I said in a comment yesterday that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. That’s not technically true. I want to be retired. That’s easy. I was asked if I had ever taken a career aptitude test, so I just took one. These are the jobs I was matched with at last 4 stars with some thoughts on each.
There was a line in Grey’s Anatomy this week that prompted this post. I can’t recall exactly how it was phrased but the character says he “doesn’t want to live with a ghost — who he might have been if he had been brave enough to try.” That line struck a chord with me because I feel like that describes me in some way.
When I went away to college I went in thinking I wanted to be a teacher. I started on that track from the beginning of my college career and only once did I consider anything else. I took a journalism class with the thought of possibly changing my major. I liked the class, but I took the easy path of sticking with my major I chose as a high school kid. I muddled through my education classes and then, when I actually went to the classroom, I realized I hated teaching. My advisor saw that and advised that I change my major. I was working at the university library at the time and enjoyed it. It seemed the easy thing to do was to follow my advisor’s advice and work toward an MLS. I changed my major to communications and worked toward a BS for the sole purpose of going to graduate school for the MLS. I really enjoyed my communications classes. I mostly took classes in small group and mass communications. I especially liked my mass communication classes. I should have considered moving forward in that field, but, once again, I had tunnel vision and went straight on to the MLS program after graduation. While getting my master’s, I worked at a market research firm. I was very good at my job. I didn’t, however, consider that as a career either. I stayed focused on the library thing and when we moved to Maryland I applied for multiple library jobs. Now, here I am 23 years later working in a library in Maryland.
I don’t hate being a librarian. I like my job and I’m at the very least adequate at doing said job(most of the time) but I think a lot of my dissatisfaction over the years has been the side effect of living with that ghost. The ghost of Alan who didn’t go in to college with an open mind. The ghost of Alan who didn’t at least take a 2nd journalism class. The ghost of Alan who didn’t consider a career in communications. The ghost of Alan who didn’t look in to market research careers in Maryland. The ghost of Alan who would never attempt to write more than a mediocre blog post. The ghost of Alan who has always done what is easy and safe.
I like my life. I just feel like I missed out on some opportunities by playing it safe. Learn a lesson from me. Don’t spend your life living with a ghost.
Only the second day of the month and I already have no clue where I’m going with the posts this month. I blame everyone who read yesterday’s post and didn’t give me a suggestion or ask a question. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!
I am one of the lucky people who got an email from Panera that I have a free bagel every day this month, so I stopped on the way to work and sat for a little bit, eating the free bagel, drinking coffee and reading a book. Every time I do this – or sit there for a while on my day off – I think about how nice it would be to be the people who are there with their laptops, working and drinking coffee. I want a job that allows me to work from Panera while drinking coffee. Why won’t someone pay me to drink coffee at Panera while writing mediocre blog posts? Why won’t someone pay me to read books and watch TV? I want answers!
I’m also jealous of the retirees who gather every Friday at Panera. If I can’t have the above job, I want to retire early and go to Panera and have coffee mid-morning if I feel like it. Why can’t I retire early? It’s not fair!
So, basically, going to Panera makes me sad about the fact that I have a job and it is one that requires me to leave the house. Maybe I should stop going.
We have now reached the point in the story where I have started working at the place where I would spend my next 19 years. The stories from here will not necessarily be in chronological order. This is mainly due to the fact that I am old and forgetful and won’t remember when a lot of them took place. Some posts might be a collection of stories from various time periods. I really won’t know until I decide to write them. This post is just some general information about the facility to give you a picture.
The county jail has a variety of inmates. There are people who are sentenced to a short amount of time for less serious charges. There are people who are awaiting trial for various charges. There are both male and female inmates. There are wok release inmates. There are ICE detainees(this was not the case when I started the job). Basically, you can have inmates with charges as small as petty theft all the way up to first degree murder.
You enter the jail through a lobby with an enclosed officer’s station. To enter the secure part of the facility, you go through two secured doors to another officer’s post and a metal detector. They will check you for contraband and then you are free to move about the facility. I won’t go into detail about the inside of the facility. I don’t want any of you to use the information to try to facilitate a prison break. I will just say that it is a very secure facility. I would go through several locked doors, controlled centrally, to get to the library. The library was on the same hallway as several of the housing units. For most of my time there my next door neighbor was the women’s housing unit. They were very loud. Each day was set aside for specific units to visit the library. Some days I had more of the lower level crime/sentenced inmates visit the library. Some days I had the pre-trial/serious crime types visit the library. Many times the petty criminals were more annoying than the ones facing serious charges.
I will try to tell some of the more interesting stories from my time there, but I have to confess that many days were boring and uneventful. When you work in jail, boring and uneventful is what you want.
While my job at the state prison system provided a few interesting stories, there were two good reasons I needed a new job: my boss was a horrible person and the state job was contractual and provided no benefits. After being rejected when I applied for the job I was already doing, I knew that I had no future with the organization. After working in the office with the person in charge of the organization, I knew I didn’t want a future there. So, it was time to seek parole and/or escape from prison.
I once again hit the job trail. I started actively seeking new employment. My horrible boss was very angry when she found out and called me in to an office to yell at me for looking for a new job without telling her. Apparently, I was being unfair to her by trying to escape the misery of working for her. This just made me look harder for a new job. I sent out a multitude of resumes. I got three interviews.
Interview 1: The memory of this one is very hazy. I think it was the American Psychology Association, but I could be wrong. I can say for sure that it was at a professional association in DC. It was a decent interview where they walked me around and introduced me to people in the office as part of the process. I remember it feeling like it was a place I would fit. They must have felt the same way. I did not get an offer.
Interview 2: My second interview was at a private school north of Baltimore. It was a beautiful campus. It was a very good interview. I really felt like this was the place I would land. When I received the call from them, however, I discovered it would not be the place for me. I had applied to be the assistant librarian and the school felt that I would not be happy as the assistant and would leave the job quickly. I tried to convince them that this was not the case. They didn’t believe me. I wanted to point out that the librarian was old and that I could wait her out, but I felt that was a mistake. I did not get an offer.
Interview 3: My third interview was with a public library system. The position was for the local detention center. It was also the library system that had returned my unsolicited resume back to me stamped rejected. It was not a good sign. At the interview, while shaking hands, I noticed one person had the list of interviewees face up in front of them. I quickly took a sneak peek while shaking their hand and discovered I was competing with someone else from the state prison system. I seemed doomed to fail. The interview went well and I received a call from the library asking me to come to a second interview with the administration from the jail. This one did not go as well. I was 26 years old and looked much younger and am not exactly an imposing figure. The security supervisor at the jail was furious that they had chosen me and said I wouldn’t last. He was not shy about saying that with me in the room. He was completely against me being hired. The rest of the room was not quite as hostile, but they were not friendly. I was sure that I was headed back out on the job hunt again. Instead, as we walked to our cars, the library people told me that it didn’t matter what the jail thought I was their choice and the job was mine if I wanted it. I was so desperate to get out of my current position that I readily agreed to go work at a place where the people in charge clearly did not want me. Spoiler alert: I outlasted every person in the room who said I wouldn’t last.
I was heading back to jail. I felt comfortable doing this because I was not intimidated my jail and also because I thought for sure I could work my way up and out of the jail before too long. I was so young and stupid.
I was only with the state for about a year, so there aren’t a lot of interesting stories to tell. I think the one from the last post was the most interesting day I had at work. So, the entire year will be completed in this post.
Most of my time with the state was spent in an office working on a computer. Nothing much exciting ever happened in the office. We had the occasional collect call from a prison with an inmate trying to contact us. There was the time my boss was given a brand new computer even though she never actually used her computer so the IT guy switched it with mine one day while she was out of the office. She never noticed. There was the time I was called down to the front desk because I had certified mail and had to sign for it. It turned out to be Penthouse magazine. This happened for several months until I figured out why. It was soon after the state banned adult magazines from the prison libraries. One librarian kept getting them in the mail so she sent them to us so she wouldn’t get in trouble. Most of what I remember from the office is that the boss was the worst boss I’ve ever had and being in prison was preferable to being in the office with her.
I got the chance to do be in prison more when the librarian at the women’s prison left. I spent a couple of months working as the substitute librarian. There aren’t a lot of exciting stories from my time there. I do remember one early morning when I signed in and headed over to the building where the library was located only to find it locked. I had arrived before the day shift roll call was done and the education building was not yet open. I considered waiting at the door until this officers arrived and then realized I was lurking around prison grounds in the dark and the officers in the towers had guns. I changed my mind and walked over to the roll call room to wait for the officers there. I had a library worker go on maternity leave. It was not something I expected to happen while working in prison. It was relatively uneventful. It was a good job. It was an easy commute. It was a 7-3 schedule. The inmates didn’t cause me much trouble. I had a private restroom. I applied to be the full time librarian but did not get the job, most likely because my boss was an asshole.
I went back to the office and back in front of a computer. I took over the LASI program when the LASI coordinator went out on medical leave. This meant I supervised law students who used LEXIS to send requested legal cases to the inmates on request. This program was eventually moved to a building back at the penitentiary compound from the last post. This meant I spent some days working out of the compound. One perk if working at the prisons was that the library staff had reserved parking spots. This was never an issue at any other prison, but it became an issue here. There was a lot of construction at the compound at this time so parking was scarce. It was not uncommon for someone to be parked in my spot if I arrived at the compound later in the day. One day I guess I was in a bad mood(shocking, I know) and had had it with people taking my spot so I pulled in behind them, parked and started to head in to work. An officer ran over to confront me about this. Due to the construction, the compound was guarded on the ground by armed correctional officers. This guy was one with a gun. He ordered me to move my car. I refused. He ordered me to move the car again. I pointed to the sign that said reserved for librarian and told him that I was the librarian and that I would be happy to move my car to let the car parked illegally to vacate my spot. I honestly can’t remember who won that fight, In my mind I did, but I think that is a false memory. I’m pretty sure that the guy with the gun probably won, but let’s pretend I did.
Eventually, the stress of working for a horrible person, the fact that it was a contract position with no benefits and that fact that she had rejected me when I applied to be a real employee added up to me deciding my time in prison was over. My boss did manage to be an asshole one more time by pulling me into a conference room to yell at me when she heard I was looking for a new job. Fun times.
Up next: I apply for parole.
My actual job with the state was not located inside a prison. I was in an office in the Department of Education building in downtown Baltimore. My office was right down the hall from the Secretary of Education. This was not fun because it meant that I had to dress much nicer than needed to look good for the important people wandering around. I can’t really remember my first actual day on the job, but I do remember the first day they sent me off to prison.
At this time, the Maryland Penitentiary was still a maximum security state prison and the location of the Maryland death chamber. At arrival, I was greeted by an officer in a small guard tower and was told to put my ID in a bucket(or something similar. My memory is fuzzy) and a pulley system was used to raise it up to the officer. The officer was very irritated when he saw my license had my first name listed as a different name than what he was given. He finally allowed me in after I explained that if he looked at the middle name, he would see the other name. Once in I was given a wristband. It was explained that this wristband was my ticket out of the prison. I was to make sure not to lose the wristband because it was the one thin assuring I would be allowed to leave the prison. This was not a pleasant way to begin.
After this I then made my way to the library. The way to the library was via the recreation yard. It was not an empty recreation yard. It was a recreation yard being fully used my many maximum security inmates. If you had told me just a few months before that I would be walking through a maximum security prison’s recreation yard soon I would never have believed you. I just wasn’t that guy. I was short, quiet and looked like I was just out of my teens. This is not a place I should be. I made it through the yard, went to the library and met an inmate who either was still in death row or had just has his sentence commuted to life without parole. That was a nice topper to the experience.
In reality, the day was not that exciting. It seemed a little scary at the time, but it really was just another library visit. I didn’t run screaming from the building. I didn’t quit my job. I went back to work the next day and somehow in a short few months would be the guy arguing about a parking space while a correctional officer pointed a gun at me.