My freshman I brought the savings I had accumulated from working in restaurants with me to college and they quickly melted away to nothing in about a month. I then got a job working in my dorm cafeteria thinking my restaurant experience would translate but that did not last long. It was dirty and smelly and I did not enjoy getting up early in the morning to work the breakfast shift after drinking the night before. I also felt embarrassed serving the other people I saw everyday in the dorm. So I quit. I am not sure what I did for money the rest of the year. Somehow I made it through.
My sophomore year I applied to work at the university Office of Housing. I do not remember how I heard about the opportunity. I guess I saw it listed somewhere. I remember showing up for my interview with a girl I had been dating. The people in the office made fun of me for that once I got the job.
The Residents Services Office was on the second floor of the University Office of Housing. I worked in the Key department responsible for organizing and distributing the keys to all the dorm rooms on campus. The worst part was filing returned keys. Each key was engraved with a serial number that matched up with a specific lock. The keys were filed according to the serial numbers in little envelopes in little library card catalog drawers. Key filing was tedious and everybody avoided doing it.
Sometimes we were sent out on errands to various dorms. One of the perks of the job was the “P Slash” sticker on my student identifications allowing me access to any dorm at any time. Students without the “P Slash” I could only enter their own dorm. Otherwise they had to be signed in and only during certain hours. This made it much easier my senior year when I had a girlfriend living in one of the dorms.
When we were not filing keys or out on errands we mostly sat around desks pushed together answering the phones and making fun of each other. All the other offices in the building looked down on us. They called us the Romper Room. We had a reputation for goofing off and not doing any real work. I would say that was about 80% accurate.
The people who worked in the office are what I mainly remember. Betty ran the office. She was a tall, older woman with short, coifed white hair. She wore business suits and closed the door to her office when she ate lunch. I remember one time I was filing keys. Betty came in the key room and asked me to sign out the master keys for a specific building. I did not know how to do this task because I had never done it before. She yelled at me because she thought I should know how to do that given the amount of time I had worked there. I felt ashamed and pouted for the rest of the day. Paul had my back but it still put me under, like the time my fifth grade math teacher yelled at me. Disapproval and criticism always hit me hard at the time. I guess she was right that I should have known how to do that task. It was one of those things where someone explains how to do it but I forgot because I did not have to do it right off the bat. As time passed people assumed I knew it and I was embarrassed to ask anyone because I should have known it (like when I forget a person’s name after I meet them). So I avoided the task for a while but eventually it caught up with me.
My immediate boss, Paul was gay man with a Freddie Mercury haircut and mustache. Until that point I never had much interaction with gay people. I don’t think I handled it very well but I did my best and I was learning. He was a nice guy most of the time. One time Paul invited me out to lunch for my birthday. This was something he did for other people in the office as well. I remember feeling really awkward about it. I guess he could tell because he said my friend Rod who also worked in the office could come along.
Every once in a while the reputation of our office would trigger Paul. He would storm into the office with an angry look and say he was implementing a new management style. He would send us in to file keys. That would last a day or so. Sometimes this would get to him and he would get angry and make us work.
Paulette came next in the hierarchy. She had a thick Boston accent and a really loud voice. I remember laughing at her a lot. She would sometimes become sensitive about that. My friend Rod and I went to this bar called the Dugout with her and her friends sometimes. One time I interviewed her roommate about her menstrual cycle for a psychology of women paper.
Jason and Ron were two people that made the office unbearable sometimes. Jason was this muscular, athletic tough guy. Ron was this sycophantic, closeted homosexual who idolized him. They would bust everyone’s balls in the office but they would do it in a really vicious way. Everyone hated them but also feared being on their radar. I remember talking back to Jason (just like that bully, neighbor family I mentioned in a previous post). He got angry with me. He threatened to beat me up. I remember feeling a strong adrenaline rush. That doesn’t happen to me anymore. But now that I think about it happened quite a bit when I was threatened with violence as a kid. I remember being made fun of and my ears would become hot and turn bright red. That doesn’t happen to me anymore either but it also used to happen quite a bit. Working in the Office of Housing was the last time those things happened to me as far as I can recall.
There was Heather. I went to see a movie with her. I think her boyfriend did not like me going to the movie with her. Later Rod and I went to a party at her apartment. I brought some pot. We all smoked it and I passed out on the floor. When I woke up I found out that Rod had stolen the pot from my pocket while I was asleep and let Heather’s roommates (including her boyfriend) draw on my face with a magic marker. I felt humiliated and angry with Rod for letting that happen. Rod told me it was my fault. That was funny though.
The job was good and bad. Good because it gave me enough of an income to go out to the bars. It was not very difficult. The bad parts were the nastiness of some of the people working there and how judgmental they could be. Even though I was in college I could still be threatened with violence for sticking up for myself (albeit in a passive aggressive way). I could be robbed and humiliated and it was all in the name of goofing around. If I felt bad it was because I needed a thicker skin or so I thought.