Friday, June 27, 2014

The Clubhouse: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

After I graduated from College I settled comfortably into my 'unemployed phase'. Not wearing pants became a regular event. I moved in with my older sister in Jamaica Plain temporarily until I could move in with my other sister in Brookline. Our apartment was in a shady area. Not tree lined shady more like-- don't leave the house after 8PM or you'll get stabbed shady. I heard gunshots my first or second night there. I imagined myself cowering and crying in a corner like Tom Hanks when he moves into that hotel/apartment in NYC. Another night we were awoken to two guys shouting and looked out our window to see one of the guys beating the absolute shit out of the other. Welcome to the real world.

I was unemployed for about 3 months. I applied to just about any job that I could without any actual 'real job' experience. Evidently scooping ice cream for 7 years doesn't allow for a lot of skill building. Or does it? I'm pretty sure my ability to prevent myself from barfing when an adult orders a large cone of bubblegum ice cream is admirable.

Anyways. A normal day was.
1. Get up
2. Don't put on pants
3. Apply to 5 jobs (using the same cover letter)
4. eat a sandwich.
5. watch TV.

After 2 months of this routine I had heard nothing back and decided I better apply to one of those temp agencies. Doing this was essentially going to a job interview…..for no specific job. Was the interview to determine if I could do any job? Or was it to find out if I was a loose cannon? Who knows. I don't remember too much except for the fact that I found out I'm not as good at Microsoft Word as I thought (I mean honestly does anyone actually use the mailing features? Didn't think so) and also that if I had a choice, yes, I would maybe go on a date with my temp agent. I soon discovered that temp agencies were a bust. I almost got a job but then some weird last minute decision kept me out of the running. I blame my low Microsoft Word score.

Then one pantless day sometime in August I got a call from a woman about a job I had applied for. Her voice was semi-muffled so I missed the actual company. All I knew was---I applied somewhere and someone called me back. Progress. I listened '"intently" to the job description (AKA not intently at all because I was still too excited that someone had actually called) agreed when I was suppose to. Enthusiastic, polite all that jazz. One last thing she mentioned---the position would require me to work with adults suffering from a variety of different mental illnesses would I be comfortable with that?

I was still only half paying attention but decided it was best to say yes now, and think over the details later. She set me up with an in person interview at 'The Clubhouse". Thank God. I thought. The company's name that I can Google and figure out what the hell I applied for.

It wasn't until later when I was doing the actual Googling that I got an odd feeling that I had missed something critical. What was the last thing she had mentioned? It felt like I was signing off on a weird verbal contract. Something about…….adults? Who knows. Googling turned up nothing. Google Earth showed me a brick building without signage down a sparse side street in Brookline Village. Was this a scam? Who cares, I got a call back!

The day of my interview I came in still knowing nothing. I walked into the front door and was greeted by a nice woman at the front desk who had her purse on her lap and her legs stretched out. She was talking to an older gentleman in the chair next to her desk. I told her I was here for my interview and she got excited and said she'd let them know. I took a seat and took in my surroundings. It resembled a kind of empty school constructed in the 1980s. Old carpets on the floor. Long empty hallways. There was also a lingering smell of stale cigarette smoke and urine.

Suddenly a large black man came through the front door and sized me up.
  "You gonna be a member here?"
   "Oh… no…. I'm here for an interview"
   "An interview! Oh great. That's great I hope ya get it!"
   "Thank you!"
He walked away and was followed by an elderly black woman with no teeth who scowled at me and started mumbling about her lipstick and white women.

Finally the program manager came over and brought me to the interview. It went well. I was calm and collected on the inside. On the inside I was thinking holy shit what is this place?

 Kristi the program manager was friendly and inviting. She told me a little more about the actual Clubhouse and what it was. It was a day re-hab facility for adults with mental illnesses. They came here  as part of the work ordered day as part of their recovery. It got them out of the house, they got to participate in different programs and they got lunch for $2.00. Sounded neat.

I enthusiastically told Kristi about my research about Deinstitutionalization in College and that paper I wrote one time that I probably got a B on but who needs to know? I had an interest in learning about mental illness didn't I?

Finally Kristi asked me how I felt about driving a 15 passenger van to Cambridge once a week. I immediately flashed back to Christmas at my aunts the year before where I started crying when my sister tried to make me drive her back to Boston. Driving in stressful/new situations was not one of my best talents. But then again----I was close to getting a job…..death by 15 passenger van or job?

"I would feel totally fine with that" I said.

After the interview Kristi took me around on a tour and to meet some of the members. The lounge area was filled with members sleeping on couches and waiting for lunch to be served. Some members were busy at work helping in the kitchen. The Communications and Art unit was abuzz with activity. Members were working on the computer or working on art projects in the back. A woman sat at one of the tables reading food menus and taking down orders.

A tall guy with long curly hair walked up to us wearing giant headphones and holding a discman. He started talking to Kristi then asked what my name was.
"This is Andre" Kristi said
"WHAT?!" The man with the headphones shouted.
"Andre" I told him.
"Oh hullo Andres good to meet you. I want to show you something over here if you'd like to come and see.."
Kristi interrupted him and said I was just here for a tour and that maybe he could show me later.

At the end of our tour Kristi let me know that I'd be coming back for an interview with some of the staff and a few of the members. A round table interview if you will. My relief at almost getting a job trumped my worries and I happily agreed.

I called my sister on the walk home and told her that it seemed a little scary. I didn't know if I was brave enough or confident enough to do this. These people were in various states of mental illness--I wouldn't have a real office and would have to do my work in the Communications and Art unit where that tall guy with the big headphones would be 'showing me stuff". I don't know I told her….I just don't know.


At June 29, 2014 at 12:02 AM , Blogger CashBailey said...

I like these autobiographical pieces, Andre. I hope you write more.

I worked in a mental health ward for two years and it could get pretty intense. My method for dealing with the patients was to always be polite but keep my distance.

I didn't try and become everyone's buddy. Another guy who also worked there did, but he's the kind of person who always wants attention. From anyone.

And pants are over-rated, amiright?


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