A Bad Bet?

The other day, I said that my father chose to be self-employed, but that’s only partly true. At a traditional company, he would have gotten himself shown the door, I’m pretty sure, unless he lucked into a really great manager. But that never had a chance to happen. In the late 1940s, the company doctor checked you out when you made your job application. The doctor at Standard Oil put his stethoscope to my dad’s chest and didn’t like what he heard.  Standard Oil turned him down, and he was put on a blacklist that was shared among all the big employers. He quickly realized he would either have to work for a small employer or become self-employed. Temperamentally, he was far better suited to being on his own.

For the record, Standard Oil Company Doctor, he went on to work for the next 60 years with iron discipline and excellent health, so to hell with you. In his early 70s, one side of his heart started to enlarge; he had a mesh barrier implanted to close up two holes that were found in the wall of his heart, probably caused by childhood rheumatic fever. Then he lived 15 more years.

The same heart problem kept him out of the Army. In the fall of 1950, when he was called up for Korea, the Army doctor took one listen, assigned him 4F status, and sent him home. Thank you, Army Doctor.

Twenty-five years later, after raising her children, my mother applied to one of the big insurance companies that dominated our town. They took one look at her history of mental health hospitalizations and likewise showed her the door. They, too, shared information with the other big companies.

She was terrified of failure, still fragile from her latest course of electroshock, and I have never seen anyone so determined. She kept looking and eventually found a clerk-typist job at a small company. She left the house on her first day worrying that she would forget phone messages between the moment she heard them through the receiver and the moment she set the receiver down to write them on a memo pad. Short-term memory damage, you know. But she got through that day and the next, and things got easier, and she got better and better in her spirit and her confidence. She became a greatly valued, rock-steady employee, so to hell with you, Insurance Company HR Vultures.

I am not feeling very Christian today, remembering all this. But oh how I give thanks for my Mom and Dad.

July 22, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

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