What about Jane?
A few weeks ago I wrote about a job I’d gotten unexpectedly at the Fresno Welfare Department. After a short while, in what they called the Budget Department, another position became available, something different and one I thought more interesting.
The position entailed picking up information on new welfare recipients, then going down to assorted county offices or city hall, and determining the extent of what the new applicants owned in the way of “real property.” Since I’d done title work previously, it was the perfect job for me. The problem was there wasn’t a department set up for this particular work. Somebody had simply decided “hey, let’s stick this with so-and-so as the supervisor.”
Unfortunately, this supervisor wasn’t happy at the prospect of being the boss over this job. And it showed. Each morning I’d pick up the work needed, a folder with the recipients’ information, addresses, etc., and head out for a tiny little office stuck in a corner of the second floor of Fresno’s City Hall. Then I’d go to the Recorder and Assessor’s offices to glean the information needed. I think I enjoyed the freedom this gave me.
However, it also came with a great deal of responsibility and I often skipped breaks and sometimes almost forgot to go and have lunch. However, I loved what I was doing and I knew I was doing a good job. It was about the second or third week when I found a problem with something. Before I left the office to head downtown, I asked my new boss — I’ll call her Jane — for some help.
I needed help figuring out exactly what to do with Mr. and Mrs., application. Jane almost exploded. What ensued was a tirade on how she didn’t understand, nor did she want to. She said, “Whatever I did I’d have to figure everything for myself, and don’t come to her again for answers.” Everybody in that little office of eight women who heard Jane was stunned and things got very quiet.
I picked up my marbles and headed out of the door out into the parking lot, and into my little Chevy. What was terrible about this whole scene was that I’d spent all day Sunday and into the night as sick as a dog from something I’d eaten at a local restaurant. My husband Van hadn’t ordered what I had. He was fine, but I spent almost the entire night in the bathroom.
I’d had very little sleep. As the new girl I wasn’t going to call in sick, especially on a Monday. I remember how terrible, embarrassed, and exhausted I felt as I drove my little car out onto the street. Looking back I don’t know why I did what I did, but when I got to the next traffic light instead of going straight toward downtown and my job, I turned left and went home.
I parked that car in the garage, slipped into the house to a surprised Trinket, our little dog. I took off my clothes, got into a nightgown, climbed into bed and went to sleep. Trinket and I stayed right there — both of us snoring — until Van got home. It didn’t take me any time to figure that my so-called boss didn’t give a hoot what I did or did not do.
I never reported Jane’s attitude to the powers in charge. Instead I talked to my previous boss who smiled, explaining that she really understood and told me how to fill out my vacation and sick days. She became my mentor and a blessing my entire time of employment at the department. Early on, in that job, I had wondered about something. Each morning when I got to the office I found those eight women who reading romance novels.
These were the kind of books you’d find in many supermarkets with pictures showing handsome, virile men and gorgeous women on the covers. Those ladies would sit there every morning not talking to each other, with heads imbedded into those silly books. Thinking back about Jane, and my problems with her, I realized just why those silly books were easier to read than talking to their boss about any problems these employees may have had.
My days got easier, and I relaxed more as I learned about doing my job properly from a lot of the good people downtown at the city hall. Tarzan may have needed Jane; but I’d finally discovered I didn’t.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org