I’m finally in the sales office at the Ramada; I didn’t think that was ever going to happen. The sales secretary job finally came available again for the second time. When I first applied about a year ago, I thought I had the job for sure, and was pretty much just waiting to hear when I could transfer. Then early one morning, when I was working at the front desk, a young woman I had never seen before came in, and said she was starting work in the sales office, and asked me to show her how to punch in and where to go. I got her set up, and then I told the night auditor who had not left the property yet to watch the desk, because I quit. I hopped on my bike, stopped on the way home to get a newspaper, started looking for a new job right away, and called my previous general manager at the Schenectady Ramada to explain why I had quit and to ask him to give me a recommendation for another job. But within a few hours, the front desk supervisor showed up at our apartment, apologized for the crappy way the general manager handled things, and just about begged me to come back. The GM is really friendly and outgoing, but he has the authenticity of a shady car salesman, and this was the last straw for me. There wasn’t anything that could be done to change the job situation, but I went back under a “no-bullshit” rule. As it turned out, I became really good friends with the woman who got the job, and when she recently quit, I got the promotion easily. The glad-handing general manager showed me more respect, but he is gone now too.
Actually, a lot of people changed over, because corporate relocated a crew from the Wilmington, NC property that was sold, and replaced the entire top staff: general manager, sales manager, bookkeeper, front desk manager, restaurant and bar manager. There are so many new people on the management team, who all worked together at the other property, that those of us who still work here feel more like outsiders. I like the job, although my boss and I don’t get along. She’s not much older than me, but is usually condescending and basically bitchy to me. Knowing that I hate to do them, she insists that I make cold calls daily; as sales manager, I think that new business acquisition is her responsibility. I like handling inside sales, group trips, meetings, banquets, weddings and stuff like that much better. The new GM, who happens to be friends with Mr. Rogers, is a genuinely nice guy, and I think she takes advantage of his kindness. His wife is a phlebotomist; they told me that there is some new disease that they think you catch from blood transfusions or sex, that there’s no cure, and it is killing a lot of people. I worked for the Red Cross before moving here and never heard of anything like that. The only volunteer work I’ve done here is with the Ronald McDonald house, just down the road from our apartment. I help out with cleaning and changing over rooms, and once played guitar and lead carols for a holiday party. It’s a place where out of town families can stay when their kids are at Duke Medical Center.
I don’t have enough time to volunteer anywhere now. I’ve mapped out what our living expenses and income are going to be, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to have enough to get through this year. Lou wasn’t able to do much handyman work during the school year, so we can’t really count on income from that. He wants to keep doing the karate at both the new place and at Duke, since the teachers have different styles and areas they are best at. The karate school we both go to encourages competition, both in katas and sparring. I got talked into going to one competition; luckily, my second-place trophy doesn’t point out the fact that there were only two people in my fighting class. Regardless, I’ve improved, and graduated to yellow belt. Our instructor calls me up to lead the class in stretching sometimes, which is pretty absurd, since I am the least flexible person in the room. But maybe that makes me try harder than I otherwise would. I’m not going to be able to take classes very much longer though, because I’m picking up a second job. I make whatever extra money I can at the hotel. I sometimes work at the banquets as a waitress, I make the cakes for our monthly employee meetings, and Lou and I refinished some furniture. But it isn’t enough to count on.
Bruce and I still write to each other all the time; I use my work address so I don’t have to answer questions about what is in the letters. I finally opened up enough to let him know how I really feel about him, and that I wished I had told him before I got married. I’ve probably over-shared my regrets with him, and probably seem like a pathetic cheater. But now it is just too late to do anything other than wish I could go back in time. I think about all the missed opportunities; the missed life.
It just makes me sad, and makes me wonder about other things I just let slip by because I kept my mouth shut and didn’t express my feelings. For years, Paul, from the Odessa staff, and I wrote to each other, and I always thought I would meet up with him again one day, and maybe see if there could be a long term relationship. While I was making the dreaded cold sales calls at work one day, I dialed information instead, for Key West, Florida and asked if there was a listing under his name. It was a shot in the dark on my part, remembering long conversations about plans for the future. Yet, I wasn’t surprised at all when the operator gave me the phone number. I sat at my office desk for awhile gaining the courage to call, trying to imagine what I might say, and feeling like some kind of weird stalker for tracking him down like this after not having spoken or written to each other since before I got married. I finally dialed; it rang just a couple times before a woman answered, and I asked to speak with Paul. I could hear her hand covering the mouthpiece, although not all the way, because I also listened to her politely call him to the phone, “Paul, there’s a young woman on the phone to speak with you.” I guess I am a young woman now, at age twenty; when he and I were together, I was still a young girl at sixteen. At this point, the age difference probably would not really matter to anyone, and we could have been a couple. Despite the fact that I’ve been married for over a year now, I was still disappointed when I finally heard his lyrical, happy voice. He was happy to hear from me, happy to learn that I was married and doing well, and happy to explain that he was living the life of his dreams in Key West, and was happily married, with an infant son.
Perhaps some dreams die so that others may live.