I puked this morning and it smelled like a banana milkshake: how I lost my job without even knowing it then got it back

December 4

Dear Leslie,

This post is a little grimmer than usual. Puke is mentioned, if you need a warning. Other stuff too, but I figured I’d be upfront about the puke. I’ve never been much of a puker—I can go years without vomiting if I don’t catch a funky stomach bug or take wisdom-teeth-have-abandoned-me painkillers. As I’ve only had my wisdom teeth removed once and don’t foresee myself growing more wise and shy little molars, I don’t think I’ll be puking again for that reason anytime soon. But this morning I vomited during an eruption of anxiety and my poor banana. I’ve known for years that my stomach isn’t a steel trap in the morning, but it was still unsettling to gag repeatedly in the bathroom, feel my mouth fill with saliva, then finally make an offering to that porcelain deity.

Why was I anxious? Why did I puke?

Bad news comes in threes sometimes, or so I hear, and that seemed to have happened to me in the last 24 hours. It was the first piece that was really crummy and turned my stomach into a volcano.

Remember that beautiful, wondrous identity- and values-affirming job I wrote about earlier in the week? I lost it.

How could that possibly happen? I was just hired!!

There was a scheduling mix-up. Lots of folks have been recently hired in both the call center and elsewhere in the beautiful book company (I don’t want to blog its name too much because what if it’s against company rules?), so I’m pretty sure my post-training work schedule was mixed up with one of my fellow coworkers, another new hire. Before training last week, I had imagined that my standard work hours would begin this Monday—November 30. But when I received a schedule last week, I didn’t see Monday November 30, Tuesday December 1, or Wednesday December 2. I’m pretty darn sure about this because I had an interview on the afternoon of November 30 that I was planning to talk to my supervisors about. After realizing I wasn’t scheduled for that day, I commented upon that good fortune, then accepted that I would instead begin the following Monday. The date I had read was Monday, December 4.

BUT WAIT. THAT’S NOT A 2015 DATE. Correct, Leslie and WordPress. Correct, indeed. Also, I’m impressed you’re keeping track of 2015 days, Leslie. But a week and a half ago, before I was living in a week with a Friday, December 4, that date seemed solid to me.

My coworker M was to begin her standard work hours this Friday (December 4!), Saturday, and Sunday. Based upon conversations with her and our direct supervisor, as well as my schedule, I accepted that for whatever reason, I was beginning the Monday after her. Maybe paperwork needed to be processed, ya know? M had a whole week before beginning, even if she was beginning on her first normal day! What I now believe to be the case (unless I just made the worst reading mistakes of my life), is that my wonderful and busy supervisor combined my days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) with M’s dates (4, 5, 6).

What happened was this: believing I wasn’t scheduled, I didn’t attend work this week. Unfortunately, the company believed I was scheduled and skipping. With three “no calls, no shows,” it was assumed I abandoned my amazing job. You may think I overstate the greatness of my job, but as nervous as I may be about learning how to page stores (imagine my voice over the loudspeaker of the largest bookstore in the world) and the greater warehouse, and properly helping customers in a bajillion ways, I’m delighted to work in a place where I can be myself and interact with friendly, helpful coworkers and supervisors. And the work is great! Books!

Anyways, yesterday afternoon/evening as I was pondering emailing my supervisor to verify my start time on Monday, I received a call and voicemail from the local union rep asking me to call him back.

I emailed a supervisor then called the union rep.

He told me that Human Resources had notified him of a position abandonment because I was a “no call, no show” three days this week.

Life, how quickly you fall into place then apart again.

Leslie, for the past week, I’ve been pondering how to best help customers, gushing about my benefits, thinking about transportation to work and what to pack for lunches. I thought I was totally geared up for a great start next week. Instead, during my phone call, I learned I probably don’t have a job. I panicked, listened to the union rep who seemed rather disbelieving of my situation but gave good advice, and hung up. I emailed two supervisors immediately then sat with my head spinning.

After a sleepless night, I called one of my supervisors first thing this morning to leave a message then called the union rep. He told me to wait it out—if I didn’t hear anything by early afternoon, give him a call.

Sometime during this period, I puked. I can’t remember if it was before or after the morning call to my supervisor but it smelled like bananas. It being my puke. I was both disgusted and impressed.

Just before I was going to call the union rep again this afternoon, I received a call from the director of human resource herself. The director! I was afraid I was being fired by the highest up—I hadn’t expected to hear from someone outside of my department.  Yet her voice was so kind and warm, I felt like I was being hugged over the phone. After I briefly relayed my side, she told me that the head supervisor of my center (not one I emailed) had forwarded my emails to her. Everyone was flummoxed. Not normally a company to give new hires with unannounced absences a second chance (it looked like I jumped ship), they decided to believe the best and REHIRED me. I was enthusiastically welcomed back to the company.

I’m thankful. Obviously, my wondrous nearly former workplace and I both just experienced something that confounded both of us, albeit rendering one of us more anxious and desperate than the other. I’m happy and relieved to have my job back, but I have questions.

  1. If I was totally wrong about my work dates, why wasn’t I called on Monday, Tuesday, or even Wednesday when I didn’t show up?
  2. Why didn’t they call someone they just invested 22 hours in training? Someone who was enthusiastic and engaged during training?
  3. Don’t they have my contact information? (yes)
  4. Did they email my work email? I don’t even know how one would check that from home. I tried last night, afraid I would succeed and find a very stern email, yet was unsuccessful.
  5. Why was the union rep the first person to notify me of a problem?
  6. Am I officially “starting” my job with a huge stain on my record?
  7. Is everyone going to stare at me when I return on Monday?
  8. Was I supposed to start on Monday, December 4? Or did my brain turn November 30 into something else?


Obviously, many of those questions are similar, Leslie. Who knows how many I’ll learn the answers to. And who knows what it’ll be like when I return on Monday. But I am so relieved to still have a job, especially one at a great company. This whole storm of confusion aside (the director said this has never happened before), I’m incredibly happy to have a job I’m a fan of. In my stomach-churning state of anxiety and desperation last night and this morning, I examined job postings on Craigslist, Idealist, and Mac’s List, and some random internship site, and it wasn’t pretty. If I hadn’t needed to retain consciousness for a phone call, I would have collapsed on my floor.

Shout out to the local union rep for calling me. If he hadn’t, I would have cheerfully shown up to work on Monday morning and found myself without a job.

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