I arrived at the San Francisco Care and Rehab facility a few minutes after nine. It was pouring outside and the entrance door was locked. I held my face up to the glass door to decipher if the secretary was in there or not. No dice. It was, after all, President’s day, a national holiday, and for some reason, my first day at this job. A Chinese nurse practitioner strolled by and fortunately, our eyes connected. He pushed open the door for me and I stepped into an empty lobby, with no secretary and no idea where to go next.
I poked my head around the corner and there was a cream hallway leading both ways. It didn’t look promising. Therefore, I pushed the up-button for the elevator and pulled open the metal guard door. I came out on the second floor and it was much more bustling: elderly hanging out in wheel chairs, random beeps and alarms ringing, and practitioners scrambling up and back. Who would have known paradise was only one floor above?
I went over to the nursing desk and asked for Lana. A moon-faced male was loitering around the table and he immediately greeted me as my orientation host. Then he escorted me away, back down the hallway and into a patient room with two twin beds, a tv, and a single young woman waiting. She was here for orientation as well, but for volunteer work. “I hope I like it,” she said. “I just can’t stand marketing anymore.” Can’t we all.
The host instructed us to watch a stack of VHS training videos covering extensive topics such as abuse in the workplace and OSHA standards. Nonetheless, he had some trouble getting it going. As he fumbled with the set-up, I began to slump in my chair, coming to grips with my new reality. After rerunning the tape, he got the video moving. This film showcased the best acting and transitions the 80’s had to offer. The building, I was stationed in at that moment, was constructed in the 80’s. And nothing in the whole place showed any signs of remodeling.
A few hours later the host reappeared with another Chinese practitioner to retrieve the girl next to me. She departed with them and I was left alone to a black TV-screen and a still room. The next thirty minutes were filled with despair and melancholy surrounding my new found, rather, rediscovered role in life. Eventually, I needed anything to break me out of this low, so I fled into the hall to find someone who could help me locate Lana
Shortly thereafter I connected with Lana and she led me down the hallway, pass a large room of elderly, and into the business-office room. The room was stuffed with four desks, rows of filing cabinets, and loose paper and sticky-notes everywhere. My god, I thought, I should have just stayed in my previous room. She pointed to a desk to sit behind and I settled in above a jumble of stale pastries and opened envelopes. In front of me were two other employees, both sagging behind their desks. Things were getting heavy.
I sat there, scanning around at the room. Chinese floral curtains. Dust particles dancing under the luminescent lights. Umbrella waving out of the recycling bin. Lana promptly jumped on a call, hollering in Russian to whoever was on the other end. Her colleagues seem unrattled, glued to their screens and seats. Both of their facial expressions displayed a blank look of acceptance to a life that never was. Then Lana crossed over and stood behind the male with a mustache, most likely in his early thirties, telling him to take me to the copier room. I needed to make copies of my passport and driver’s license for hiring purposes.
He dismissed her initial order but after she bothered him more, he eventually just got up slowly and drifted over to the door. He glanced over at me, without introducing himself, and I rose up and followed him out.
“So,” I said. “How long have you been working here?
“Um, like 7 months,” he said, pacing ahead of me.
“How do you like it?” I asked.
“It’s okay. Pretty good,” he responded swiftly. “So this is the copy room.” He departed the room before I could squeak in anything else.
The next three hours consisted of a blur: aimlessly staring out from behind my desk or wandering from office to office, delivering documents. Then Stan, the Russian Controller, cut into my hazy fog: “Hey you want some lunch?”
“Uhh, yeah,” I said. “Sure.”
He beckoned me towards the door, and I hurried along the bleak tile-floor to keep stride with him. I slipped into the elevator before closing, and we took it down to the kitchen. When we arrived, the kitchen was basically closed, I mean, it was 3 p.m. But Stan had some pull, clearly, and convinced the chef to whip up two dishes.
“Fifteen minutes,” she hollered at us.
With that, he nodded his head at her and smiled crookedly at me as we exited the kitchen, almost like we just pulled some depraved heist in broad daylight. We road the elevator back up, and I sunk back into my slumped position. Fifteen minutes later, a dinner plate with a flat piece of fried chicken in the shape of a heart, a handful of mashed-potatoes and diced carrots, was propped on my desk.
“Here you go,” Stan said, winking. “Enjoy.”
Clearly it was hospital food, targeted at the elderly, nonetheless I was hungry and anything was considered edible to me at this point.
I scarfed down the food and discarded my plate to the upper right corner of the desk. The food wasn’t filling, but it would catalyze me through the final hours of the day. I mean, I was counting down the time and I figured there was no way I would be here past five. But fuck what I know, I thought. This lady, Lana, told me there was no dress code but everyone in the business office was wearing identical business attire. She told me I could compose my own schedule, but it appeared that everyone started at 9. And she said my duties would be manageable, but as I read down my endless job-description, I felt overwhelmed. What the fuck did I just get myself into? I thought.
Just upon 5, I overhead a shuffle of papers and bags being swept off the floor. These two empty bodies may not know how to speak, but can certainly decipher the time. The older woman tucked her head down and beamed straight out the door with a quick wave of the hand. Then a Chinese man walked in, asking Sean about the bank reconciliations.
“Mark can help you with that,” he said. “So yeah.”
Then he shrugged his messenger bag over his shoulder and dipped out. Sean did not give a fuck—not one–after all, could you blame him? This job showed no promise from the get go, however, you reach a deep, dismal trench in your life when there’s no point in reversing your tracks, so you just plunge your head under, despite the high chances of drowning. I took the plunge, for good or ill.
A wide smile painted the Chinese man’s face and he talked very slowly and deliberately. It got to the point where I started to question his judgment of my intellect rather than his English-speaking ability. I also wanted to jump ship, already, so I pushed the conversation along, attempting to fend off his requests. But soon he pulled out a thick red binder and laid it in front of me, followed by an even bigger blue binder. What the fuck is this? I thought. I had to cut him off, a misunderstanding due to a language barrier wouldn’t shut him up; it might just push him farther into his deep, slow dialogue.
So, I did what any exhausted and dispirited and trapped employee would do: I began packing up. I mean, it worked for Sean, so the odds were in my favor. The Chinese man continued to slowly unravel words out of his mouth, meanwhile, I was on my feet, jamming loose, orientation papers into my bag. Soon enough, my knapsack was strapped over my shoulders and I was clenching an umbrella in my right hand. It was time.
I fled down the hallway and took refuge in the elevator. Moments later, I was back outside, dodging the sparse raindrops. Day 1 was complete and I had the immediate desire to avoid Day 2 at all cost. I could haul down to San Diego, I thought, or if things fell through down there, then just keep trucking south to Mexico. Start over again, completely.
It’s more common than you think. Nowadays, employees skip from job to job all the time, just hoping this new gig will be a perfect-ten landing. Typically, it doesn’t transpire, therefore, they stay around and hang out and dread the job for six months to a year, sometimes even less. And during this whole bland period, they’re scheming new ways to make a living: “Well I always wanted to be a nurse.” This vicious cycle continues to loop round and round, without any awareness from the person stuck in it. The work world is a misery, so I share sympathy with all the other lost ones just trying to find home.