Continued from MaineLy Love: Out of the Fryin' Pan into Another
Chapter 4 Thomaston, ME
“My dark days made me strong. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it.”-Emery Lord, When We Collided
It had been a week since we left the Trade Winds Inn. The decor of Rockland had transformed from Halloween to Thanksgiving, and with the change in holidays came the change in temperature. It was normal to wake up with the Envoy's windows to be covered in frost. This was due to the moisture in our breath becoming airborne and freezing to the window due to the coldness of the outside air. Thin bedsheets did little to insulate the vehicle.
During this time, I would wake up in the middle of the night, just to make sure my Fiancé was covered and comfortable. I had found, through some mysterious miracle, that my fiancé would kick all the covers off of her lower half, and deposit them on the top half of our bodies.
During the warmer days of spring and summer, this would have been fine, but during the late fall and winter months this could have near perilous consequences. One morning, we had woken up, and during this process, I had spilled some ice water on Tricia's foot.
Tricia's response was to cry out in extreme pain, like I had harmed her in some way.
I asked her what was wrong.
She told me that the coffee I spilt had burned her foot.
Knowing that I had only spilled a bit of ice water, I looked at her appendage. To my shock, instead of the normal flesh tones that I had come to appreciate on my beautiful wife, I found her foot to be more pale and starting to turn blue.
I immediately covered her foot, and held it in my lap until she warmed up. It was moments like this that made me feel truly inadequate.
One of the hardest things to do when you are homeless is anything. We were clean, well kempt, and even had the compliment of being a "distinguished couple." Both Tricia and myself are well spoken and took eager advantage of the public libraries. Even though we had the benefit of our GMC Envoy, it only helped with transportation and a place to sleep at night.
During the day, thanks to the kindness and hospitality of the Thomaston Walmart parking lot, we would watch Netflix, browse around the internet, and have access to restroom facilities. We could purchase food, toiletries, almost anything we needed to survive. We could purchase those items at various sizes from Walmart. In fact, being Diabetic, Walmart's very affordable prices on Insulin and Glucometer Test Strips kept me out of the hospital. We even purchased an inverter to power both of our laptops from the vehicle's cigarette lighters.
Not being a person of inaction, I immediately looked for employment. Even though we were in a dire situation, I was optimistic that I could find gainful employment. I was from Seattle and had a work history that included Discount Used Computer Kompany, Source One Business Systems, Microsoft, and Sierra Online. I was competent in both hardware and software technologies with a familiarity with many Operating Systems, from MS-DOS, Window, OSX, and Slackware Linux. I honestly believed that I could find employment before our situation became too grave.
While biding our time, I worked on my resume. When I say resume, I do not mean just a 2 page brief concerning my qualifications. I also included a multimedia presentation that played the song "It's All About The Pentiums," by Weird Al Yankovic and had an incorporated motion theme from "The Matrix." When I was done with its production, I had the presentation burned on business card sized DVDs, with my name, trademark, and phone number printed on the top.
I began looking on Craigslist for any potential job openings. I felt it was important to walk my resume into them, personally. This gave me a direct sense of the workplace I was exploring. It also allowed me to take advantage of any unscheduled opportunities. It was not unheard of to walk into a place of business and walk out with work, just on a handshake.
I would also mail resumes to the Human Resource Department of various companies, regardless if I had already made contact "live" or not. I was sure that few could resist someone with my skillset at the inexpensive wages that I am applying for, and even if I was not successful with one contact, there was a chance that the mail was handled by someone else. Different departments have different hiring managers, and a Tech Support Department may turn you down, just for you to be scooped up by Quality Assurance.
Unfortunately, I had two things working against me, and it took several weeks to figure what those things were.
The first was my elaborate, most awesome, resume. It was clean, precise, and professional, for Seattle. In Maine, my resume said that I was radical, skilled, and expensive. I had made a resume that was the equivalent of a high-energy infomercial. To quote Pauline Chase:
"It's like your cooking. When I cook, it may be good, but it's normal. When you cook, it's gourmet."
My cover letter, resume, and references were printed on high quality linen stock, with a vinyl cover printed with my trademark, and professionally bound. On top of that, the multimedia presentation covered articles (which either I had written, or was written about me,) awards that I had received, and charitable work I had done, as well.
I wanted to let my future employers know that the value of hiring me involved more than just the interaction in the work environment, I would improve the reputation of the company I worked for.
Apparently, though my resume was impressive, it gave the distinct impression to the companies either "would not be able to afford me, or if they did hire me, they would run the risk of losing me to a higher paying position. " That quote was taken from an Automotive retailer I had applied to.
For a week or two, I had either "sent out" or "walked in" my resume. After doing that, I had repeatedly called the companies I had applied to no avail.
The other major problem I was running into was the fact that I did not have an address. It did not matter how impressed with me my potential employers were, you simply cannot find employment if you do not have an address.
There is an easy solution for this problem, or so I thought. I promptly went down to the Rockland Post Office and rented a Post Office Box at the 1 year rate. I paid for it up front, which prevented any worries about bills piling up.
Upon having an address, I reordered all my resumes, reburned all the DVD cards, and bolstered my confidence. We may have been homeless, and money was tight, but I had figured that the investment was worth the cost.
In my mind, dreams of impressing potential employers and getting a job that allowed me to provide for my family filled my head. I kept calling, kept submitting, to no avail.
As time passed, my expectations of a good job depreciated. I applied for any tech position that was available. I kept getting interviews. I made sure my suit was cleaned and pressed, but where are the offers? Why did it seem that I was unhirable?
Disillusioned, I began giving my resume to everyone, everywhere. I went to McDonald's, Shell, and even Taco Bell/KFC. Finally, Walmart called me up, and I went into an interview.
I was dressed to impress. I had my “Sean John Signature” Suit with my lucky purple tie. I made sure my teeth were white, and that I was clean shaven.
When I walked in, I could see that the interviewing manager was impressed. She relayed to me that she never had anyone ever interview in a suit with her before. We had a nice conversation about what I could offer Walmart, and we struck up a nice rapport.
Once again, confidence was high. Though this was not the ideal salary, in a field that I had minimal familiarity, I was ready to start working immediately to start building a home for my future family.
Contrary to popular belief, living homeless is much more expensive than actually having an apartment. Though I am very thankful for the size of my Envoy, it was not large to store the accumulation of possessions that had grown during my homeless state, resulting in me having to rent a storage room.
There was never enough room to store the necessities of life, conveniently. Clothing, coats, and toiletries took up valuable space. Even worse, we had no refrigeration units. We could only purchase food of limited size and high in preservatives. The SUV was getting full of necessities, and there was little room for the most important items, Tricia and myself.
The answer I sought was found across the street from the Walmart. I was doubly blessed to discover Shephard Brothers Self Storage (http://www.shepardstorage.com/ ). Not only did it give us a place to store clothes and other sundries, it gave us the ability to purchase spoilable foods due to the cold October temperatures. Suddenly, meat, eggs, milk, and vegetables became much more common in our diet, and I sure did appreciate it.
But I was ready to put an end to our homelessness. I was tired of the shame I felt, not being able to invite people over for tea. I was ashamed of the fact that I viewed myself as a quite capable male, but could not provide to the woman I had vowed my life to. I was ready to accept Walmart’s warm embrace of work.
After about three days, I received a call from a supervisor at Walmart. She inquired about my application, specifically my address. She noticed that there was a PO Box, but not a physical address.
I tried everything I could think of to try to skirt around the subject of my physical address, but she had addressed it head on.
“Just tell me your physical address.”
With a crackle in my voice and tears in my eyes, I relayed what I had gone through. How I had been hired in Rockland, just to have the job evaporate like water under the desert sun. I told how I had lived at the Trade Winds Inn till our money ran out. I had told her that we did not have a physical address, because I was living in the Walmart parking lot.
She said that she would have to ask the store manager about this situation. She would give me a call back in a day or two to see what she can work out.
I never received a call back, but at least it showed me why I was not able to find work.
I felt a chill deeper than the cold, winter air. It gripped my heart and chilled me to the bone. I felt inadequate, ignorant, and isolated. I had never considered the complexities of vagrancy and homelessness. It is only by the grace of GOD that I was able to manage what life had given me. This was truly a humbling experience and I felt I had come upon a truly insurmountable problem.
BUT, it is usually during times like these that GOD shows me HIS strength and builds me up with HIS compassion.....