My First Real Job

I’ve never been more hopeful. I had a degree and I was ready to find a job. It didn’t take long either. It was a bit of a shock. I had a theory about getting experience working in small papers. I’d go out to the middle of the country, where there would be fewer job seekers. So the first job I landed was in Wyoming.

It is funny in a way. The job wasn’t far from a small town I had visited on my travels. Where I lived and worked was bigger. But not much, it was still small. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I located the job through a website. Applying for a job in the middle of the country was hard. But I knew I could do it, because of my travels. The first step after landing the job was buying a car. The car I purchased and still own is a Santa Fe. I got it from a dealership in Stockton. And it has been a good fit for me. But first I had to fit all my things into it for the move. It turned into a rolling brick.

Since I had a drive ahead of me anyway, and some time, I made a few stops. One was in Santa Cruz where I still have dear friends. I was off on the next adventure in my life and I wanted to share. One friend in Santa Cruz has been there for a lot of my adventures: at least in spirit. And I didn’t know how long I would be gone.

The next stop was in Stockton to see family. When I drove out of the state I imagined it could be years before I returned. But it wasn’t. The drive itself didn’t get interesting until halfway through Nevada. It started to snow. And I didn’t have chains. And I didn’t care. Because I wasn’t going to stop. It was getting dark and traffic was light. As I drove the snow got deeper.

Entering Utah there were a few trunks which had slid off the road. Someone hadn’t made it where they were going. At some point I stopped and walking around in the snow it was clear it was deep. In the gas station parking lot it was about six inches. And there was a good base of ice. But I pushed ahead and got back on the road.

As I drove through the night it kept snowing. And I assume it was getting deeper. Passing through Salt Lake City was fine. But the mountains to the east were a bit scary. This was the first point I felt could be dangerous. But I had come this far and didn’t want to stop. It may have been worse to stop. I only recall seeing one car over night. It was a utility truck which passed me a couple times. Each time driving even faster than I.

The next morning I entered Wyoming. As it got light the snow cleared. And I started to drive faster. But I found out soon enough I road wasn’t cleared yet. Driving through Rock Springs I got cut off by a semi-driver. I braked too hard and spun around toward the side of the road. Clever driving and good luck meant I didn’t go off the road. But I stopped facing the wrong direction.

My arrival in Douglas was in the late morning. I’d already lined up a place to live and had to get the key from work.

After landing the job I asked if they would run an ad for me. Just stating I was looking for a place to live. Soon I got a call from someone. They told me they lived in a duplex and the other unit was empty. They were not the landlord, but gave me the number. When I contacted the landlord though he had no clue. “Empty unit,” he said shocked, “which one.” After talking about it he agreed to check it out. And if it was empty I could rent it. I never did meet him, I paid rent by putting it into his account at the bank.

The job itself was so new for me. It was my first newsroom and I don’t feel like I started out fast. But I was starting to get my feet under me. Then I got laid off. There may have been two factors. One was a bank stopped running an ad. And because of this they couldn’t afford my salary. My $10 an hour salary. But, a second factor was a small error I had made in a story.

I had been covering the county government. The county chose to use a different bank for its business. One of the reasons given was the other bank was bigger, and the person talked about the banks deposits. When I wrote the story I failed to contact the bank the county had quit using. This was the same bank which dropped the ad. And while I was told it wasn’t in response. My editor did say, “it probably didn’t help.” The complaint they had when contacting me was simple and true. In the store the county official had put the bank is some doubt. And I should have contacted the old bank to let them counter.

It was a learning experience.

Wyoming is a beautiful state. I wasn’t there long enough. The weather was cold and snowy. One day it snowed so much while I was at work, I walked home. It wasn’t far. It was easier than trying to dig out my car. In this case it was a rental. My car was in the shop after I backed into a small wall. Another time the weather called for snow. I woke up early and went out to clear the snow. But there wasn’t any.

Going back inside, I relaxed. Taking my time I ate breakfast, watched the news and got ready. About 30 minutes later I walked outside to nine inches of snow on my car. I was aghast. And it wasn’t just snowy. It got cold. One morning I remember trying to get the ice off my window. But as I scraped one side. I could look over and see the side already scrapped re-freezing.

There are miles of back roads in the middle of the country. Miles and miles of dirt roads. And I love to drive on them. My car works great because it is small enough for some pretty slim roads. But it has good clearance. And it is light. Once I was on a dirt road going at a good pace. I zoomed through some mud. Then some snow patches. And then I came up to a turn. The snow and ice weren’t a problem if I could just keep moving through them. They weren’t large. But this turn was covered in deep snow. I got stuck. No cellphone reception. And the idea of walking miles to the road wasn’t appealing. But, since my car is light I was able to dig the snow out of the way. Then I pushed my car out of the snow.

Douglas is a small town. Supported by coal and ranching. It claims to be the home of the Jackalope. It has a Safeway, and wanted a Walmart. Many people talk about Walmart and the death of small town business. But people around Douglas shopped at Walmart already. They just drove further to Casper.

When I moved to Wyoming I believed I was getting my life started. I changed my address and my phone number. My old cell service wouldn’t cover where I lived, so I switched. I got a TV and purchased TV, phone and internet services. When I lost my job it was like a giant balloon deflating. I felt defeated. It may have not been my fault. But I was broke. I was alone. And without a job I had few options. My things went into storage in Cheyenne. It sits on the cross country interstate. The next step in my life was a mystery to me. But I imagined I would get another job. And wanted my things to be easy to pick up. But it was also easy to drop off.

Maybe if I had been in a larger town I would have stayed. Maybe a lot of things could have been done different. But I just gave up. Really I didn’t even look for another job. And I didn’t think I’d be able to afford my rent. Living in a car in the cold of Wyoming doesn’t work like it does in California.

Leaving Douglas I was off on a new adventure. North Dakota was flooding and I wanted to be near the action.

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