It’s My Workplace and I’ll Cry If I Want To

by pjmcbride

logo …and then they say, “Not anymore.”

The alarm service was yet another of my assorted jobs in my 20’s, after writing work  started drying up. My first job, at 16, was writing, and so was my second. The second job was mostly rewriting press releases, which my boss soon decided he could just as easily do himself, so I was on the loose again, in between my various tries at college. So I started looking for, well, whatever classified ads wanted someone with no skills other than a mediocre bit of typing. Hence the alarm service.

I suspect that, in spite of everything being computerized now (sometimes at the expense of common sense), alarm services today are a lot like they were in the 70’s:

–We alarm monitors, all women, worked in a windowless room, and were given the impression that this was to protect us from the lecherous repairmen, who were strictly forbidden to enter our quarters under any circumstances. It was like being in a harem, except that you didn’t get to have sex with a king.

–Minimum wage. Enough said.

–Rotating shifts–every 6 weeks you’d be on a different one. There is nothing harder on your body than this. Of course, I never found that out personally, because they didn’t keep me that long.

Basically, work consisted of keeping track of businesses opening and closing, with a flurry of phone calls from employees about their alarm going off and they didn’t know why. If a business didn’t open/close at their regular hours, we had to call someone and ask why that was. If an alarm went off and no one called to explain it, we called the police. Our service’s ad said we had “a direct line to the police department.” We did–the same one everyone else called to contact the police in the pre-911 days.

This was not the job I got beaten up at, but I didn’t get along with anyone here, either. I didn’t understand how someone like me who talked so little could annoy so many, but there it is. It must be a gift. I think part of the secret was that they told me they didn’t have a dress code, and I took them at their word and came to work the way I dressed on my days off–in halter tops that were basically a triangle of fabric tied on with four strings. Rom still has pictures of me wearing one shortly after we met, when I was 23. Now I look at it and think, I wore that in an air-conditioned office? I also think, I sure was skinny back then. Anyway, I got reprimanded and my supervisor said, “Just because there’s no dress code doesn’t mean you can wear anything you want.” I’d thought that was exactly what it meant. Of course, leaving something up to my fashion judgement is never a wise idea.

Anyway…my employment came to an end the night of my first storm. A storm at a local alarm service is like one at Dispatch–all the alarms going off, phones ringing constantly. It would not stop, I could not keep up, and I burst into tears.

The next day, they told me they were “letting me go”–interestingly, the same words my high school sweetheart had used when he broke up with me. The reason for my firing was not technically my crying, but that I’d neglected to call back a business when they’d failed to set their alarm. They weren’t broken into, but they could have been!

…I resisted starting a blog for a long time, partly because I thought, Doesn’t every failed writer have a blog these days?, but mostly because I thought, Why would anyone care about someone else’s long boring stories? But no one’s making you read them (until I rule the world, that is), so you could just say you’re letting me go.