed that it was a thing that could be learned with enough work." Larry Brown
Drinking movie suggestion: Jesus Camp
Benedictions and Maledictions
25 days until The Sopranos airs!