Saturday, July 26, 2008

Maybe It Was Just The Water

Speech #3
Get To The Point
Toastmasters Club
August 2008

It feels very strange to be back here in Vancity. The place looks the same, most of the people are the same, the job is almost the same yet, it feels very different. But on my first day back here, when I sat down at the lunch room on the second floor and looked at False Creek, I knew that I made the right decision to come back. I knew that this is where I should be working. This is where I belong. But then, I have felt this way several times in my life already, when I have made the wrong decision. So maybe not.

Let me give you a bit of a background. I started in Vancity in early 2005. In late 2007, after almost 3 years of hardwork, I felt that Vancity did not appreciate me as much as they should. I did not get a promotion, did not get a substantial raise in pay, did not get enough recognition. I decided to leave. Having bought a house in Surrey, I decided to work near where I live. I have 3 children, a total of 4 including my husband. I thought it would definitely be nice to work near home.

I moved to Terasen Gas. I walked to and from work everyday, 2 kilometers each way. After just one week, I really felt better. The forced exercise gave me more energy. I felt stronger. I started living the ideal, simple, domesticated life. I dropped the kids off at school in the morning, I walked to work, did my job, went home. On my way home I passed by the produce store and bought my vegetables and fruits. For a while I felt contented. No worries. The pay was bigger, the job was simpler, no waking up at 6 in the morning, no fighting my way to the door of the skytrain to get off at Main station, no rush hour to worry about, no stinky bus mates in the winter.

The Terasen office was good too. No dress code, no elevator wait - because the building was only 4 floors high. There's a cafeteria inside the building - very convenient, a 24-hour gym, nice friendly people. Terasen is a big company. Everything you need for your job is just within reach. All things are organized, everything in order. Very unlike Vancity which to me is organized too - organized chaos.

I found Toastmasters in Terasen and it completed my then blissful existence. I found what I wanted to do, write and deliver speeches. I truly enjoyed attending the meetings. Although I would've preferred not to play any roles. I just want to sit and listen to everybody else talk. But of course I did roles. I had to accept them when offered to me. I didn't want to be rude.

For a few months I was happy. I did not need anything more than what I already have. I did not worry about anything. After 3 months, I started getting restless. I already mastered my new job - no challenges there. I got used to the office - nothing new. Got tired of the produce store, I wished they had meat and toiletries. I did not look forward to the walk, I even slipped once on the road when it was icy. And it was not a walk everyday. When I was late it became a run. Sometimes it was like a dance when I tried not to step on the hundreds of earthworms and slugs on the sidewalk. On some days when I didn't want to go to work, my feet were so heavy I had to drag them for two kilometers.

I tried to make myself happy. I guess, it's human instinct to try to find happiness. I began applying for open job postings at Terasen. I was sure I had the qualifications they were looking for in those jobs. I landed several interviews but each time, a more senior person got hired. It was a unionized company. My competition for the job openings have been in Terasen for 23 years, 15 years, 7 years. While I have been there for 3 months. I should've realized that I was not supposed to apply for another job in just 3 months of being there. But I got frustrated. I felt I was trapped. The pay was good, but the raises were dictated by the Union contract. No pay raise based on my job performance. No promotion until someone retires, dies, or until I get my designation and all of those were impossible in the near future. My manager said there will be lots of retirements in the next 2-5 years. In fact they are a bit worried about how to fill the jobs when the senior people start to retire. She said I should just wait and a different job will be available to me in a few years. In a few years, I thought. In the meantime what should I do?

To keep myself happy, I tried to remember the things that made me move to Terasen in the first place. The convenient cafeteria - but the food always tasted mexican with a bit of meditterreanean spices. They all tasted the same. The bigger pay - it does not feel bigger though, the proximity to my house - maybe too near, the, the, oh I cannot force myself to remember good things. Even if Terasen is in fact a very good company to work for, I began to think about the little things that I didn't like.

Little things irritated me at work. I was a member of one of the coffee clubs. There was no free coffee at work. Can you believe that? You need to get yourself included in a coffee club run by groups of employees. You have to pay a nominal fee monthly. Once you are a member, you can then get coffee from your particular coffee club coffee machine. There are several machines in the pantry. I dropped out of this club. I felt bad to be paying for my coffee at work. I didn't want to pay $5 dollars a month to get my daily coffee. I didn't have to do that at Vancity. There was free coffee at Vancity! But of course I don't drink the free coffee here, I buy my latte at Starbucks for $3.10 per cup per day! But I do want to have the free choice and that is important to me!

There were also water clubs. Yes, there was no free drinking water at Terasen. Unbelievable! I didn't know that at first. I got my water from the water dispenser. I noticed they always stared at me when I got water from there. Then I found out that the dispenser belonged to one of the water clubs! I was stealing their water right before their eyes. But they were too polite to tell me.

It was said that the Terasen tap water is safe for drinking. I didn't want to drink from the tap. I found a Britta pitcher in the fridge so I got my filtered water from there. Until one day the owner put her name on it. And I thought it was for everyone!

I refused to become a member of any of the water clubs. It was just too much to take! I refused to pay for my water. Water was sustenance. Employers need to provide their people with safe drinking water. Even if it was just tap water, not mineral or filtered, they should at least disguise it with nice long necked faucets same as what Vancity is doing. At least the people would feel good. This is principle we are talking about. I will not pay for my water at work.

But I cannot work without water. I cannot bring water from home. That would be too heavy to carry on my walk. So I started getting creative. I attended meetings with free water. I made sure I drink lots in the meetings and then bring another bottle to my work station. Toastmasters had free water that's why I never failed to attend a meeting. My desk was near a big conference room. I found out that after meetings they just leave the bottled water free for all. So I made sure I pass by that room everyday to get my free water!

Until one day I got to the end of my water patience. I realized what this water hunt has done to me. It became a big part of my working life. I should really get a new job. One where I can focus on finding ways to make my work better. Not finding ways to get free water.

On my first day back at Vancity, people asked me what happened. I had the ideal job, near my home, near my family, good pay. Why did I move back? I just smile, let them provide a reason, then I agree with them.

They say 'You can't resist Vancity's offer, eh?'. I say yes. Or they say, 'It didn't work out at Terasen, eh?' I say no it didn't. And the best one yet, they say 'You missed us here at Vancity that's why you came back.' I say yes, terribly.

I wish I could tell them the truth. Maybe it was just the water.

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