Thursday, October 22, 2009

How It All Got Started, Part III

I left my sleezy, albeit, super-fun bartending jobs, yep, all of them (at one point, I had 3 going at once), after I became seriously involved with the man that is now my husband.  For some strange and unknown reason, he had a problem with me working in dive bars until three in the morning.

I was unsure of the next step, was finished with junior college, and decided it was time for a full time job. So I took employment with a compliance company.  It was my job to learn all of the interstate transportation laws and arrange the necessary travel documents for truckers rolling over state lines.  I liked this job.  The work was simple in that it was routine, yet it was challenging in that each state has different regulations and each caller knew less and less about them than the one before him.  I was a problem solver and a helper; it felt good to know that I was responsible for getting hemorrhoid pads, Corvettes, and salty hams from one side of the country to the other.  But the most challenging part of the job was that it was phone work and it was competitive.

How it worked was that truckers called in and said, "I need to get a load from point A to point B, what do I need to be legal?" I would decipher the laws and contact the different state agencies, arrange for the permits, and get them to the drivers in specific locations along their travel routes at specific times without wasting any of the drivers time.  Not a good thing to have a driver sitting at a truck stop in BFE, waiting 5 hours for a permit.  Time is money, right?

We had a ginormous room with about 60 compliance specialists manning the phones and our computers kept up with the number and length of calls, $$$.  It became a competition between the employees to see who could end the day with the most permits and the most cash for the company...I'm just a little bit maybe sorta competitive, so I enjoyed it; I always got the most; I was good, real good.

All the states have different regulations.  You had to know your stuff and if you got it wrong...well, there are several states that don't do redos.  If they print it, you pay for it, and they don't reprint without another fee.  We're talking $80 or so for a permit in some states.

I got a call from a lady in Oregon needing a permit to bring her driver into the state.  Oregon is one of the hard, expensive states.  Lots of rules, no refunds.  If the permit is not perfect, driver gets a ticket, no typos allowed, no leniency.  Nobody wants a pissed off truck driver knowing the address of their place of employment, so you better get it right.  She called the name of the trucking company, The Nut Company.  When the driver showed up at the arranged pick-up destination to get his permit, he called me immediately...and a few other choice words.

It was supposed to say, The Nett Company.  Oregon does their permits live, meaning they only issue them during government office hours via a little old lady with a plaque above her desk that reads "Helen, Secretary of the Year, 1976." And it takes her about five hours to issue one.  So not only is the company I work for out $80 (did I mention, they don't do redos?), but I have to tell this guy, I can't get him another permit until tomorrow and only after somebody's great Aunt Helen has watered the office ivy, had her coffee, and taken her morning dump.  Now he has to sleep in his rig at the truck stop under the neon lights and his shipment is going to be late.  Here goes the domino effect. Yeah, I was thinking of a four letter word about that time

And that's just one example of the hardships a person with a hearing disability has.  I liked that job.  They had decent health benefits, tuition reimbursement, Six Sigma training, free flu shots, and awesome company picnics.  And I really liked the girls at my lunch table.

But I did quit.  I couldn't risk disappointing people, screwing up permits, wasting peoples' time.  I felt bad for that driver and what I cost him.  That was a night away from his family, and his client was pissed even though it was my fault rather than his.  What was he supposed to say, "Some dumb deaf girl in Texas screwed up my shipment."  Who knows what he said.  I resigned that day.

A quick note about the phone work: the only way I managed to do as much of it as I did and for so long was because we wore head pieces attached to the phones.  I could turn them up as loud as I wanted and that managed to work pretty well for me in most cases.

I was already in school at UTD.  I had started that January, 2001.  Blake and I had bought a house in October and were planning our wedding.  I didn't have my hearing aids yet and it was this incident that prompted me to get on the ball and set up the meeting with TRC.  I think that leaving that job proved to them that I could not be a contributing, tax paying member of society without some help.  Anyway, they agreed to buy my hearing aids.

That first semester at UTD was hard to say the least.  It was smaller than UNT but bigger than NCTC.  My professors were tenured, publishing, doctorates who wanted to weed out the cannots from the can dos.  It was hard to be a can do when I couldn't hear the discussions and I was too mousy to talk to them about my hearing problems, but I the skin of my teeth.  I made my only C that semester.  Made an A in the other class; it was all writing and I can do that with or without ears on just about any subject.

My summer courses started and I still didn't have my hearing aids.  A few weeks into the semester, I finally told my literary analysis professor that I couldn't hear but I was getting hearing aids, if he could just bare with me a couple more weeks.  His reply was "just raise your hand if you need me to repeat anything." HA! I wanted to say, "So I guess, I'll just keep it up the whole class."  He didn't get it; I could not understand a word he said.  When my biology professor told us that our class would be nothing but watching videos every day, I set up a conference with him.  In our meeting, I explained my hearing loss, told him that any type of learning from the videos was impossible for me.  His solution was that I could borrow them after each class and watch them at home.  I asked if they had captions or subtitles.  They didn't.  I barely made a B in that one; if not for the labs, I would have failed.

A couple of weeks before the end of that summer session, my first hearing aids arrived!!!! What a difference!  Straight A's (except for 1 class) until I graduated, cum laude.