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Thursday, 26 March 2009

Flippin' The Bird

By Carol Gardner of In Your Dreams

Thinking that I'd stayed too long at my job, I was hypersensitive. Many positions were being filled by younger and younger employees. When I'd started there, I was everyone's contemporary, then I became everyone's mother. I needed to get out of there before I became everyone's grandma. Insecurities about having exhausted my contribution at work spawned this dream:

I am being harassed at work by my supervisor. Cruelly interrogating me, he has even formed a committee to scrutinize all the correspondence I've produced over the years.

Sitting around a large conference table, while building this case against me, one of my interrogators aggressively flips a document toward me. I'm to explain why I had Xed out some sentences and had substituted the handwritten word "hummingbird" in their place. As he discusses this, I give him a "look" and do eye-rolling.

Then, still defending myself against these charges, I confess that once I even wrote "shit" on a paper. As they continue this witch hunt, I announce my intention to get a lawyer. But I know I'm really going to quit.

Socialized and hypersensitive about having reached retirement age, I put lots of pressure on myself to get the heck out, before they tossed me out. I'd seen others before me experience a lot of humiliation by being forced out and I didn't want to be one of them. The pressure I created for myself was not necessarily a bad thing. It was a push in the right direction.

Deciphering the dream sequence taking place before the tribunal was easy. Having felt out-of-my-element, at times, in the business world, I did have to explain myself on occasion. My role in representing the employees' perspective often brought me into conflict with the principals of the company. I even found business jargon, too often, dehumanizing. So substituting "hummingbird" for a paragraph's worth of words, surely resonated with me - preferring the elusive bird image over the usual "business speak."

And, I would probably have wanted to write "shit" a countless number of times.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The supply of stories is running low, so if you've had one on your mind to write, now is the time. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


"Many positions were being filled by younger and younger employees. When I'd started there, I was everyone's contemporary, then I became everyone's mother. I needed to get out of there before I became everyone's grandma."

You know, Carol, I had been in Real Estate for many years and this very thing happened to me. Most of my associates were much younger than I.

So, because the old saying,"The best defense is a good offense" is so true I began telling stories and making jokes about how old I was and everybody in the office enjoyed the repartee.. I would say things like, "My first sale was the Little house on the prairie"

OR "When I show a big 2 story house to a young couple, I just lean on my walker in the living room and send THEM up and down the stairs to look at the place."

OR "When Moses came down from the mountain he had the Ten Commandments and my Real Estate License."

It was all in fun and it made the age difference lose a lot of it's importance. I was comfortable in that office until the day I retired because I was willing to poke fun at myself......

But, I can see your point ,too. My job was all commission and I did not make one cent unless I sold something. In the typical office the situation is much different, as your story explains. The young associates need you to leave so they can advance their own careers. I get that, and I really liked your interpretation of the dream....

What I seem to resent more than anything is the "invisibility" factor.

I don't really compete in my own workplace with "younger than's", but everyday in the elevator and the halls, I could wear purple hair and a silver lame outfit and still float along unnoticed. (well, almost)

As a younger woman, I was always aware of being attractive and flirtatious. The loss of youth certainly puts that all in perspective.

I don’t miss the unsolicited lunch-time intruders, office visitors, etc., in my youth. The only people I see for lunch or share visits at work these days are those few in my age bracket still working. We all feel the ageism around us, but know the reason we continue to hold on to our jobs and deal with it each in our own way. I feel people have just gotten tired of asking me when I plan to retire.

I sincerely thank you all for taking the time to write your comments. I value your perspective and continue to learn from them.

Carol :)

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