My Time and Work in DC

I came to Washington, DC from Eau Claire, Wisconsin back in 1998 at the suggestion of a friend – my goal back then was California and warmth and I was assured DC was warmer than WI (part of the reason I believe in global warming as this hasn’t really been the case most of the winters I’ve been here). I helped a friends fiancé load up the moving truck with her stuff and my stuff and he and I drove out to DC (MD suburbs really) with one stop in OH on the way.  I’d been to Los Angeles before but DC traffic seemed overwhelming to me just that day.

The internet was rather new back then and I found gay chat rooms fascinating here and met my roommate on one. He convinced me to come into the city and I had to take the metro – I was so scared about taking the metro by myself – which side of the tracks is the train I want? (Shady Grove it doesn’t matter, but I didn’t know that then). It shocked me to see people sleeping on the train, wasn’t that dangerous – everyone looked scary [please note, I’m from very white, very Lutheran WI].

My first job was a temp job with Atlantic States Fisheries Commission on H downtown, it was so cool to be in a city with all the cars and tall building and people everywhere. Sadly they were paying me around $8 an hour and that wasn’t enough back then for here – would have been great in WI really. I took a position at BET with a temp agency but didn’t even last the whole day – I was unprepared for the attitude and awkwardness being almost the only white guy there.

It was culture shock seeing people of different races not just everywhere but holding hands with other races and, gasp, in the open too. The most I’d been exposed to other races was the Cosby show and that didn’t do a good job getting me ready for the real world.

A different temp agency got me a job at ARVO (the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) which at the time was located near NIH. That job stuck and I worked there for a little over two years and liked it. I was at their convention working on my 4th AA birthday and oh so tired from being on my feet all day.  I met some nice people there and learned a lot about databases and membership issues.  But I really wanted to work in the city. I brought my cat Q home on the subway after work one day from out there.

An AA member gave me the heads up on his job, he was vacating and suggested I should apply. So that’s how I became the data manager for a grant at Children’s National Medical Center – not really what I would consider “in the city” but it was nice. I remember that I was so convinced I wouldn’t get the job because I had forgotten to wear my belt during the interview – it’s that a weird thought to have? I did get the job and before I knew it my supervisor was replaced by Julie Ziegler – who I wasn’t too sure of, but she became one of my best friends (unless she’s pregnant then I really cant recommend staying away from her enough 🙂 ). I worked with a great team of nurses: Kristy, Jean and Zelda and a became a part of a huge team of people that worked on those same type of grants. I was with those folks on 9/11 and our offices were on the top floor of CNMC and we could see the pillars of smoke from the Pentagon where the plane hit. Zelda, Waldo and I were out smoking on the room talking about things and heard jets fly close. We watched that terror unfold on the internet and bonded those people to me if they weren’t already bonded. There are things that happened with them that matter so very much to me – Mrs. Doubtfire comes to mind. Eventually Julie left and I think the grant changed a bit and I took a job within the same department and got to know even more wonderful people – Michelle, Ann, Debra, Donna, Sonia, Kim, Chen (I miss you Chen), Denise, Phyllis, Maryanne, Mary Lou (good bye heart), Dr. D., Angela… so many people that are so very warm-hearted.

In the year 2005 a lot of things happened, Donna M introduced me to World of Warcraft (some day I might sue), I quit smoking, Ann retired and I decided to go back to school to prove to myself that I wasn’t stupid. I moved to Virginia Beach near my best friend Suzanne and went back to school for a year at Tidewater Community College. I did really well and loved learning. I loved writing for people that graded me and advised me what to do. I had two stories published in the Annual Journal for the school and managed to get a 3.8 – who knew?  Sadly, there is no money in school so I was quickly out of funds and paying out of state tuition. So I came back to DC.

My roommate Gary was unsuccessful finding a new roommate so I moved right back in with the cats. I worked a temp job for a few months at National Association of Home Builders as an admin type and really liked it. I was only there a brief time but they liked the way I did something’s and implemented them into their regular routine. While I was there I interviewed with Ann’s husband for an Office Manager job in Takoma Park – Ann’s husband liked the way I helped Ann and she talked well of me. The interview didn’t go well, one of the owners asked me why he got so many Viagra ads in his email and I answered simply “it’s the sites you visit” which outraged him.. but it’s true, if you go to a site and enter an advanced age and that your male and that site sells the info to others then yes, you’ll be spammed with Viagra ads. I was disappointed I didn’t get the job but was happy to still be at NAHB – then I received a call from them and while I didn’t get the OM job they did want me to come be an Admin for the OM.

I was a really good Admin there and the OM they hired spent most of her time on the phone or taking long lunches – it was noticed and before I knew it they offered me the OM job and let her go. That was a fun job and I made friendships with some good people and made very good money. I was asked to be part of the management team to help make decisions for the good of the firm and that was fun until one of the partners seemed to lose his shit and started doing insane things. I was planning my exit when my friend Jim was terminated – I advised against it and tried to talk the other owner out of it so many times and on so many levels but he couldn’t see his way to not.

I gave 30 days notice at the beginning of 2008 and was fired a few days later J. Jim and I then started our firm Access-Ability Consultants, Inc. with a commitment to give it five years and see what happened.  (I wrote about all that recently you can read it here)

I’ve wanted to be somewhere warmer for quite a while now and this job in Phoenix appears to be my ticket out of here. I’ve learned a lot here that I probably wouldn’t have learned in WI on how to be a good worker and what’s expected of me and usually think there is a different mindset to workers here than there in in WI or maybe it’s a factory vs office mentality. I’m not sure. Every position I’ve had here has been good to me, even my one day at BET was a lesson to be learned about who I am and not taking things too seriously.

I’ll miss the Metro, the celebrities, the politicians and the very openly gay city and a few select people (the list does seem to grow more every day) that I consider friends.

One thought on “My Time and Work in DC

  1. Jamez, I am very happy for you landing a new job where it’s warm. I will forever be reminded of our times at CNMC.

    I wish you the very best!
    Love, Debra


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