Saturday, July 16, 2005


I used to work for Jane at the used bookstore on the island. It only paid $7.50 an hour, but I've always loved used book stores and have a secret dream to own one some day. So, when I moved to the island and that coincided with Jane needing someone to work, it seemed like Kismet. I liked it for a long time but ultimately became dispirited as my efforts to organize the store or certain bookshelves got ignored or even rearranged right after I did the work. I also hated that I had to disappoint customers who were made promises to by Jane, who could not follow through because of her utter disorganization and extremely traumatic, dramatic personal and financial life. However, by that point it was nearing the end of winter, so I needed the money because my other job had pretty much dried up. I could deal with it because summer was coming and I would have shiny new jobs that paid much more and provided more hours.

On the island, when an employer carries you through the winter, there is a certain amount of allegiance that a good person owes that employer. You can't leave them high and dry with no warning when the high-paying jobs of summer come. You have to ease out of it and be available to cover shifts to give the employer some flexibility. So, before I could leave Pyewacket, Jane needed to move the store because she had been evicted from the space she was in (I told you it was dramatic and traumatic). I spent 4 or 5 days in the middle of the chaos that she called a move. Before we started, I asked her several times which days were the best days for her to pay me to work. I phrased it that way because several people were volunteering. Since I had to turn away other, higher paying jobs to work for her, I was going to make sure there were no misunderstandings. Towards Day 3 or 4, I even reminded her that the hours were beginning to add up, when she asked if I would come in the next day.

So, she still hasn't paid me. For months she has owed me about $400. That's a lot of money to a girl earning hourly wages! I covered a morning shift for her on Monday so she could go to Seattle and she told me to come in on Tuesday so she could pay me in cash. On Tuesday, she did pay me $30 but being in the store again plus seeing just how much she is taking advantage of the Exchange brought back my feelings of hopelessness. So, I decided that I needed to say something to her on Tuesday. I had been mentioning the back pay once or twice a week in every conversation for the last couple of months. I realized on Monday that she has begun giving me her rote excuses when I bring up the subject just like she does to every other creditor that she has no intention of repaying any time soon.

Here's the thing: I've become her creditor and I never loaned her money. It sucks. So I used those words when I spoke with her. I told her that I wanted to continue having a good relationship with her but it would probably sour if this dynamic continued. I based most of the conversation around the concern for our relationship. I like the way I handled it but it still sucks because when I loan money, I do it only if I won't miss the money if it doesn't come back to me. I like to treat it as a gift that might surprise me later. I miss this money. It's back pay; I didn't loan it to her. In fact, I turned away work that would have paid me more ?(and actually paid me) in order to help her move. Jane is now one of two people that I don't expect will pay back the they owe me. The other is my ex-husband. Yuck.

So, I was explaining all of this to my dad when he called. He sympathized and then he asked what good things were happening in my life. Now, some days are harder than others and Tuesday had a couple of other elements. I couldn't think of anything for 30 seconds (it's gotten easier since then). I finally came up with the fact that I had just balanced my financial books and have started paying back my savings account for the bailouts I took out of there over the winter. It's a small savings account, but it feels good to have even that little buffer back. Now that I'm out of the red, I can start saving for the deposit on the apartment in Chicago and the work I will have to do on my car before I can drive it back across the country.

I'm glad Dad asked and I'm glad it was hard to answer. Lots of people work at jobs when they're not completely happy with the world around them in order to make enough money to start the next stage of their lives. On days when it's harder, I can be like those people of perseverance who grit their teeth and bear it because they are making their lives better. I like romanticizing those people and associating myself with them. It makes me feel a little more authentic.

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