Thursday, August 23, 2007

Scenes From A Life Nearly Forgotten

The whole thing was wrong. And ridiculous.

I have had a lot of corporate jobs in my life, so many that by the time I graduated college I just decided to start my resume over again. And while this post is not about those jobs (I feel suffocated just thinking about them), I'm reminded of what it felt like to show up to those workplaces after I'd given my notice.

There's nothing quite like reporting to a job you're about to leave. Those horrible tasks, the elements and people related to the job that seemed awful before giving notice become utterly absurd in those last two weeks. It's "going through the motions" to the nth degree.

I'd see an embittered secretary shuffle by miserably and think, "Wow. I care about this job even less than she does."

In one particularly bad situation, I remember my boss -- an anal-retentive, insecure, belittling man -- talking to me, explaining to me all the projects I had to complete before I left. And I felt a sad thrill in tuning his words out, watching his lips move and hearing only my own voice saying, "Just nod your head and do the work. Remember, when it's over, you will never have to take direction from this person ever again."

I bring this up because, it occurred to me recently, that's how being separated felt. I was married, and it was okay, and then it wasn't, and then it was going to end. My husband had told me we were going out of business. So I gave my then-life my notice.

This has been a great learning experience, CurrentLife, but I'm afraid that this is just not a good fit for me. I have decided to pursue another opportunity...

And everything after that point was just going through the motions.

It was the summer of 2001, the summer before 9/11. I was living alone in our house, in a somewhat remote area of Fairfield, Connecticut. I was working from home and on a reduced schedule, which meant I had far too much time on my hands.

One day, for reasons that escape me entirely, I decided to wash the duvet cover from the guest room. I had never personally washed a duvet cover before (or since, if I'm being honest). I don't know why I decided to then. Was I expecting a guest? Family? Had I had a casual encounter and then wanted to remove the evidence? Or was it simply out of boredom, or feeling like I needed to be completing some final project for a belittling man I would soon never see again?

When I set to washing the thing, I didn't bother to look up washing instructions. I figured it could be washed just like any other bed linen since it was cotton, and not that much larger than a sheet. I just stuffed it into the washer and added some detergent. The way a domestic-oriented person who wasn't me would do, I supposed. And I turned on the machine and it whirred to life and I went about my afternoon.

But I couldn't help but notice when the whirring became something of a cough, and then a sputter, and then silence.

I opened the washing machine and peered down into it. The washing cycle had gotten far enough along that the water had drained, but my cheerful yellow duvet cover was still mightily damp, and mashed along the washer walls from the force of a centrifugal cleaning. Nothing looked especially broken.

I tried to turn the machine on again, but it wouldn't go.

I decided to pull the duvet out, then, to see if there was some more readily apparent washing machine woe. As I pulled, the cover caught on the center part of the machine, and I had to pull hard to pry it loose. It tore, but not too badly. I then re-examined the machine. It looked fine, aside from a few yellow threads sticking from the center of it, but it still refused to turn back on.

And I probably sighed, probably heavily.

My washing machine was broken.

I did not want to repair it. I did not want to call a maintenance man, to have him come to the house I was not really living in, to have him fix a machine I had hardly used in the few months I'd owned it.

The truth is, I felt guilty, and like an impostor. I had barely lived on my own, barely gone through the hardship of having to use coin-operated machines to do my laundry. I'd only spent one semester on a campus, and two years in an apartment where my husband did the washing, but where we had an elevator anyway. Who was I to have such creature comforts as an on-site washer and dryer? I hadn't had to work for them at all. A brand new washer and dryer are things to relish, I understood, but I didn't care about them at all. Like getting the best, most souped-up, ergonomically correct desk chair at a job you don't like. Someone in the office deserves it more.

I was in the wrong job.

I wanted to put off calling the machine repair man, to avoid this being my job, my life, but there was no excuse to be made.

He may have come that afternoon, or a week later -- I don't recall. But I do recall watching him show up at the house, and thinking how absurd it was.

The whole thing was wrong. And ridiculous.

The guy was young and attractive, with tanned skin and thick forearms. Our exchange was a little bit awkward, too, because of that. I am certain that washing machine repair men must see all kinds of homes, but the fact remained that he was an attractive guy, and he appeared at my house, and I was young, and cute, and alone, and lonely. And not wearing a ring. And cliches don't just come out of nowhere.

Of course, nothing happened at all between us. I just remember thinking it could have.

He opened the washing machine. Then he took the top off the center part like it was nothing, and saw a bunch of duvet detritus. He pulled it out of the center, like a clump of hair out of a drain.

I felt like an idiot.

"Did you put something oversized in this?" He asked, knowing full well that I had.

I admitted that I did, adding that I'd thought it was small enough. But what I really wanted to say was more like, "Look. I know this is my job, and it probably looks like I suck at my job. I don't. But it's not the job for me. Truth be told, I have no real experience with this type of thing, and I've learned that I don't want experience with this type of thing. Someday, maybe, I will care about proper duvet cleaning protocol, but right now all I want to do is be somewhere else, somewhere things like this don't matter."

I maybe also wanted to add, "And do you want to have sex with me right now, right here on the floor of the kitchen? Because we could because why the hell not?" But I didn't.

Instead, we just had a brief exchange about how he felt bad for having to charge me for something I clearly could have avoided, and fixed, if I'd known the first thing about being a washing machine owner. If I'd known the first thing about being a wife. So he wrote up some bogus report and charged me as little as he was allowed.

And then he left me alone, with my working machine and my lesson learned, tucked away for later.

At least I'd be leaving the job with some transferable skills, should they ever be needed further along in my career.

7 comments:

  1. Just loved this!

    Too bad you didn't do the repair man, though... that would have been a whole different post! ;)

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  2. Well, at least you could resume the spin cycle.

    Because, like you said...cliches don't just come out of nowhere!

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  3. sigh of happiness - that was a good post, after so long!

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  4. Great post. Nailing the Maytag man would have added a whole different vibe to the story. It was perfect this way.

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  5. This post is just beautifully written. This is my first time on your blog, and I am very pleased to have found it.

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  6. This is a great post! We miss you and need, need, NEED our daily (weekly?) fix! *hugs*

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  7. "Truth be told, I have no real experience with this type of thing, and I've learned that I don't want experience with this type of thing. Someday, maybe, I will care about proper duvet cleaning protocol, but right now all I want to do is be somewhere else, somewhere things like this don't matter."

    boy that summed up some stuff for me!! great post..loved it..
    xoxo

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