Thursday, February 13, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 4: Rotary

Part II: Susan's Saga 
Episode 4: Rotary

In the previous episode, Susan followed her career counselor's advice to "explore new vistas," although she did it with perhaps a bit too much vigor: everything from yoga to hip-hop dancing, spiritual retreat to whitewater rafting. She then decided she might do better with a different kind of exploration: She joined Rotary.

For the uninitiated, Rotary is not the group that wears fezzes or conducts secret rituals involving dead-language mumbo-jumbo. It's as mainstream as America gets: mainly a bunch of middle-middle-class people, disproportionately small business owners, who get together every week or two for breakfast or lunch, fun fundraisers and--although it's officially discouraged as tainting of its charitable mission--to make business and career connections.

There are 34,000 Rotary clubs, 6,000 in the U.S. There even was one in Sage River, which is the one Susan joined or, more accurately, was invited to join. Not just anyone can get into Rotary--you have to be sponsored. Fortunately, her yoga teacher was a member. Susan thought, "See, taking yoga may have been good for my career after all!" 

Every two weeks, her Rotary club meets for lunch, and Rotarians eat like the mainstream Americans they are. No "garden salad, dressing on the side and a sparkling water with a wedge of lime." More likely, it's chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, a coke, and apple pie for dessert. When Rotarians say they're watching their weight, it usually means they'll skip the a la mode...for today. 

As she waited in the buffet line, she mused, "Is it really better for restaurants to throw out the mountains of leftover buffet food than to give it to the poor? Wouldn't that likely do far more good than harm?"

Wanting to fit in, as Susan moved through the buffet, she joined the contest to see who could fit the most calories on a plate. She figured that by the time the waitress came by to remove plates, the porkers wouldn't notice that two-thirds was left on hers.

Susan was equally planful in deciding where to sit. "No, not at that table where 60-year-olds would be seen as "young uns." Nor at the one with Gen Z'ers--they're not likely to have career connections. Then she spotted a table with mainly midlifers and an empty seat, and she and her 3,000-calorie plate headed for it like someone trying to get the last good seat in a movie theater without looking like she's trying too hard. 

Week after week, Rotary conversation never went further than Huskies football, kitchen recipes, or if she was lucky, who was sleeping with whom. It was in such a conversation when, Rory, who owned the ag supply store in town, turned to her and said, "Of course, that's not something you would do." Susan blushed and deliberately pursed her lips dismissively, as a new widow should. But privately, she welcomed the flirtation, even from a Joe Sixpack, maybe especially from a Joe Sixpack. 

More weeks passed and Susan deliberately didn't sit at Rory's table. But one time, Rory sat down at her table, right next to her. And as they were getting up to leave, he said, "I could use a little help at the store. Might you be interested?" 

"I'm working at the school." 

"Not on Saturdays. How about a half day on Saturdays? Just greet the customers, help 'em if you can, answer the phone, a little paperwork, almost nothing on the computer."

She thought, "'Almost nothing on the computer.' Amazing how that negates the other negatives: a guy trying to flirt with me a new widow, a clerk job, at a fertilizer store?"  

She weakened: "I don't think so." 

"Try it one Saturday. If you're not completely satisfied, we'll refund your money. No questions asked."

"And he's funny," she thought.

"Okay, one Saturday."

"I think things are gonna work out just fine." And he stared into her eyes. 

The next episode is HERE.

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