I know I promised to update you readers on the other eight credits that made up my crazy second semester, and I will do that. But first, since I started my summer job at the college two weeks ago today, I want to update you on that because it has proven to be an exciting opportunity and is really going well. As I mentioned back in May, my job involves answering phones for the switchboard, which is the general number for the college that they can call if they have a question, or don’t know the number of a particular department they need to contact like Admissions or Financial Aid. At first, I was scared to death about what this job would entail and feared I would make an embarrassment of myself and my college since I have always been nervous talking to strangers on the phone. I am the kind of person who tries to mask my anxiety and be strong when there is an important event like a speech I have to give for a class, but I was more nervous than usual about the impression I would make in my first job, so my mom wasn’t fooled by my attempts to mask it. On Monday evening, when she sensed that I was quieter than usual, she pulled me aside and asked if something was upsetting me. I told her no, and that I was just tired since our house had been crazy the whole day since my brother flew home to visit. She didn’t see through this excuse. But the next morning when I was about to have a meltdown because it seemed like my mom and grandma who were driving me were taking forever to get ready, and I did not want to be late on my first day of work, my nervousness could be disguised no longer, so I confided to her how nervous I was. She assured me that it was normal to be nervous on your first day of a job, but my phone skills were really not as terrible as I thought they were. Normally, I might have thought that being that she was my mother, she could not evaluate my phone skills objectively, but I didn’t have those feelings that day because her confidence in me really eased my anxiety, and we got ready peacefully and arrived early to work just as she assured me we would. By the end of my first four hours of orientation, which was basically all I needed because the buttons on the switchboard, and the calls I would receive are pretty straight forward.
So in a nutshell, here is how my days of work unfold. Mom or Dad, whoever is available to drive me to work, goes to the college, and drops me off at the door just like they would if they were taking a sighted person to work. Gilbert and I walk confidently through the doors and behind the front desk where the switchboard is. It actually took him a few days to figure out the new routine, and sometimes Gilbert would try to take me to the dining room or downstairs to the basement of the campus center, but he is an expert in our routine now. When I get to the switchboard, I am supposed to use bleach wipes to disinfect the phone and table from the last person who used it and then I just sit and wait for the phone to ring. That waiting time allowed me to read, my favorite summer pass time, and get paid while doing it. What could be better! There is a computer equipped with Jaws there too, but the employee rules that the manager went over with me clearly state that the computers may not be used for recreational purposes like blogging, but that is fine with me, and it is actually easier to write when you don’t have to worry about your train of thought getting interrupted by the phone. I am not in any summer classes, but if I continue this job in the fall, I will be able to get a lot of homework done on that computer while I wait for calls. When calls do come, and there are a fair number of calls because even in summer, there are a lot of events going on at my college, I pick up the phone, tell them they have called the college switchboard, and then say with a professional smile in my tone of voice “this is Allison. How can I help you?” The only frustrating aspect of this job, believe it or not is that the switchboard gets a lot of calls from automated telemarketers. Once I realize it is a telemarketer, I just hang up, but since I cannot see the caller identification, I still have to say my script. There are also a surprising number of people who are trying to call someone else and dial the wrong number. But the fulfillment I have gotten from helping people reach the appropriate person or department, and the prospect of a paycheck of course, have made these small inconveniences worth putting up with. And no one has yelled at me or cussed me out so far, so I must be doing alright (smile).
Speaking of paychecks, I will receive my first one this Friday, and I told Gilbert that since he comes to work every day too, I am going to buy him a bone, and me a scoop of chocolate custard to celebrate. Last Wednesday afternoon, my dad helped me open my first checking account, which will be fully owned by me, not by my parents the way my childhood savings account was, and just yesterday, I received the debit card that I can use to withdraw my own cash or make my own purchases! I don’t need money that often because I hate shopping, and rarely have time to go out with friends. And since I live at home, I don’t have to worry about groceries or rent. But it is exciting to know that if I do want to go out with friends, or eventually get my own apartment or something, I will no longer have to depend on my parents for funding!
Anyway, getting back to my job description, when outsiders call, they often relate to me the information they are seeking. These calls are a little harder, and I still ask my manager for advice about who I should transfer someone to. A lot of calls though come from people on campus, or people familiar with campus, so a lot of times, callers can tell me exactly who they are looking for. I have already memorized a few of the extensions for departments that are requested a lot, and when I need to look up a number, I put the caller on hold, and do a search command on a file with the contact information for every department and faculty member on campus using my braille notetaker. When I find the number, something I am getting more efficient at every day, I transfer them. It is as smooth as that!
This job, I think is a perfect first job for nervous kids like me. It has given me a taste of what to expect in a real job. For example, I had to go to the business office and fill out tax forms, and while I don’t have to punch a time clock, someone helps me fill out a time sheet after every shift. I am expected to dress professionally, and was given a polo shirt to wear with khaki pants to work each day. While sighted people sometimes complain about having to wear the same thing to work every day, as I have said before, I really don’t care what I wear, so wearing a uniform makes getting dressed a lot more efficient since decisions about what to wear have already been made. On the first day of training, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement, and was informed of the breaks and wage I was entitled to, which is $7.75 an hour with a paid fifteen minute break for four hours of work, half an hour for six hours, and an hour for eight hours of work. I was also informed of the disciplinary action I would face if I was dishonest, or did not conduct myself professionally. Attendance is also required at weekly staff meetings where we discuss what needs to be done in the upcoming week based on upcoming events at the college. So basically, I am getting all of the experiences my parents say I can expect in the real world once I graduate college. But unlike what my parents have said about work in the real world, I am not expected to do more work than humanly possible, since like I said, when the phone is not ringing, I am free to read a book or listen to soft music, or even talk to friends briefly, as long as it doesn’t disrupt anyone’s work. The boss is awesome too, because even though eating is not allowed at the work station, she stocks a candy dish for when we need a sugar boost while we work. As hard as I try to stay away from it, almost every day, I succumb to the temptation of those miniature dove chocolate bars (smile). But I only eat one, and I exercise every day, so I’m sure it won’t kill me. And it is dark chocolate which they say is rich in antioxidants, so that makes it a healthy habit, right? (smile) I work Monday through Friday, no weekends or holidays, and my shifts so far have only been four hours. The first two weeks which is considered the orientation period, I worked from 8:30 in the morning until 12:30 every day, but this week I started my official schedule. The switchboard is open from 7:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night, and I will alternate weekly, working from 7:30 to 11:30 this week, and next week, I will work 2:30 to 6:30. So one week I will have the drudgery of having to get up early, but the next week, I will get to sleep in. Speaking of which, the one and only thing I am really starting to hate about the working world is having to get up so early. I was hoping to be done with that when school ended, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. In fact, on only the fourth day of work when I still started at 8:30, I remember walking down the stairs yawning that norning and proclaiming “man, this getting up early and going to work every day is getting old!” That really got my mom and me laughing because this was only day 4 of my working life, and my mom pointed out with a smile that I still have about fifty years to go! But hey, unlike school, at least when I work, I am being compensated for my sleepiness. So I am well aware that not all jobs that I will have over the course of my life will be this enjoyable, and there will come a day when I will have to support myself, so minimum wage will no longer be acceptable. But I love the age I am now which allows me to have adult experiences while still being sheltered from the harsher realities of the adult world. I love being at an age where when adults say pessimistically, “welcome to the rest of your life”, my youth and optimism allows me to say “Bring it on! I am ready, and excited about it!”