We’re back in 1984. Lorna is sober but Chuck is suspicious. How will she fix this new credibility problem of hers?
Unemployment wasn’t helping my situation. I had way too much time on my hands for Chuck to worry about my relapse into soap operas, drinking, and lying. He finangled a clerical job for me at the Savings & Loan he worked for then. I didn’t work in his department, which was good. The work was mind-numbing, which was also good. It motivated me to find a job better-suited to my talents, one requiring my remaining well-functioning brain cells.
I got a job as a Research Assistant for an organization collecting and analyzing government data, working for a man who embodied “The Peter Principle”–a person will rise to the level of his/her incompetency in a bureaucracy and stay there. Ironically, his name was Peter. He began as a research assistant and was promoted to Project Director. He topped-out because he was a horrible manager. Although I didn’t know it when I was hired, Peter went through assistants like bad-guys go through police blockades in action flicks, with about as much drama and collateral damage.
It was while working for Peter, a wisp of a man with glasses bigger than his face, that I came up with a book title I still may do something with someday: “Little Men, Big Problems.” Like small dogs and Napoleon Bonaparte, Peter was probably insecure about the very little space he occupied in the world; so he compensated for it by using his position to push his one underling (me) around. He made me fetch his lunch and coffee. When data requests came in, he withheld key pieces of information from me so that I would fail to produce what the “client” wanted. I would overhear him tell the “client” that his assistant still needed his mentoring and he would personally make sure the report was done properly. Peter would also call at random times of day if he was on vacation, just to see if I was at my desk. The topper, however, was when I wrote a paper based on data I analyzed and he presented it as his work at a conference. My name wasn’t even a footnote.
When I had
endured the torture worked there for one year, he deigned me with a promotion to Research Associate. I was now earning over $35,000. With Chuck’s income, this meant we could afford a home and leave that basement apartment. Looking for a home brought us closer together. We had a common goal. Getting a promotion at work, I think, gave Chuck faith in my sobriety. Healing between us felt real and good.
We found a condo near Silver Spring, MD that we could barely afford. We bought it. Two months after we moved in, I quit my job.
Chuck knew I was
going bonkers very unhappy at work. I wanted to get a Ph.D. and had already made inquiries at George Washington University (GWU). They gave me a full scholarship and a teaching assistantship. I also landed a part-time job as a Research Assistant for a physician at GW’s Hospital. The money was nowhere near $35K, but my dignity was worth a cut in pay. We both agreed on that.
Chuck worried about finances, but that was nothing new. He worried about all the pressure I would be under and insisted I keep up with my weekly AA meetings. Understandable. Chuck was proud of my determination, even if my timing
sucked wasn’t ideal. He seemed to trust that I had control over my alcoholism. At least he was watching me less for “signs.”
During my first semester at GWU, however, I got the surprise of a lifetime.
What now? And just when it seems Lorna’s journey is a bit less bumpy…