Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

At that point in the story and since then, I had only had two symptoms of this brain tumor, the first being the seizure that started it all. The second symptom was the fact that my job based on my driving restriction had reassigned me to Intake. I had lost my initial appeal with the Deputy Chief and so made one more to the Chief herself. I have always had a lot of faith in the chief, believing that she really has a more flexible approach but I knew she was in a tough spot. Here was this “front-line” employee trying to get things reverse coursed, to be an exception to the way they had approached things. The short version is that where I work by its nature, a juvenile correctional facility is fairly rigid. It would take an incredible act of humanity and grace to let me back at my previous job. The chief is often quoted as saying that she looks for reasons to do things not the other way around but I’d heard too many people kindly or not so kindly said that was just her political approach; her actual approach was not quite that. I didn’t have enough experience to know whether or not that was true but I knew that to overrule the counsel of county attorneys, her own deputy chief, and her human resources department over just one employee was probably more political capital than most anyone would be willing to expend.

Still, I tried to give her as much help as I could. I got my own attorney to come and help me with it. I also went to downtown Human Resources, the department that supervised the entire county rather than just our small independent HR department. I got more letters from attorney and even got one of the judges who stated he was willing to speak on my behalf. We had a meeting where it was once again pointed out to me that there had been many conversations about this decision. I responded with the fact that not one, not one of those conversation had been with me. I added, for dramatic but heartfelt emphasis, that I treated the juvenile criminals who had raped their sisters, robbed people’s houses, abused people in various fashions more communication than the department I had given five years of my life had given to me. I even added that they were the biggest change in my day to day, that they were a reminder of my brain cancer, the worst part of my daily life. I actively told the chief to have more humanity. Her facial expressions suggested to me that she probably wasn’t used to being spoken to this way and I concede that may not have been the smartest thing I ever did. (There was some relief in knowing I’d never been interested in being promoted because I had probably just assured it would never happen). There were two meetings with attorneys and human resources people and myself and the chief. In the end, she made a few concessions, none of which felt significant. She stated that it was a mistake for the department to have brought me FMLA paperwork in the hospital when I had never requested it and that practice would continue. She stated that if and when I was cleared to drive to let the department know and that unlike previously stated, we “could see” about my previous job rather than me having “to apply for it like anyone else” as had been originally stated, that the job description would now be changed “to explicitly include driving” (this felt more like the department wanted to make sure to cover itself). She added that this was “not an accommodation but a reassignment” and it was “best for me and best for the department.” The last part was awfully hard to swallow as I personally was at a job I was not well suited for and the department now had an empty Spanish speaking spot with English speakers covering cases. Some of those cases were really struggling with their new PO and a couple of them had called me directly asking for help. It had been hard to tell them I was no longer able to help them.

More than a few coworkers noticed my misery and questioned my jostling with the department. They said that during a time and economy like this I should just be grateful for a job and health insurance. They said I should just improve my attitude and accept it. While those points were all perfect valid and legitimate, they were at some level inadequate. Inherently, they didn’t fit with what I had decided to do in fighting for life which was to keep the life I had which included a job I loved. Also significant when they tried to use my daughter to guilt me into “accepting this,” I quickly blew that off. My parents had not brought us from Mexico so that we could have a job that just got us more stuff. I think that unless times are truly desperate, and at this point I am/was broke not poor, jobs really should fall under one of two categories: 1)they are something you believe in and the paycheck is a bonus or 2) the pay is good enough to allow you to do what you want when you’re not at work. I think approach 1 is a much more significant thing because you usually spend 40 hours or more at a job. I don’t get 40 hours with Kiana or my wife or anything/anyone else. We are what we do. Not we are where we’re employed but we are what we do so we should value those 40 hours… because life’s most valuable commodity is time, not money. I don’t care whether Kiana becomes a janitor or a brain surgeon but I want her to look forward to her job on most days because its part of who she is.

It was perhaps most amusing to me that some of those same coworkers who were telling me that I should have a better attitude were the ones that were so amazed at my “great positiveness” about brain cancer. This was the least logical of things in those few months. So I should have a bad attitude about the inevitable and what’s out of my control, cancer but I should just accept something that I could quit and walk away from at any time? I kept going to work for that time making sure to never be l ate, scheduling my medical appointments where they conflicted with work as minimally as possible, hoping that the chief would let me go back to a job I'd love for 3 years.

1 comment:

  1. if this were a book .. i'd dog-ear this page :)