Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a story.

By day, Christina usually finds herself working in an office about the size of your average bedroom with no windows. She types away at her laptop dutifully, answering emails, writing case notes and annual reports, and making sure the billing is turned in on time. She manages approximately 80 cases on some level, all related to helping each one find meaningful employment. Each of these persons receive assistance based on one general qualification: there is some sort of "disability" involved...although these people often deserve jobs better than some "regular" folk out there. And to help manage the cases, Christina has a dedicated and gifted team of people including a job developer, a coordinator and other managers of more specific departments. What motivates her is seeing people reach their goals. Even goals that seem small to one person out there can make a world of difference to another. When there is success, life is good.

Every December for the past three years, Christina finds herself having to step into a different more hands on. It is a fun challenge and gives her a chance to work directly with some of the persons she case manages. You see, every December, one of the areas within her department needs a little extra help. And it doesn't make sense to hire a person to come on board for only a month, so off goes Christina to the parcel service store!

As the packages come flooding in, each seeking to find its way just in time for Christmas, Christina is seen working behind the counter...processing, packing up those important gifts, and making sure all the information is right. She laughs as she sends boxes to streets called "None Such Place" and gets to put a smile on the customers' faces as they successfully get their shipments off in time. Her feet ache after the long days of standing, and her arms get a workout from lifting 40+ lb. boxes of wine! And even though working here at this parcel service takes away from the time she needs to spend in that little office doing the day-to-day office work, she welcomes the change, knowing that it only lasts a little while.

Every year, it's the same story. Christina comes along and lends a helping hand. She has help if she isn't sure what to do, but she does what she can and enjoys it! However, this year was different. Not only did she spend her usual month shipping packages, but during the last week, someone decided to leave her on her own to run the whole store! "Sure, no problem," she thought to herself in the weeks approaching this time. She would just pay extra attention and take diligent notes. It couldn't be that hard...right?

The night before the first of three days left her sleeping fitfully and dreaming that she showed up an hour late to a group of angry customers. Christina woke with anticipation of the responsibility she knew was coming her way, and got to the store about ten minutes early. While the dream did not come true, her start was not any less rocky. Several people came in right as the store opened, eager to get their items shipped off. And little did she know, but she did not have the right key to open two of the three main doors! With people confused and having to be redirected, Christina found herself quickly overwhelmed. Despite her promise to try not to call for help to the regular manager who was trying to have a vacation, she was left with no choice. One quick call and help was on its way...just in the man who would make her eye twitch for the next two days walked in the door.

His face crinkled with frustration, the man began to explain how he had sent a package for next day delivery only to have it sent back...a package that was costing him thousands of dollars. Christina understood his frustration, but didn't know what to do. It wasn't her fault or the store's. The people who delivered it messed up somewhere, and now the package was back where it started...miles from where it belonged. So much for next day guarantee. Not only that, but the man had to wait four days, thanks to the Christmas holiday weekend. He ranted and ranted, and she stood there bewildered, until he promised to come back in a short little while. You see, the store was still crowded and Christina was not able to give him the answer he wanted, so off he went. Her rescuer with the key came shortly after, and stayed long enough to help her with the angry man's problem. With everything settled, she sent him on his way, with hopes not to have to bother him again.

Grateful that she also had the help of a long time employee (also someone she case managed), the rest of the day went well, although it was steadily busy. Christina had hopes that the next day would go oh-so-smooth. She still did not sleep well, but at least had all of the right keys! A rainy, cold morning, she knew things would be slower. No one waited outside the door on the second day. She could take her time making sure everything was ready for the day. She sipped her coffee and chatted with her helpers for the day. Though it started slow, things picked up. And just as a rush of customers came in, wouldn't you know it? That man, the frustrated man, walked back in the store...only to share that once again, his package was not being delivered. His tone of voice a pitch higher and his level of anger building, Christina began to feel her shoulders tense as this man started talking. But she'd seen how to handle it the day before. She got on the phone and got the assurance that the package would indeed be delivered. She sent the man home with the promise of a call when things were confirmed. She felt confident that she had done the right thing and proud that she didn't need to call for help. 10 minutes later, the phone rang. Haha, the manager of the store, despite being on vacation, was checking his email and saw that the package was having trouble again. Of course, he was on the phone with the shipping company and was trying to fix the problem from home!!! Sigh. So much for handling things on her own! A few more phone calls, and her dealings with the frustrated man would be over.

That second day ended with trying to fit a box that was slightly too long into her car before heading home for the day. It was needed for a packing job. Christina looked forward to her final day of this immense responsibility...which fortunately went off without a hitch. It was slow overall and to make things even better, the register balanced to the penny! She was asked to permanently stay, and although it was fun for a while, she was ready to return to her office. So, this Monday, the laptop will be ready, the billing will be needed and the emails will flow again. This adventure over, she anticipates what the new year will bring.

The end.

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