The best college job I had was with the Mine Safety and Health Administration. I worked flex hours, made more than minimum wage and never worked any overtime. Government jobs are nice, especially when they are not affected by election outcomes.
Oh, and I consistently got a raise because I was, well…breathing. The US Government follows a GS pay scale. The G stands for “grade” while the S stands for “step”. There are 10 steps between each of the 15 grades and you know specifically what your next pay increase will be based on this scale and where in the country you live. I got raises based on length of employment, so just by showing up and doing the time I would move through the system.
The time off I received was amazing as well. I got off all official federal holidays not to mention my sick time and personal leave. I never had to call in with fake “female problems” when I worked for the government because there were enough federal holidays scattered throughout the calendar to give me the mental health days that I required to function.
My 16 hours per week in the Dust Division covered my rent, utilities, grocery money and most importantly, my beer and cigarette needs. At first I was a clerk typist that did some occasional data entry, but after about a year I switched gears and worked down in the lab directly with the dust samples. It was a great gig. I got an hour lunch break and could smoke down in the coffee room. If I got there by 6:30AM I could leave in time to be home and catch the last half of The Guiding Light. And I got the impression from the stories I was told that the chances of me being fired were somewhere between slim and none. Unless I came to work armed and willing to take hostages, there wasn’t much that I could do to get canned.
I liked working there and had a personal stake in keeping the mining industry safe because my father was a coal miner at the time. As a child I had been given a tour of my father’s mine, so I knew first hand that it was difficult and dangerous work. I understood the importance of ventilation and dust measurements and keeping the noise down to accomodate miners that worked deep underground to make their living.
But when I look back at that time I realize that I really started to love my job when I began spending my days with Marie and Vivian, 2 sassy ladies in their late sixties that I sat with as I opened hundreds of dust samples and prepared them to be weighed and tested. These gals were the first “older” ladies that I had the pleasure of befriending. Although I spent the majority of my senior year in college surrounded by other students and highly educated adults, I learned a hell of a lot from these two wise women. Their stories about life, love, and parenting kept me in stiches. They found the humor in almost every situation and basically taught me by example. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I experience the world through anger. It’s through my bitching and moaning that I relate to the people, places and things that surround me. Although Marie and Vivian didn’t turn me into Pollyanna – I believe that working with them taught me the importance of getting to the humor, quicker.
This job was important in my evolvement as a person because it taught me to pay attention to the elder women in my life. We’re so distracted by youth and beauty that we miss the amazing energy that emmits from a woman old enough to know better and not afraid to tell you about it.
I bet you thought I was going to bitch about working for the Feds. I could tell you stories about some of the crazies I was forced to be around to earn my paycheck, but I in honor of Marie and Vivian I will focus only on the positive. Besides, they were nothing compared to challenges I faced when I started working with doctors…
To read part 4 of this series, click here.