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  • Writer's pictureNora Bird

How We Got Here

I’ll tell you this: I can't have a desk job.

I can't do it. I'm too much of a spazz to sit still all day, file things and email bureaucratic missives to other mid-level bureaucrats, all the while never touching each other’s lives, with our only commonality being that we are all trying not to screw up and get kicked off the ladder. I did it for 3 long years. I did it for the insurance and the paycheck. I couldn't do it anymore. And after months of searches and interviews, I realized that the problem wasn’t the other jobs that were available.

I'M THE PROBLEM. (Look at me, do I look like someone you trust with math? Negative. Do I look like someone who"s internally telling self deprecating jokes to keep her self smiling? Yes. And it's not the picture, it's the human.)

In my mind they were all the same job. One job post kept creeping up in my searches though it didn't seem like a viable career for a college graduate. That's to say that I had to think hard about whether it was worth sacrificing my student loan status and collection of corporate clothing. After months of indecision and a miserable work environment with no relief on the horizon, I finally said FUCK IT!

I applied. Quit my job, started a new one as a dog bather. That's how it worked, there in the unnamed corporate salon. You start as a bather and graduate after some experience and time to groomer. It seems logical, I assume most places work that way. After a little more than a year my salon manager quit and I was promoted. Probably less because I was the appropriate choice than the fact that I didn't want

my store director to talk to me, so I did stuff before she asked.

And then there I was again, spending more time appeasing bureaucrats than actually doing what I was trained to do. There was unrest. After about another year this guy comes in to talk to me about his "dog". Really, he gave me a business card and asked if I was interested in leaving my current job for one in a fancy-shmancy, new pet hotel/spa, as I would later find out. Better pay, no corporate interference, no decision. I took the new job.

In the spirit of exaggeration, this operation was akin to a sweatshop. On holiday weekends I would end up in the salon at 3 am because all 20 clients were promised they'd have their dogs clean and ready at 9 am. What? Not happening. As my eyes were opening to the reality of this elite pet “spa” two significant things happened. First, a dog had a seizure on my table. I had no idea what to do. From what I gathered in the aftermath the dog had an (unknown to me) medical problem and was given a sedative for grooming. I had no clue and left crying. The second thing that happened was that I became pregnant. This “spa” was 30 minutes away. I needed something closer to home if I was going to keep working after I had the baby, which was not even a question. But where to go? What working environment would

be suitable for a (pregnant) woman who just wanted to take care of dogs in a safe way and not have to punch codes or take corporate calls?

After a few calls, an interview and some hand shakes I had a new job at an animal hospital that was ten minutes from home. They knew I was pregnant and were excited about it! I spent 11 years there. I won't

go into detail about everything I did to get that salon into shape and grow the business but it was a lot of work for which I didn't get paid. As a bonus, my grooming commission didn't increase for the last 9 years I was there.

Again, I spent a lot of my last two years there unhappy and considering my options. Now responsible for my own two kids, two dogs, and two mortgages I was under pressure to maintain my income. As a side hustle I had been grooming a few dogs out of my house. Some clients followed me from place to place, some could no longer pay the prices at the established salons. Some people couldn't afford to keep up with their pet's shots and weren't allowed into shops without up to date shot records. I'd collect these people as I came across them in my neighborhood, or clients would refer others to me. I had a small almost-business and it was good.

Enter 2020! Happy New Year, OPTIMISM!

Covid-19 has fucked up everyone's lives, kids are out of school, and many people are out of jobs. Whole industries are collapsing and everyone is on the verge of mental illness.

After about a week into stay at home orders I started to get more and more calls about grooming at home. In the third week I'd made more money for the week than I had at the hospital ever, including holidays when we were our busiest and tips were extra-generous.

I haven't maintained that pace, of course, but I’m steady. And as school was finally cancelled for the year and camps were limiting numbers, when we didn't know what was going to happen in the new school year and rumors of a second wave were widespread, I called it. The choice was not a choice. I knew I could maintain my income and be there for my kids if and when schools closed or activities were cancelled. I quit. I quit my freaking job and was technically UNEMPLOYED for the first time since I was 15. (Don’t strain yourself with the math; I’m 40.)

So that's how we got here. Now, we've just got to wait to see where we're going.

Fingers crossed I won't cock it all up and have to work a desk at the local insurance company.

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