Saturday, July 05, 2008

9/94-2/95 "THE ISSUE" BEGINS

Not too long after we got to Ft. Worth I started looking for a job. I got in contact with the rehab here and got a counselor. She sent me to several different types of training classes. Most of them made me out to be some kind of mental case. For example, at one place I went to was doing things like separating colors of m&m's or licking envelopes. Very humiliating. There was another place where I took all kinds of tests to show what I wanted to do and what I was good at. Then I made a résumé. Hello, this was stuff I totally did when I got my certificate in business technology. During this time because I was spending the majority of my time in the wheelchair standing for long periods of time was not happening. My leg muscles were getting weaker:( Because my bathroom (aka “The issue”) at home was set up for me I was able (and still I am) to get my pants up and down, and transfer on and off the potty by myself. But public or other people's restrooms I need assistance. It was very embarrissing to be a 20 year old and need help like that. I had mentioned the fact that I would be needing assistance in “the issue” to the trainer, and was asking how I should handle it w/ Employers. He was pretty much like, "You will never get a job because you need help in the restroom." Now this man's job was to help people get job's. I was devastated by that comment, and went home and cried and cried. I do not handle confrontation very well. So I did not debate with him, and thought what if he is right, maybe I should just give up. It did not stop me though for I was determined to prove him wrong!

A few weeks after that my counselor told me that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had a nonpaying three-month internship for people with disabilities. After the three months they would have a meeting to determine if the job was suitable for the person w/ the disability. They would at that time put you on the payroll. What an awesome opportunity, and I was excited to get started! I interviewed for the secretary in the human resource department position. In the interview was the human resource boss, a coworker (Yolanda), and the gentleman handling the hires for people with disabilities. All was fine. My duties would include data entry, mail outs, answering the phones, and directing people who would come in the office to where they needed to be. I asked to check out the bathroom (aka “the issue”), and told them that I would be needing some special bars in order to go independently in “the issue”. Of course, they would not agree to put in the special bars until after I was considered and on the payroll. However, Yolanda and the boss said there would be no problem for them to help me in “the issue”. I could breathe at that point thinking everything would be okay with the "the issue". The FAA was about 15 or so minutes away from my house. So my parents helped me to map out a back road route to go. My mom was not working at the time so she would follow me to work, while my dad followed me home the first couple of times just to make sure that everything was OK. I was working Monday through Thursday from nine to four.

I was nervous about my first day, and hoping I would get along with everyone. I wanted to look my best so I put on a dress and dress shoes. That morning everything went well. The too good for everybody boss (I do not even remember her name, which is no sweat off my back!) Showed me what I would be doing. She did seminars on how to treat people in the workplace. She would have me type up different articles from books that would be helpful. Stuff written by others to sound as she was the clever one. The HR Dept. was the first area you would come to as you would walk to the other offices so I would direct others on where to go. There were a lot more Dept. in the section I was in. Yolanda was not there on the first day. So it was time for lunch. They had a nice cafeteria in the building. I went to lunch by myself and was nervous about carrying any food that could spill on a tray in my lap while trying to push myself. I was too stubborn to ask for help. They had some nice meals with pretty prices! So I just got something small. I ate at a table by myself. After that I knew that would be a good time to go to "the issue". I knew that my too good for everybody boss was still in her office, but I could not bring myself to ask her. I was so embarrassed to ask, so I tried to do it my stubborn self. I could hear the drama/horror movie music going on in my head as I entered through the door! At least I was able to get my whole wheelchair in the stall and close the door. A lot of public restrooms have bars and stuff to make it handicapped accessible but nothing is wide enough for a wheelchair to get in. As long as some businesses meet ADA (America Disability Act) requirements with the bare minimum that’s all they care about, it is irritating! I am off my soapbox for now, and getting back to this story (thanks for listening to me vent). So I am staring at “the issue" knowing I am wearing a dress with dress shoes. Which is a scary thought! I got up okay using both hands to pull-up on the bar. Now I had to try to get my dress up so that it did not dip in the toilet. My dress shoes started to slide on the tile floor, and I flopped down on the toilet which made my dress dip anyway! It was awkward, but I got my business taking care of (for those of you who are concerned, no I did not pee on my dress!) I got back in my chair sitting on my wet dress. I was almost in tears, but told myself that it could've been worse because I could have fallen. So I left "the issue" behind me and headed for my too good for everyone boss to tell her I was back from lunch, and that I have gone to “the issue”. I rolled into her office with all smiles and saying that I was back. I told her I also went to “the issue” by myself, and she looked shocked. She asked me if I did okay, and I told her that I hated it and would not be trying it again by myself. She proceeds to tell me that when I get into the real world people will not be willing to help me in the restroom. WTH, this is the second smartass who has told me this!! Have I been living in a fake world?? Again, I do not handle confrontations very well. I did tell her that if someone does not want to help me in the restroom, that I do not want their help. I told her that I would not be asking for her help ever. I went back to my desk, and cried.

The next day Yolanda came to work. I told her about what went on the day before. She gave me a big hug, and told me not to worry. God love her!!! She helped me from that day forward with “the issues". After a while other women started getting to know me and me know them so they started helping with “the issue" but Yolanda was the main helper. I even made lots of friends who I would have lunch with.

Three months had went by, and I was anxiously awaiting to hear whether or not I was going to be put to on the payroll. Even though the too good for everything boss and I did not get along with one another I enjoyed working there, and knew I would be set if I had a government position. I could get off SSI (Social Security Income, get my own place, I could go on forever. The too good for everything boss was the only person I did not get along with. But she was not in the office all the time because she would be at seminars and such. So I went to the guy who helps people with disabilities get a job with the FAA to find out my fate. He proceeded to tell me that there was a hiring freeze and to hang on for a little while longer. That it looked promising for me. So I began to wait… Four months, five months, and six months. I went to him each month only to hear the same answer about a hiring freeze. I had asked him if I could get reimbursed for gas or if I could get my lunches paid for. He just shook his head and told me he was sorry. That is all he could do. I put up with it until the six-month mark. I could not afford to keep working for FREE. And I definitely was not going to keep working under the too good for everything boss for FREE! So I gave them a notice after six months of FREE labor. They had a little going away party for me with cake, and a certificate showing that I worked for the FAA (for FREE). I am sure and that was all Yolanda’s idea! After I left I never heard a word from FAA again. My chances were promising, my a**!

After that, I saw Yolanda a few times. She had a baby shower that I went to. In Oct. '95 when she had the baby girl, Tanisha, we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch to meet her. I was amazed by all of her hair! Our connection at that time was lost. I would love to see her again!

Due to the big deal that was made out of “the issue” it is still a big issue in my life. I stay close to home, watch my liquid intake, and sometimes hold it. I plan my day around “the issue”. I am very blessed to say that I have never had a bladder infection (knock on wood and thank you Lord!). Throughout my dash I will be talking about diff. probs I have concerning "the issue". Is there something in your life that has become “your issue”? If so, don’t hesitate sharing.

Thanks for taking the time to read, Miss S


Parisjasmal said...

You know girl, this post made me a little teary eyed. Most of the times I have been with you, it has been in an environment when EVERYONE is willing and able to help with "the issue" or it is just you and me and it is NO ISSUE at all. Sometimes I forget how hard things are for you a lot of the time. Let me rephrase that--not that I forget, but you really never talk about the negatives in your life so it is easy for someone to think things are easier than they are. That is a testament to your jovial, postive personality and how very hard you try every day to find the BEST in everything.
I know you did not write this post to make anyone sad, but the thought of you sitting at your desk and crying makes me so sad.
I will say in the 18 years we have been friends, you have always been so gracious and easy going about your needs.
I hope this entry lets people know the very personal struggles you have every day that you never let on about.

I wish you could find Yolanda too. I am sure she would LOVE to hear how you are doing and that you graduated college!!!

Love you girl, and I loved this post.
I will try to call you later today.

Parisjasmal said...

Oh and I forgot to add--you look so pretty and happy in those pictures. You little jewel--HA HA.