Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Confession: Exhaust/Exhausted

I noticed the car across the parking lot as soon as I stepped out of the side door at work. It was parked in an odd spot in the empty funeral home across the way and packed full of people. It was near dusk, but I was still able to notice at least a couple people inside watching me as I walked to my car. It struck me as odd. It’s not something I would normally see at the end of a long day.

I sat for a few minutes waiting to see what they would do. I did work at a pharmacy, and that car full of people may have been waiting for the right time to break in and steal a few narcotics. Duragesic patches had been stolen that way before. Nothing happened, though, until I pulled away from the parking lot; the car followed. When I pulled into a Rite Aid a few blocks away, so did it.

I was a bit panicked.

I walked, quite obviously in a rush, into the store and browsed at everything and nothing for what seemed like an eternity. I was shaking, sweaty. My pulse raced faster, maybe, than my mind. The makeup aisles blurred together until I was sure the cashier must have thought I was on drugs. I surely must have looked paranoid because, in all honesty, I was freaking the fuck out.

I don’t know exactly how long I stayed in that store…probably much less time than it seemed. When I walked back to my car, the other car was still there. Waiting. By the time I made it to my car, a woman hurried in my direction calling my name.

I turned, heart in my throat, and she flashed a badge. She was with the Georgia Drugs and Dangerous Narcotics Agency. She wanted to talk about my boss. My boss. The guy who had, a couple weeks prior, hit a truck head-on and killed a man. My boss who had been breaking the rules left and right at the pharmacy where I worked for years to the point that I had actually considered called in an anonymous tip. My boss, the guy who had been on a downward spiral for years, who fell asleep standing up at work, who never made it in on time and some days not at all, who made everyone uncomfortable with his off-color jokes, and who couldn’t be counted on to make a schedule, address workplace problems, handle customer complaints, or even get paychecks done on time…. the guy who nearly let our electricity get turned off on countless occasions.

I paused, unsure of what to do or what to say. Eventually, I told her that I couldn’t afford to lose my job, that I couldn’t talk to her about the man who signed my paycheck. That’s when I noticed the huge, muscle-bound dude who had started walking up behind her. HE flashed a badge and identified himself as a FEDERAL DEA agent and told me, in no uncertain terms, that either I was going to talk to them about my boss or I was going to be in quite a bit of trouble myself.

That may have been a scare-tactic. Most likely it was. But, in that moment, I thought back on all the bullshit I had gone through at the place where I worked for the last 8 years…all the times I rescued situations, solved
At least I look good in a pharmacy smock
problems, went out of my way to help customers without any apreciation. I thought about all the times coworkers timed my bathroom breaks and made outlandish claims about what I did at work and at home while my boss laughed it off instead of telling them to mind their own business. I thought about all the stress and the hurt over the years and how it really wasn’t worth it. I thought about all the lewd comments, the lack of organization, the lack of true management, and I caved. I caved hard. I was just so fucking exhausted with all of it.

They took me to a small hotel in town where they were staying and questioned me in a conference room. There were two state agents, the federal agent, and several local drug enforcement officers that took turns assaulting me with questions for 4 hours. By the end, the tension wasn’t quite as palpable, and we were more often taking turns cracking jokes, but it was still undeniably intense. For 8 years, I had worked in this small
pharmacy. I had worked, in entirety, with or for my boss for nearly 11 years. I had worked with several of the other workers for years (though none of them were good years). It felt good to get things off my chest that I should have told someone a long time ago, but it also felt like a betrayal, and I knew with every answer that things would never be the same.

Apparently, a coworker that my boss had fired previously in the year had already gone to the authorities with these issues, but no one had really taken her seriously until the accident happened. At least, that’s the way it seemed. When a pharmacist is late for work and plows into oncoming traffic killing a man and seriously injuring a child, shit gets real, I guess. I answered their question and finally liberated myself of all the bullshit I had kept hidden even from the people I was closest to for years. When I was done, I took a trip to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face and collect myself, still shaking, still sweaty with thoughts and heart racing. By the time I returned, my boss had already been arrested leaving the pharmacy at nearly 10 at night with drugs on him. Oxycodone and Adderall.

The next day when I arrived at work, the place was crawling with officers. I was told I couldn’t work and that I would be needed to print reports for the agents. I was the only one out of the 5 employees present (including another pharmacist) who actually knew how to do that. I stayed there through more questioning and report printing for nearly 10 hours that day. The place was wrecked but not quite as much as my emotions. It had been a long 2 days by that point, and to be perfectly honest, it has been 8 months now, and the nightmare has yet to end.

My boss was charged with vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, driving while intoxicated (drugs), reckless driving, texting while driving, unlawful possession, trafficking, and several other things that I can’t even remember at this point. Needless to say, the business was closed after he didn’t make bond right away. I was out of a job and on unemployment. As of now, he has spent some time in rehab, but there has been no trial. I sit here completely unaware of what might actually happen with the case. I do know that he’s driving again, and I’ve heard he has a brand new truck. He’s even trying to get his pharmacist’s license back. It’s exhausting knowing that his rich parents were seemingly able to buy his way out of trouble. It’s another case of affluenza, I suppose.

While he is trying, rather successfully, to put his life back together, I have yet to be able to do that with mine. I live in a county where the unemployment rate is nearly 12%. I live close enough to other cities that I can commute, but those places are far more concerned with hiring locals rather than reaching out and hiring outside the area. That’s why their unemployment rates are so low. Tallahassee, the closest larger city for example, has an unemployment rate of 5.5%. If they’re hiring people like me from 30 miles across the Georgia-Florida border, their own rate suffers, right? That’s the way it seems anyway. The last time I had a local interview, 106 other people were out for the same job…most of us over-qualified. Being over-qualified for some positions costs me opportunities. Employers think I will quit as soon as I find something that pays better. And, given that I’m not quite finished with grad school, there are still plenty of jobs I don’t have enough experience for yet. I’m exhausting from trying so hard for nothing.

On December 28, Congress let federal unemployment expire for millions of people. 1.6 million to be more exact. I was one of those people. I apply for dozens of jobs every single week with nothing to show for it and deal with a Congress that cares more about politicking than taking care of Americans in need. I’m exhausted with checking news stories every day hoping with every fiber of my being that someone on Capitol Hill will finally be able to move forward with legislation to approve the extension. I’m exhausted from hoping that the idiots people have elected will actually pull their heads out of their asses. For that matter, I’m fucking exhausted from reading news stories about how clueless Congress members are when it comes to the issue of rape and women. How can I expect these asshats to care whether or not I get $275 a week to still drown in debt if they make statements that women should be raped if abortion is legal?????

I’m exhausted with the disparity in our system overall. Income, gender, sexual orientation, and race all hold people back in ways that are unbelievable—ways that are completely denied by the majority as we are forcefed the idea that the American Dream is a real possibility. I’m exhausted from the realization that it IS a possibility for White men who are born to middle class to wealthy families and exhausted from wishing it wasn’t that way.

Exhausted doesn’t even really begin to cover the lack of hope I feel in my own government, in this society, our culture, this country…it doesn’t cover the upsets of the last 8-9 months that have hit my family over and over again—things that are completely and totally out of my control. I don’t know how to express that my situation isn’t due to laziness or overreliance on the miserly stipend I was afforded on unemployment, but even if I could put it into proper words, no one is listening anyway, and perhaps that is what has me completely and utterly wiped the fuck out these days.

All I can do is pull up those imaginary boot straps I hear so fucking much about and keep on trudging through the days hoping that sometime soon I will be exhausted from earning a paycheck rather than from begging for an opportunity.


  1. Ugh. You did it again. Great piece!

    It's a disparaging thought that our society likes to dismiss people who need help or an opportunity as people who are asking for hand outs.

    Trudge on girl. I hope your dedication pays off soon for you.

    1. Thanks for reading. I read an article today even after I posted this where an author for a New York Times piece on a program that gives free books to qualifying parents had to comment on how awful people were about a person he interviewed for the piece in question. The photo used showed his interviewee reading to her son, but instead of seeing that as a caring mother who wants the best for her child, people commented on her weight and how she was just a welfare queen covered in tattoos (she had a couple small ones). It was awful. It's frightening how much people like to point fingers.

  2. I think your talking about one of my favorite journalists, Nicholas Kristof? I read the original article that you referenced above and his follow up article addressing all the negative comments he received. He aptly called it the compassion gap in our society.

    It's disgusting how people can dismiss their fellow human being by simple characteristics. It's asinine.

    We have to remember we belong to each other. That's the only way we'll truly affect change in an ambivalent world.

    (Sorry for the mini rant!)

    1. Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about! That follow-up article was so poignant. I couldn't believe how people even felt the need to point out her weight. What did that have to do with anything? There's a TEDtalk by Paul Piff about how wealthier people (even perceived wealth) cuts generosity. I think some of that could translate to the article. If people feel at all better off than the people in question, it's suddenly cool to point out perceived "failures."

      No apologies necessary. I could rant about this all day long.