Shifting Gears

By Sharon A. Harmon

I called my dad for help finding a job.

“You used to drive the big yellow school buses,” he said. “I know you can get a state job driving the big highway trucks.”

So I filled out an application and wrote a letter to my state senator asking him to help me get the job because I was a healthy 36-year-old newly divorced mother of two who didn’t want to be another person on welfare.

Meanwhile, I pounded the pavement in search of jobs. Armed with only a high school education, I applied to be an apple picker at a farm where the owner told me I was over-qualified. He never hired people with a high school diploma because he felt they would soon tire of the physical work and quit.

Finally, I landed a part-time assembly job at a table-making factory. I fed the table legs through a sander over and over. My 17-year-old son watched my eight-year-old daughter while I went to work during their summer vacation.

I was glad to have found a job, but it wouldn’t make ends meet. The kids and I survived on ramen noodles, chicken noodle soup, apples, and freeze pops. Sometimes we had hamburgers or hot dogs and consumed large amounts of macaroni and cheese. I was always sinking money into my junky car, but I kept up with my rent. I tossed and turned many a night worrying about winter approaching as I would definitely need money for oil and Christmas. I never missed a day of work or went in late.

Nevertheless, at the end of three months, I was called into the office. “We have to let you go; you just aren’t working out,” my boss said.

I sat on the kitchen floor and cried through the telephone to my friend who had lived all her life in the town where I worked. “I worked there once,” she said. “Almost everyone in town has at one time or another. After three months when your nickel raise comes up, they make up some excuse to let you go, then they hire new help so they don’t have to give you the nickel raise.”

Six months after I’d sent my letter, I received a call from one of the state senator’s aides who told me their office would be trying to help me. “Hang in there until you hear from us again,” he said.

The very next day I received a letter in the mail from the state informing me that I had been hired to work for the state highway department. It had taken me nine months to “birth” this job.

“I knew you could do it, kid,” my dad sad.

I shifted the gears on the truck into drive and got on the road.

\"\"Sharon Harmon is a poet and freelance writer. She writes for the Uniquely Quabbin Magazine and teaches workshops. She spends a lot of time around campfires, writing, and gardening. She is currently working on flash fiction mysteries, her third chapbook of poetry, and a children’s picture book.

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