Monday, February 06, 2006

Life's Not Fair

I think that was one of my Mom's favorite sayings, and still is.

"But Moooooooom, everyone else in 7th grade is wearing make-up!" my 12 year old self said to her. "Life's not fair, now is it?" was her response.

"But Mooooooom, everyone else is staying in a hotel after the Poison concert in Wisconsin!" my 16 year old self said to her. "Life's not fair, get used to it," she said.

The dreaded "Life's Not Fair" speech always signaled End of Conversation. She was not going to explain it to you anymore. She was not going to humor you. She was not going to compromise with you. Done. Game over. You lose.

I've learned over my 35 years on this Earth that sometimes Life's Not Fair really sucks. Sometimes Life's Not Fair kicks you in the ass, and sometimes it benefits you.

One of the times I reaped the rewards of Life's Not Fair still bothers me. I was promptly reminded about it until the other day, when I saw my Life's Not Fair moment again for the first time in a long time.

She works with me, and is a bonafide Hard Worker. We'll just call her HW for short, k? Anyway, about seven years ago HW and I were up for the same job at work. She was about 10 years older then me and had way more seniority.

HW also had it rough in the life department. She had signed on to the whole marry Prince Charming at 18 and live happily ever after and in return got a Prince that was drunk all the time and didn't like to work. Even though he didn't really ever have a job once she started making real money she still had to hire a babysitter to watch their kids, because he was just to busy "looking" for a job to take care of them while she was at work.

He's a real winner, let me tell you. All these life stresses + the years of hard work on an assembly line really took their toll on her. I'd guess she was about 38 at the time, but she could have passed for my Grandmother. With thinning, mousy brown hair with streaks of grey and the body of someone who took care of everyone else but herself, she epitomized the phrase "Let herself go".

She was also very respected at work. HW worked her ass off. She did whatever she was told, and did it well. When I first started working there I remember wanting to have that kind of respect, as not many women there commanded that.

The job we were both up for was a real treat. You would get to go away for two months, off the line. It was working with prototypes, and people that got this job usually didn't return to the line.

Even then I knew a lot of women wouldn't be chosen. Work was still a big old boy's club back then, but I knew that they'd have to take at least one. There were 8 positions available, and I signed up even though I didn't think I had a chance in hell of getting it.

It came down to about 18 of us, and we had to interview for the position. HW and I were the only females on the list. We also were about neck and neck when in came to how many jobs we could do, and how much of the car we could build.

During lunch one of my co-workers told me I better start packing my bags. "Yeah, right," I told him. "She's got me on seniority. I'll never get it."

"Are you really that naive?" he asked me. "Come on kiddo, you got a great beat and can dance to it. If you were a nearing middle-aged man, who would you want to live next to in a hotel for 2 months?"

I guess that would be me because I got the job. How they pulled that one off in a unionized environment is still a mystery to me. I think they explained it as I had more education since I had graduated from college.

Now yes, education is important, but it didn't really seem to be a factor when it came to the other candidates. I knew some of the men around my age that applied and had college degrees and it didn't knock their opponents out of the competition.

It became very clear once the jobs were posted that several of the powers that be had underlying intentions with their selections. Many a middle-aged man came up to me at work to inform me that they had put their neck out for me. THEY had gotten me that job.

I'm sure they didn't like it when I didn't show them what they probably considered the proper form of gratitude. I guess sometimes Life's Not Fair, eh?

So I got off the line and never went back. Yes, I did go back to school and got another degree that got me my current job. Yes, I did work my ass off and had a great work history behind me.

But if I had never gotten that first break.....I don't know. It enabled me to show the powers that be that I really had a brain and that maybe I was more useful in other capacities then just hard labor.

HW never complained, even though it was blatantly unfair. I would have pitched a fit if I was her in that situation. You would have heard my screams all the way up to the head of the union if necessary.

But she never said a word. I think sometimes when people have had so many "Life's Not Fair" dealt to them that "Life's Not Fair" is just expected.

I really did feel bad when I first found out. I suppose I could have turned it down, but quite frankly I am just not that big of a person. The toll that kind of hard work takes on you had me looking out for #1, and if that makes me a bad person so be it. I don't know many humans on the face of the Earth that would have said, "You know what, I think I just got this because I'm a blonde with long legs. I think I'll just pass and continue to work my ass off until I'm a crippled old woman that has to pop Vicadin just to function."

So obviously even though I am not that big of a person this little episode in my life still causes twinges of guilt. HW recently signed up for an easier job on the afternoon shift and got it. I ran into her the other day at work, and it just brought it all back again.

I suppose it signals better times for women, considering she got it instead of some boss's girlfriend or some hot young thing that a boss was trying to make their girlfriend. HW has always been nice to me, and when I got the job she even congratulated me and said I deserved it.

So where am I going with all of this? I really wonder if Life is truly Not Fair. She could have complained. She could have raised 7 kinds of hell and probably got the job.

But she didn't.

Because she was used to Life's Not Fair.

I'm sorry Mom, but even though you are everything I ever hope to be in this world I am never buying into Life's Not Fair, and I never have.

Back in the day I just put my make-up on when I got to school, and that sleep over my friend had when I was 16? I was really partying it up in a hotel in Wisconsin after the Poison concert.

No comments: