Chapter Four

The first few weeks after I quit my job with Zoe and Melanie were hard. I hadn’t become very self-aware and I spent most of my days feeling bad for myself.

I became obsessive about doing things around the house and getting random things done and, with skill, avoided most of my, bad, lingering feelings.  I never sat with my feelings and tried to figure out where they were coming from. I didn’t heal myself, I pretty much avoided my feelings the best I could, and of course, I was still drinking.

Somehow, I miraculously began to heal on my own without any direct guidance from the spiritual realm or a therapist. We had moved and I listened to the birds in the morning that were plenty nearby and I planted some vegetables out back that I tended to with love and care.

It was just under a year before I started a new lab job. I had gotten over my hurt feelings from NDX and I managed to gain some self-confidence back, or so I had believed.

My 1999 Nissan was falling apart as I pulled into my new work parking lot. It had only been a year and a half before when I had been so proud to buy that car. Now it was already time for another upgrade.

My brakes were so loud that I immediately scanned the lot to see if anyone was still lingering around by their cars. The lab was on the coast and located in a beautiful harbor. I remembered thinking how beautiful it was as I drove in for the interview. I never thought I’d get the job as I left feeling like I had failed.

When I walked in I found my new boss, Tammy. She explained again that I’d be  testing ocean water from all over the coast for fecal contamination. It had to be tested to make sure that the clams and mussels in each area could be harvested and sold safely.

Tammy was petite, about 4’11”.  If I had to guess she was maybe 37. She had pale skin and somewhat beady eyes and a slender face. Her hair was medium length, curly and dirty blonde. She usually kept it gelled back in a short ponytail.

Whenever she walked it looked like she swung her arms out a little further than they were meant to. Her shoulders stayed a little higher too and, looking back, maybe it was to make herself appear slightly bigger than she actually was. She was nice and helpful and funny too, she was always making light of the menial things that she had to show me.

Then I met Harold. Harold was one of our lab’s samplers who went out into “the field” to get  water samples from different areas. He spent the other half of his time in the lab I worked in running them with me. Then there was another girl named Lauren who had the same job title as Harold. I learned they were usually out in the field Monday through Wednesday for part of the day depending on what time low tide was that particular day. They both had small desks in our main lab for their computers that were stocked with all their gear to go out in the field.

Harold was nice, I learned he was from the northern part of the state which I was familiar with because my fiance had gone to college part-time up there. Harold was in bad physical shape for having gone out in the field most days. He wasn’t tall but he wasn’t necessarily short either. He had the tiniest bit of gray in his black beard and hiss hair wasn’t long but wasn’t short either and his face was wide shuddered by kind eyes. I learned that he had 5 kids and it was nice talking to him. I didn’t feel intimidated and it was mostly about stupid stuff.

As she got up from her small desk and did something at one of the benches, I learned Lauren was from Arizona. She had  a confident attitude as she leaned on the bench and carried on a relaxed conversation with me. I learned where she went to college and how she met her husband. She had about seven years on me, I think, and had long thick, light auburn hair and glasses, and an oval shaped face and was physically fit. Her body was slender at the top but huge at the bottom.  Her mom styled shorts surprised me every time they were filled with her wide but that was pleasing to the eye behind. We found out we knew a couple of the same people through my fiance even though she didn’t know who he was.

I started getting used to my new desk space and organizing it how I wanted to. My desk was off in the room to the left of the main lab. I had a nice long desk and beautiful view of the harbor out of a long tall picture window in front of me. Next to me, to the left, were a couple of tall file cabinets and then the desk of another woman, Angela. She introduced herself in a boisterous casual way. She was loud and funny, about 37, with bright blonde bleached hair and dark eyeliner. Come to find out she had only started there a couple of months before I had. From what I gathered she had gone to get her doctorate at Dartmouth for something related to neuroscience. She told me how she used to experiment on rats and told me all about it. She was the lab tech for the lab next to us. Angela’s lab tested for paralytic shellfish poisoning otherwise known as red tide and other marine biotoxins.

The orientation I had gone to the day before had been boring and by the time I got back to the lab it was pretty much time to go. The following days Harold and Lauren were still out in the field for the most part. Angela was busy, and Tammy showed me more stuff around the lab and I took notes on everything she had told me. Tammy walked me around the building and started introducing me to people and walked me down to our pier to show me our rain gauge out there.

Thursdays when Harold and Lauren were back in the lab we all set up our water samples in the morning together in the main lab. It’d take about three hours. We had our own separate work benches in the same room where we would all stand to run our samples. Tammy had trained me and I had basically gotten the gist of it. I had to label my plates with a sample number using small green and yellow stickers. The yellow was for a 5mL portion of the sample and the green was for a 50mL portion. That way if there were too many bacterial colonies growing on the 50mL portion we could still quantify the amount of bacteria from the 5 mL portion.

We would put on the radio and talk about random stuff. I stuck all my plates in a wire organizer and pulled my 2 and a half foot metal manifold towards me. I plugged it into the pump that would bring my wasted water into a container and got started with my samples. All the ocean water came in little bags that were labelled. You would grab a rack of water out of the refrigerator at a time and shake your first bag about 30 times before pouring it into your funnel. You could run 3 samples at a time. Lauren started leading the conversation for the most part. I was excited because it seemed like she could be a friend, and I found out she lived in a town close to where I lived.

One day I was trying to seal a bag with a sealer that I learned how to use from Tammy. I was trying to suck the air out of the bag with a vacuum pump fashioned with a jimmy-rigged pipette. Lauren noticed it wasn’t working too well and came over. She explained that Tammy didn’t do it in the best way and showed me an easier way to do it. It was nice. She asked me after a couple of days if I wanted to start carpooling into work with her and I reluctantly but somewhat excitedly agreed. I seemed to like my alone time and was weary to have to drive into work with the same person everyday, but she seemed confident about it, so I was too.

 

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