Stormy Seas Again

images-1I thought it was only a matter of time before the relative calm in Rochelle’s life would end; I had been fairly certain it would be either her mother’s health or the breakdown of her car that would cause the stormy seas to break out again; it was the car.

“My safety sticker has expired and I can’t get a new one because my engine light is on,” Rochelle told me. Her engine light had been on for many months and her car had not been working well during this time. She had tried to have her sister’s ex-husband fix the problem; parts had been replaced but the problem had remained. Deshawn, the ex-brother-in-law, had run a computer check when the light had first come on. He manages a quick- oil- change location and has always offered to help. He has also, on occasion, put safety stickers on Rochelle’s cars even though the cars had safety problems. This time, however, Deshawn could not do this for her; people had recently been fired at his shop for doing exactly that; He didn’t want to lose his job.

“I have to get my sticker because Mama drives the car. If the police stop her because of no sticker, she’ll go to jail; she has outstanding warrants,” Rochelle reminded me. Her mother was on parole for welfare fraud and had stopped going to her parole officer long ago. She had also not paid back the money she had gained by this fraud as required by the court. It is somewhat common for people to procrastinate when getting new safety stickers, but Rochelle couldn’t take the risk.

Money, of course, is the real problem. Legitimate repair shops want $100 to run the computer check plus the repair cost, which had been estimated at between $200-$400. Last week Rochelle thought she had circumvented the problem and had paid a man $75 for what turned out to be a fake sticker. She knew it was illegal but thought it would be a real sticker. It wasn’t. Now she is trying to sell this sticker to her uncle.

Rochelle’s life is precarious at best. Currently she has a job and has been promoted twice, but keeping the job requires her children to be cared for and her car to be working. When something goes wrong with her mother or her car, Rochelle is in choppy waters again. A higher income could buy her childcare and car repairs. She is now earning more than she ever has, but it is still not enough. Children are very expensive Rochelle has discovered. She wasn’t able to learn that growing up in generational poverty.

Praise and a Raise

images-1“I’ve got good news this time,” said Rochelle when I answered the phone.  She usually calls me on Friday, when she gets her work schedule, to set up our interview time for the following week.  Her days off change, so the interview days sometimes change as well.  She sounded happy and bursting to tell me her good news.  “I got a raise, and I’ve only been working at the grocery store for a couple of months,” she told me.  She was very excited.

Rochelle has been working two jobs since she was hired part-time at the grocery store about three months ago.  Recently, however, she has been working full-time hours at the grocery store because the new store she was hired for finally had their grand opening.  Rochelle has been thinking of quitting at the home for the disabled, where she has worked for the past year.  She did give them a two week notice when she was hired by the grocery store, but she stayed on as a substitute employee.  The job at the home is very stressful and pays very little.  There is little professionalism shown by the management, and employee problems are seldom addressed.  “I”m not going back,”  she told me in this week’s interview, after describing some problems she had working there this week.  I suggested she not burn her bridges yet.

“I got rated an excellent on everything,” Rochelle said.  She was talking about the 90 day review her grocery store manager had just given her.  Many companies give their employees a review after 90 days in order to encourage positive performance and to show where some improvement can occur.  “Well, I do need to scan the merchandise a little faster, but everything else was rated excellent.  And she (the manager) asked me what my goals with the company were.  I told her I would like to move up.  I told her I had worked eight years at the department store, and though I had great reviews, there was no way to move up,” said Rochelle.  “I told her I didn’t want to be in that position again.”

“My manager said she liked me and liked my answers.  She told me she wanted me to do well and knew I could.  I was almost crying,”  Rochelle told me, and now she was crying on the phone.  “I was almost crying, and my manager’s eyes were glistening, and then she hugged me,” Rochelle continued.  It had been a long time since she had experienced such positive and supportive response in a job.  In fact she has rarely experienced it in any aspect of her life.  “Then my manager gave me a raise!!  I’ve only worked in my store for two weeks,” she said.  She was emotionally overwhelmed.  “I knew you would want to know,” she said.  I told her I was very proud of her.  “I’ll see you next Wednesday,” said Rochelle, “and I’ll bring the review with me so you can see it.”

Praise and a raise can do a lot for a person.  Rochelle was a very happy person when she phoned me, and she was glad she was working at her new job.  Compared to her old job, the pay is better, the atmosphere is better, and most of all, the prospects are better.  You don’t get rich as a supermarket cashier, but this store pays a living wage and treats its employees well.