Settling In - Part VIII (final)
A day or two after that, Mr. Goldie had an appointment with his caseworker at the settlement office. This is actually pretty cool. When we came into the country, we immediately got an appointment with JFSA, which stands for Jewish Family something-or-other. They work with new immigrants to make sure they learn the ways of the new country, and also help these new immigrants get a job. Of course, most of the jobs they offer are extremely crappy, low-paying, manual jobs, the reason, I’m guessing, being that they need to produce results. The caseworker is there to ensure that the immigrant assigned to them finds a job, fast. Most men are told to go work at a factory.
So, on that day, our caseworker was all over Mr. Goldie, trying to convince him to go take a job at a factory. In a desperate effort to avoid it, Mr. Goldie told her:
“Well how about my wife? Remember when you first met us, you said that my wife would find a job before I do.”
Normally, this would result in me being hooked up with a factory job, and pissed at Mr. Goldie for years to come. On that day, however, a miracle happened.
“Oh yes, yes, I remember!” exclaimed the caseworker. “Somebody called me. Their company is looking for programmers! Tell your wife to come see me as soon as she can. You can go. Buh-bye.”
I was in the caseworker’s office the next day. She was very excited, prepping me for the job interview.
“Wear a jacket and a nice, long skirt. Make sure your hair looks nice. What else? Hmmm… let me see your hands.” She turned my hands back and forth. “Looks good. The fingernails are clean.”
“Did they say what kind of work they’re interviewing for?”
“Why, a programmer.”
“What programming language?”
“Something that you know. That’s all I can tell you.” That wasn’t very helpful, as I knew four or five languages, but was rather rusty on all five at the moment, having spent the last four years as a stay-at-home mom with a couple of part-time jobs in between.
I couldn’t wait to tell my parents I had a job interview the next morning.
To my amazement, instead of getting all happy on me, they flipped out.
“How can you? How can you take a low-paying job? Haven’t we all agreed that you are going back to school to get a degree?”
“Mom, yes, we have, but think about it. What is the end goal of me going to school? Getting a programming job, right? Well here’s a programming job being offered to me right now. I just bypass the school and go straight to the end result. What’s so bad about it?”
My parents were unconvinced, but agreed to watch the kids while I was at the interview.
It took me two hours on the bus to get to the place where it now takes me fifteen minutes by car. My fingernails were spotless. I wore a black and white checkered jacket, a gray striped skirt that was three sizes too big, and a blue blouse. My hair was pulled back into a bun.
Later on, my boss would tell me, “I took one look at your clothes and I knew right away that you were struggling to make ends meet”.
I was escorted to an office, where a Slavic-looking guy about my age handed me the application form and the test questions. That was my first meeting with Mr. Crush.
The test was in Pascal, that I hadn’t used since 1991. I managed to get four questions out of seven. The manager talked to me for about half an hour, and hired me on the spot, saying, “I’m an immigrant myself. I’ve been there. I know how hard it is”. That was my first interaction with Mr. Big.
On the weekend, my Dad drove me to a thrift store and I bought a whole thirty dollars worth of office clothes. They filled a whole 32-gallon lawn bag. I was now officially ready for my first job in America.
And here the story of our “settling in” ends, and a new story begins – full of drama, comedy, sweat and tears, but still completely different. At least, now we knew the direction we were heading. We knew that, somehow, things were going to work out in the end. We no longer had to puzzle and wonder how on earth we would get our foot in the door. Most importantly, we no longer had to take unsolicited advice from our fellow immigrants on how to “settle in”.
It took me less than three months. Mr. Goldie was hired another eight months later, by a woman whose office was down the hallway from ours, and with whom I’d had brief meetings and conversations in the ladies’ room. Mr. Big told me that she needed people, so I marched straight to her office and asked is she didn’t, by any chance, need programmers, because my husband was a very good programmer, and, as luck would have it, he was currently looking. We got lucky. For a lot of people, it takes years to find a job in a field that they enjoy, and want to remain in.
My parents, still, were inconsolable. They kept telling me I’d sold myself short. I think they were afraid of Accounting Dude, and what he would say. For the next three years, they kept bringing up the fact that I hadn’t gone back to school like I should have. They finally let go of the subject after our family income (Mr. Goldie’s and mine combined) exceeded the Accounting Dudes’ (if you remember, he was the breadwinner in the family). Only then did they tell me that, “okay, we admit, you were probably right”.
Two weeks after I started working, I got a call from Cleveland State. They were worried because they had received my application, but didn’t have my GRE results. That’s why they had been so strangely quiet about my awesome test score. They managed to lose the results for the test that I had taken on their own campus. You can only wonder what it would have been like to actually go to school there. I told them that my plans had changed.
This concludes what I wanted to tell you about. It was a unique and interesting time, and I’m glad I had this experience. I am also glad that it is over.