Sunday, November 4, 2012

Days & Light

My first adult job was with Peoples Energy Corp. in Chicago.  I don't even know how I got it, how I knew about it, how any of it came to pass.  I processed health insurance claims for employees and retirees for six years.  It was long before computers and our office was a holding zone for mountains of paper.  Bills would pour in and be alphabetized and stacked each day.  The job of myself and two others was to go through every bill to make sure it was complete, accurate and payable under our plan.  Then we'd forward it to our insurance company for review and payment. 

It was a job that could make people really happy - like the sweet, old meter reader who came in with shoe boxes of bills that he didn't know he could claim.  I spent an afternoon on the floor of an empty conference room organizing it all and he ended up with several thousand dollars.  He cried when he came to pick up his check and the next day a box of chocolates were delivered to my desk.

It was also a job that could infuriate employees who had their claim denied, and try as we might to make sure that didn't happen, sometimes there wasn't a thing we could do about it.  It wasn't pretty to be on the receiving end of that, but when someone is sick or in a health crisis and denied payment the rage has to land somewhere.

When I got the job, my mom and dad were less than enthusiastic.  You'd have thought that having a kid with full-time employment and benefits would cause them to be elated but that was not the case.  Do you know you'll have to take public transportation downtown?  Do you know how much that costs?   What about eating out all the time?  Have you thought about that?  Do you know what bad weather does to a bus schedule?

Well, no, no, no, no and no.

I threw their parental advice out the window, and when I landed on Michigan Avenue I found out I was a city girl.   That is not to say it wasn't without the first time I went to Marshall Fields on my lunch hour.  I had no idea that there were different entrances on different streets and I found myself exiting a door blocks from where I entered with no idea how to get back to work.  Or missing the express train by seconds after an Olympic sprint through underground garages.  Cab drivers that were terrifying and Hare Krishna looking for new recruits.

But helping people when things weren't going so well in their life is satisfying even on the hard days.  I never grew tired of it or that city, and on the first Monday of daylight savings time I would always gasp when I went outside to head towards the train station.

The early darkness made it seem as though I was walking right into a Christmas tree.

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1 comment:

  1. Lovely post! I felt transported to another time and place! xo