Reading the Classifieds

I trained elsewhere, besides healthcare.

I was briefly a vacuum cleaner salesman. Perhaps I should say that I was briefly a vacuum cleaner demonstrator–I didn’t sell any of the two thousand dollar monstrosities.

I don’t remember what they were called, but people always asked if they were Rainbow. They were not. We were supposed to say that ours were better. I didn’t care; I wasn’t familiar with Rainbow vacuums.

How did I find this marvelous job, you may ask. Well, boys and girls, listen closely, and you may very well learn something.


Once upon a time, there were things called newspapers. They were made of paper and ink, and they were delivered every day. When you touched them too much, the ink would rub off and turn your fingers black. Kind of like when you eat a whole bag of Cheetos while binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. See kids, history has parallels today!

Anyway, in the newspaper was a section called classifieds. when you needed a job, you would get a copy of the newspaper and sit down with it at your dining room table, highlighter and pen in hand.

If you didn’t have a table, you unfolded the paper on top of your steering wheel because obviously you lived in your car, but that’s another story.

You’d peruse the job listings, which were kind of like Craigslist, only briefer, because anyone placing an ad had to pay per word. The highlighter was for circling the jobs you were interested in, and a pen was for crossing out the jobs you had absolutely no chance of landing.

Once all the winners were picked, you’d grab the phone and start calling. The most mysterious ads, the ones that said something like 20 people needed right away! Earn up to $1,000/week! were mostly a waste of time. Anything that precedes your compensation with up to meant commission, usually on overpriced ripoffs that were next to impossible to sell.

I called the number listed on a mystery ad three times.

The first time I was given an appointment time for a presentation. When I showed up, there were probably thirty of us seated in what appeared to bed a hastily-rented office space–pay attention, that’s a trend.

We sat in folding chairs and watched a twenty minute video featuring smiling beautiful people who shouted the joys of a flexible schedule and making as much money as you wanted.

After the video, the–hm, facilitator? yes.–facilitator announced that we would now interview in groups of three.

I was in the first group of suckers–I mean applicants–to be interviewed. It wasn’t really an interview; it was more of a live re-enactment of the video.

Do you like to make money? The other two girls nodded eagerly.

Do you want to set your own hours? Oh, yes!

Do you want to be your own boss? Again the nodding, accompanied by a chorus of yeses.

Through all this, I sat quietly. When he singled me out to ask what I thought about the job, I replied that I didn’t have enough information to form an opinion either way. He seemed taken aback, but apparently that was the right answer, because I got a call back the next day. I turned down the job offer because he still wouldn’t give me any useful information about the position.

The second mystery ad I answered led to the vacuum sales job. When I showed up for that interview, I considered simply walking away, although only for a split second. I had moved back home, and I needed a job to get my mother off my back.

The stained, ratty carpet and missing ceiling tiles were immediately reminiscent of that time I watched the video of beautiful people beat around the bush. I stayed anyway.

It turned out to be not so much of an interview as a meeting to tell me when my training would take place. By being one of two responders to the ad, I’d already gotten the job. I agreed to return at the set date and time.

When I did, I was given a lovely prepared sales spiel to memorize, and then I was shown the demonstration that I would be performing.

Too bad it wasn’t a steam cleaner. That carpet was disgusting in there.

I practiced the demonstration until my performance was approved, then went home with my demo unit. I did demos for my family and my mom’s office nurse, but fortunately, the hospital’s CEO canceled  her demo, because by then I’d had my fill of vacuuming for fun, without the profit.

A few years later I was looking for a second job to supplement my income, and I answered my third mystery ad. I just couldn’t help myself, I guess.

This one turned out to be telemarketing, but the office was just as unkempt as the other two I’d visited. I got the job, was given a script, and set free at my desk to sell magazine subscriptions.

This operation was so shady and cheap, we didn’t even have headsets. We didn’t even have to little piece you stick on a handset to rest the phone more comfortably between your shoulder and your ear.

We also did not have computers. Take a moment to digest that. Take all the time you need.

At least we had touchtone phones.

What else we had was a paper list of phone numbers, and a bell. When you got a sale, you rang the bell. First sale of the day and most sales of the day got you a bonus: a shiny new half dollar.


I am dead serious about this bonus system.

Oh, did I mention that we didn’t call people at home? We called them at work to sell them magazines to get at home.

I worked there four whole days and sold one subscription.

But I did learn why I got the job. It was my phone etiquette. Anyone who called who said anything other than hello, I’m calling about the ad in the paper was told that the position had been filled.

I would have loved that job. She did nothing but set up interviews and turn people down. She didn’t even do that interviews–only scheduled them for the manager.

Times have changed, but I guess not all that much. I found my current job through Facebook, and my husband’s came from Craigslist, as did the other job that I recently left after five years.

Blood Training

Ah, yes, more training days. I’ve got a million of ’em, folks!

Shortly after I moved back here to be with my sweetie, I got a job at the blood center as a mobile phlebotomist. My future mother-in-law was the trainer, and when I was hired, we were a class of two, plus her.

It was such a coincidence that my co-worker and I ended up in training together. We’d both been patient registration clerks in the ER. And her (now former) brother-in-law was my best friend’s ex-husband. And we both struggled with infertility. We’d even gone to high school together. We just hadn’t met before. Blood-Donation.jpg

To get the job, you didn’t need any special certifications or training, because the training program there was all-inclusive. We were told over and over that after a year there, you could get a job as a phlebotomist anywhere. A lot of people did just that, but I would have liked to stay, had the politics been a little more bearable.

Before we even got to the sticking part, we had to learn about screening to donors. When I was there, ten years ago, we had 48 questions on the questionnaire; I don’t know how many they have now. It was a constantly changing process for some of the questions, though, depending on where malaria was reported, or mad cow disease.

And we stuck fingers and learned to read a hematocrit. Took blood pressures, took temperatures. Learned the limits of those stats for approval for blood donation.

Then we stuck the fake arm and the fake slab of flesh. They were both so old and used and abused, full of holes. You couldn’t actually fill the slab thing with liquid anymore, but sticking a piece of rubber isn’t remotely the same as sticking a real live arm anyway.

Finally, we were ready to do it for real.

For your first stick, you have to ask the donor if it’s okay with them. Ours both agreed, and we each got a whole unit on our first try. I got my vein, but she struggled a bit.

So, one down, forty-nine to go. Before you’re set free to stick as you please, you have to keep up with your little sheet of paper that has fifty spots to be initialed by experienced donor techs who watched you stick fifty times.

I got a little behind on this. I was about seventeen into my fifty when I fell on a blood drive and sprained my left wrist and elbow. I’m left-handed, so the sling and brace meant I didn’t have enough mobility in my dominant hand to stick. I was assigned to screening for a few weeks until I was freed from my brace.

Since donor blood is the safest blood, we weren’t required to wear gloves for sticking, but during screening, it’s mandatory. Have you ever tried to slip a nitrile glove over a wrist brace? It takes at least two people. Everyone was happy when I was all healed up and could get back to gloving myself and sticking donors.

I still had to wear gloves, because I was still less than fifty sticks in, but at least I could put them on myself. I had the hang of it way before fifty, but even two years later, I’d still get shorts now and then. You never know what’s going to happen.

I could still stick someone like a pro. What’s your name? Affix the barcode sticker from the bag on the donor sheet and test tubes, three red top and one purple top. Tourniquet on. Squeeze the ball. Find a vein. Are you allergic to iodine? Scrub for thirty seconds. Tear two strips of tape. Open gauze. Uncap the needle. Make a fist and hold it for me. Stick. Tape the needle down. Tape the tubing down. Cover the site with gauze. Loosen the tourniquet slightly. Relax your fist and squeeze the ball every now and then. Clamp off the sample bag and break the cannula in the line to the bag. Fill the tubes. Gently mix the blood and anticoagulant. Wait for the scale to tip. Clamp the line. Take the ball. Remove the tourniquet. Pull the tape. Hold gauze over the site. Slide the needle out of the vein until it clicks in the safety cover. Hold pressure here for me. Seal the tubing and drop the needle in the sharps container. Wrap the arm while giving post donation instructions. Point the way to snacks and tee shirts. Strip the tubing and mix with the unit three times. Wrap it up and drop it in the cooler.

Yep, I could still do it.

Have a good night and make your next meal a good one.

Hospital Training

Obviously, Ms. Rose had me in mind when she came up with this prompt: Training Day.

I’m actually in the midst of training for my census job as we speak. My laptop came in today, so I set it up and set all my passwords and did a few pre-classroom lessons. I have a few left, but I still have ten days to go, so no real rush.

But training–I have so many tales to tell. I’ve had plenty of jobs, especially when I was living with my parents in a small town with not much real job opportunity. And then second and third jobs when I got out on my own.

I’ve been trained, and I’ve trained my share of newbies.

I was thinking about a certain training session the other day, when we went to spring a friend from the hospital.

My first real job was as a patient registration clerk in the small town hospital next door to my mom’s office. I spent a few months in the business office side before transferring to the ER, which was so much more fun. I worked graveyards, twelve hour shifts, seven days on and seven days off, which was the absolute best schedule I’ve ever had. I lived with my parents so I didn’t have any bills, and the internet was still new and exciting, so I spent many of my seven offs traveling to meet mIRC friends or coming back here to visit my real life friends.

Since it was a small town, graveyards were both slower and more exciting than day shifts, and they were the training shift as well. I’m Facebook friends with two of the girls I trained; they’re both nurses now.

I remember one slow night, training one of them. The computer program we used was pretty simple, as they tend to be. I would sit and roleplay the patient as she registered me, over and over.

Name, date of birth, social security number, address. Insurance. Chief complaint. I’d whizzed through the pages so many times before I’d just gaze blankly at the television in the waiting room, chanting the enters and tabs and shifts.

If they still had the same system, I’m sure I could hop right in the rolly chair and register as if sixteen years hadn’t passed.

We had good times there. Sometimes we’d sit, watching the entrance, diagnosing people as they made it up the sidewalk and through the doors. Fell off his bike. Cut her hand on a broken glass washing dishes. Kidney stones. Vomiting and diarrhea.

It was those three years in the ER that had me immediately know what I was suffering from the first time I had kidney stones, when I was 22. And the radiological tests to diagnose it, and the pain medication to treat it. Too bad the doctor didn’t listen to me.

And then there were the not-so-fun times, like registering the two preteen girls who drank bleach in a suicide pact. Helping restrain a patient who needed her stomach pumped after an overdose. Ducking and dodging frantic nurses and EMTs to put an armband on a patient who was dying in spite of their efforts–identification is crucial for patients who don’t make it.

I know it’s crazy there right now. Pneumonia runs rampant through the elderly population this time of year. We used to get so backed up on charts in January that any and all downtime was spent sorting them out.

I do miss it. It was a fun job. And training the new people was so easy.