All week-long I’ve been singing snippets from Alice’s Restaurant; Arlo Guthrie’s long shaggy dog song about being inducted into the Army. I got processed to go back to work part-time as a consultant at Transit.
It took four months for my paperwork to crawl through the bureaucracy and get approval from the ethics board. It took another month for Human Resources to give me an appointment to get processed. As Yogi Berra said – It’s deja vu all over again.
My first day at Transit was my worst day on the job. I was a self-conscious chubby 22-year-old out of the closet baby butch lesbian. It was my first day out of jeans. I did my best to dress for success. I wore clean underwear and a normal bra, a pair of grey wool slacks, a pink Oxford cloth button-down shirt, and a tweed blazer. I wore a strand of pearls to make sure everyone knew I was a girl, even if I wasn’t so sure about it myself.
A clerk gave me a sheaf of paper to fill out. One form required me to list every job I ever held, including the address of the business and the name and phone number of my supervisor. I didn’t know some of the zip codes or phone numbers, so I made them up. I had to sign a statement at the end that if they found any discrepancies I could be fired. I turned in the paper and suppressed my snivelling. The clerk stamped the form and sent me across the hall to the “bullpen” for my medical.
The room was full of guys waiting for their bus driver physical. Another clerk told to me sit on the blue bench, next to the only other woman in the room. We would be processed when there was a quorum.
I had to pee, but I knew there was a drug test during the physical. I asked the clerk how much longer I had to wait. As long as it takes. By early afternoon there were six women on the bench. A nurse ushered us into the examining room. I held it in.
She asked us to strip to our bras and panties and measured our height and weight out loud. She asked us to take off our glasses and read the eye chart, and tested us for color blindness. She had us to do a deep knee bend with our arms held up over our head. We got dressed and she took us into a bathroom with stalls but no doors, and gave us each a narrow necked bottle.
The nurse watched to make sure no one cheated. I’m pee shy. The nurse told me that I couldn’t leave until I filled the bottle, and that if I left the room I was giving up the job. I started to cry, which made me relax and let loose. I peed all over my hands and all over the bottle. Enough got in. I washed my hands and splashed water on my face. I wanted the job. This was what the real world looked like. It didn’t look like grad school.
They fingerprinted us and gave us towelettes to clean the ink off our fingers. We raised our right hands and swore to uphold the Constitution of New York. We received our benefits books, and a copy of rules and regulations. The clerk told us that getting a job with Transit was like hitting the jackpot. You’ll never be this lucky again. I reminded myself that I could leave after a year. I could go back to school. I stayed.
Long enough to retire and return on my own terms. This time they sent me on a paperwork chase: Driver’s License, original Social Security card, original birth certificate, original high school and college diploma(s), a blank postal order for $82, and the completed seven page background verification questionnaire (which they neglected to send to me).
The name on my birth certificate and diploma is different from the name on my Driver’s License and Social Security card. I added a certified copy of my name change order (with the City Clerk’s raised seal) to the pile. There is a line on the seven page form to list all other names you have been known by and why. I wrote: legal name change to a gender neutral name. I wore jeans to the appointment. I did not wear pearls.
Note: Elvis Presley sure looked good at his induction into the Army. For more pictures of Elvis in the Army, see this article.