On Tuesday I cook lunch for my senior citizens. Today one of them asked how long I'd been at the Center. When I replied, "22 years on Aug. 3rd," one of them said, "Huh. That was yesterday." Without missing a beat she glanced at the kitchen and added, "So, what are we having for lunch?"
(Insert deflated ego here).
No, I didn't expect a standing ovation for doing what I get paid to do. After all I chose the job, it didn't come looking for me. But her reply, in a nutshell, sums up why I've been feeling so..."whatever"... about my job lately. I'm not in love with it any more. Her quick transition of it's-not-about-you-it's-about-my-stomach-and-I'm-hungry-NOW! was the exclamation point on what I've recently discovered. For some reason, I came into the job with the somewhat romantic notion that senior citizens are wise, kind and just want someone to listen. I'm a good listener.
Truth is, for every one of them which fits that description, there are 3 who are cranky, demanding and unappreciative...like two year olds who missed their nap. Usually I let it flow over me like water and keep swimming. Lately, it feels like I'm swimming upstream and the more I fight, the stronger that riptide of "go another way" seems to pull.
After thinking about it for a while, I realized over the years, I've had different "types" of senior groups. The first one, mostly female and in their 80s, were full time wives/mothers. Their world consisted of home, church, PTA, the grocery store and the Center, which they called "The Club". The first time I was in the kitchen cooking for them, one lady literally got in my face and snarled, "Your generation only knows how to order out. Can you cook?" Now I was raised to be polite. And I'm guessing my reply came from having 20 women tell me 20 different ways to cook the same thing. With a smile on my face I said, "Do I look like I'm starving?" I was instantly horrified but she started laughing. Group 1 was set in their ways and not very adventurous, but as long as I prepared lunch and called bingo, they were happy. Happy to do pretty much nothing.
Group 2 was just plain FUN. They were up for any and every thing. I jokingly would tell them, "Look, as long as it's not illegal or immoral we'll try it once. If we don't like it, we don't have to do it again." They were mostly Moms/Wives but at least I knew their kids had fun. We went places, did crafts, helped others...we even took a group of 12 Central American college scholarship students on a 3 day trip to Florida! They told me wonderful stories about their youth...and their misadventures too. One told me her friends drug her to see, "some skinny, rat faced kid singer. I didn't want to go but there was a dance too. He was okay. He got better with age." His name? Frank Sinatra. One of the men was from Louisiana and actually rode the streetcar named "Desire" to work before joining the military. He was so much fun we bet that he'd live to be 100...and he did! A widower, he went bowling with us every week and dancing every other week, where he danced with ALL the ladies because he believed, "it's not fair to let anyone be a wallflower." In the spring, he brought all of us flowers off the Camilla bush he'd planted for his wife because she loved them so.
Group 3, the current batch, is a handful. They are between end of baby boomer status to old enough to be my parents...although one will be 95 next month and she's the most interesting of them all! Their thought process is completely different. Many of them worked, the majority of them have traveled or lived elsewhere before settling near the Center. They are extremely opinionated. I'm not talking about, "Let me share with you what I think." I mean, "Let me tell you why what you're thinking/saying is wrong."
Group 3 seems to believe my brain is a giant wheel of Things-To-Do. I propose something, they consider it for 30 seconds, dismiss it with a wave of the hand and yell, "No. Next!" While other groups were willing to work together, they are entirely too proud of their independent status. It's like herding cats sometimes...no one wants to go the same way and each one thinks he/she is the ONLY one who is right. This week I canceled a proposed beach trip because not enough of them had signed up. Were they mad at those who didn't want to participate? No, they were mad at me...because I failed to convince enough people to go. Ironically when I point out they are adults who make decisions, it's always my fault when it doesn't go their way.
Technically I qualify for retirement, but I don't have a salary that allows me to contemplate that right now. And although I'm not old in terms of years, to perspective employers, they'd see me less as possessing knowledge than the fact they could employee 2 inexperienced people for the price of just me.
So I sit at my desk and ponder. I'm creative. I can make the best out of the little I'm given to work with. I think people deserve a second chance. I can do this. I will figure it out. I will find something they can agree on. Something fun.
Who am I kidding? I'm tired of their whining and complaining. Public servant doesn't translate into personal assistant. But they don't get that part.
Oh, I'll muddle through. I always do.
But I sure miss the days of Group 2.