Rochelle started her new job last week. “It ain’t easy,” she told me. “I am the worst cashier ever.” As with all new jobs, it takes practice to learn how to do things, and training time is never enough. She bagged groceries the first day and was put on the cash register for only an hour. “It’s hard. I forgot to smile and greet the customer; then the potatoes got weighed and priced twice; plus I forgot to circle how much they saved and I forgot one lady’s coupon. But the day went by real fast.” Mostly she is concerned she is not going to get enough hours even when the new store, the one she was hired for, actually opens. That store’s opening was pushed back a couple of weeks so she is now working as extra staff in one of their nearby stores. She was told she will work more hours when the new store opens in about a month. For now Rochelle is picking up a few hours a week at her old job. They have quite a few openings and need the help.
School is out for the summer, and Rochelle’s children are being cared for by her mother. Sometimes it is at their apartment and sometimes it is at their grandmother’s boyfriend’s house, which is thirty miles away. Rochelle’s mother has lived with her boyfriend for about twelve years. The younger children love it there since they can go outside and help in the garden. It is a more rural area. The eleven year old daughter finds it boring. They have done this for several summers and Rochelle says it has worked out in the past. The grandmother and her boyfriend are both somewhat disabled and are at home all day. They don’t have a car.
Last week there were no crises. Bills got paid, and Rochelle was even going to get something out of the pawn shop today. A church in a neighboring town had paid her past due electric bill and given her 3 boxes of food. They had also given her 3 fans. Rochelle has air conditioning, but her electric bills run too high, and she is trying to conserve. Electric rates are higher in the summer, and the cost of electricity has gone up as well. To make matters worse, the apartment house Rochelle lives in was constructed with the assumption the tenants would rely on air conditioning in the Texas heat. It is poorly insulated and has no provision for cross ventilation. Rochelle doesn’t want to be caught by surprise.
Rochelle isn’t comfortable in her new job yet and says she actually misses the people she cared for in her old job. Transitions are difficult for most people. Still, fingers are crossed and she hopes things will be better than they have been for the past year. Hopefully she will not get too frustrated while she adjusts to her new employment. She knows that, stressful as these early days are, the new job offers a much better future than the old one, with better pay, the promise of raises, and benefits that were never part of the old job. The elements of Rochelle’s life are still precariously balanced: her mother’s health could fail; her car could break down; her hours at either one of her jobs could be fewer than she expects. Still, it has been a while since Rochelle has had a nice, crisis free week such as the past one.