So, after the often blogged about events of early 2003, during which I had briefly been employed at this workshop, the boss was understandably reticent about rehiring me. And quite frankly I wanted to avoid returning to that place at all costs, if at all possible.
Attempts To Enter The Real Working World
On my own for the first time in July of 03, I worked closely with a job placement specialist in an attempt to get on at another company. One of the first things we did was to attend a job fair at Concord Mills, our local large outlet mall. She walked over to a table where a truck driving school was represented. "Excuse me sir," she said: "can you tell us how he might get started driving trucks?" Of course the guy nearly fainted, because he knew that he might well get in trouble for discrimination if he refused to pass me any information, and yet he was no doubt thinking that it was preposterous for a blind man to consider such a career path. "It's ok," she finally told him. "I'm joking." "Ah yeah, yeah, I knew that" he stammered, the relief clear in his voice.
Unfortunately, we did eventually encounter some very real discrimination on my next outing. I was applying to work at some kind of small business doing data entry type work. As we pulled up to the gate where I was to go and meet the company rep, my job placement specialist punched in the number on her cell. She immediately put it on speaker phone, so that I might hear whatever the result was.
"Uh hi, we're rolling up now." "Well don't bother," I heard the lady reply. "He won't be able to do this, as he can't see the screen." "But there is software that can be loaded onto the computer that will read the screen to..." "You said he was blind, right?" "Yes, but..." "Well I'm sorry, he can't come here." Next thing we heard was a "click". Brutal. I know I could've and should've chosen to pursue that further, but at that time of my life I wasn't mature enough to handle such a fight.
I finally did get a real chance at employment with Wachovia. They had me come over to their main financial center in downtown Charlotte and take some personality assessment tests. These also included elements that would gauge how much experience I had working in a call center. I knew as soon as I began the exams that I had no chance of passing them. I was simply unprepared. So I just bumbled my way through and left with hanging head.
Back To Reality
At this point, I accepted that I would need to try and return to the workshop, if for no other reason than to have more leeway when paying bills each month. So I baid my placement specialist adieu and struck out to reclaim what I'd lost.
I picked up an application, and the boss told me that mid September day that he'd let me know when there were openings. This job doesn't really require you to qualify or pass any interviews, simply submit the paperwork and if they have a spot, you're in.
Two months went by, and I'd finally decided I'd had enough waiting for that elusive phone call. So, I made arrangements to have Special Transportation Service, the paratransit arm of CATS, Charlotte's public transportation system, take me back over to the shop.
"Yeah, I'm here to check the status of my application," I told the individual who walked me inside. "We told you we'd get back to you when we have openings! Now why don't you just get back on that bus and head on home!" "Because I'm trying to get a job!" I thought but didn't say.
In order to be rehired, I had to rely on the mobility instructor for the Division of Services for the Blind speaking with the boss and assuring him that I would have adequate transportation to and from the plant, and that I was no longer an immediate flight risk because I was living in a much more settled environment. This after yet another false start in December during which they'd called me and told me I'd be back on starting in January of 04, but I didn't hear from anyone again.
I finally got the call that everything had been cleared up in mid March, and I was to start on the 29th of that month. I was elated, of course, but also a little crestfallen as I knew that this meant the end of my search for that great job.
And as I near the five-year mark in this place, I become even more determined to find my way back out into the light. It looks like the best, if only, chance I have at that is to enter to graduate school and return to my background, which is Psychology. Specifically, I'm looking to obtain my MS in Rehabilitation Counseling, which would allow me to work with others who have disabilities, largely to help them avoid the circus that I've been through over the last portion of my life. Obviously, we've still got a ways to come before the majority of us are able to gain employment equal to that of the rest of the population, and I'm hoping to be a part of that victory.