Once the bridges were reopened in the early morning of September 12th, I borrowed a friend’s car and drove back to our little apartment in Alexandria. Lying in Jamie’s arms in our little bed, in our little apartment so far away from home, I whispered, “I just want to go home. Can’t we go home?” He answered back in the dark, “We aren’t going to let this change us, Elizabeth. This is our home. No matter what, we aren’t going to let it be taken from us. We cannot be afraid.”
I knew he was right, but I was afraid.
This morning at 11:30, I sauntered into our office cafeteria like a gunslinger in a Technicolor Western walks into a saloon: hot and dusty, spurs jangling, a band of sweat around my cowboy hat. I wasn’t kidding when I ordered my bourbon and Coke, but Miss Lucy thought I was and looked over her readers and teased, “Girl, do I need to call HR, or are you ok?”
If Miss Lucy had slid my 20oz. bottled cherry Coke down the counter, I’d have caught it one-handed. It had already been a long day. The kind of day that makes you start second guessing major life choices. The kind of day that allows that mean voice in your head to start hissing ugliness. The kind of day that makes you order bourbon and Coke at the workplace cafeteria.
I work in a cubicle farm. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. My cube is larger than most I’ve seen on television. That’s a plus, I suppose. Although the way my computer is situated in the corner, I cannot see people walk up behind me. Others in the farm have mounted mirrors to the left and right of their computer screens, so they are alerted when someone is behind them. It’s a little long-distance truck driver for me, but it must work. They are never caught by surprise. Last week, I carried on an entire conversation with a co-worker while she looked at me in her rear-view mirror. It was a little off-putting.
Working in a cubicle makes me feel like a little girl who has been put in the corner for punishment. Being sentenced to standing in the corner was a big deal when I was little, it was a space I wanted to escape quickly! As a grown up with a family that needs relatively affordable group health insurance, you learn to sit in the corner. With a smile. All. Day. Long.
Recently, I attended an office meeting at which it was explained that those we serve would soon be asked to complete a survey regarding their overall experience. The higher we score on the survey, the better. In the meeting, we learned that the survey is composed of approximately twenty statements. Respondents are asked to make those statements most true by checking one of four boxes:
Always. Usually. Sometimes. Never.
It’s not uncommon for companies to survey their clients. That wasn’t the surprise. What surprised me was that we receive a score ONLY when respondents check ALWAYS. Should respondents check any of the other boxes in terms of our performance (Usually, Sometimes, or Never) we get no score at all. No matter how good the service, how thoughtful the intent, how clear the instructions, or positive the experience, if the respondent doesn’t check the box labeled ALWAYS – it’s as if we did nothing at all.
Most of the time, Mama and Daddy answered endless questions from Ginny and me with thoughtful, thorough answers. There was nothing we couldn’t ask that they wouldn’t try to explain.
However, when I complained about the fact that something was unfair, Daddy’s favorite answer was, “When you meet fair in the road, come get me.” I squinted my eyes, wrinkled my nose, and let my mouth gape, not daring to respond with the bordering on disrespectful, “Huh?” His answer made as much sense to me as, “If you don’t quit crying, I will give you something to cry about.”