Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-06-26
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

THE AMAZON TRAIL Wasted years
by Lee Lynch
2019-02-27

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Donna Festa is a 54-year-old white woman. The corporation that owned her plant shut it down. Bam, just like that. She'd worked there for 22 years. Before that, she'd been with the same company since graduating from high school.

The day it happened, six months ago, Donna* stood outside the grimy red brick building in shock. It would have been one thing if they'd fired her. They couldn't; she was good at her job and almost any job they threw at her. She had to be. Once Donna turned fifty the big bosses moved her around the factory floor like a piece of worn furniture until she was nothing but splinters. They swept her out to the street with the push broom she'd so often used.

The splintering only began there.

Of all the inequities that exist in the United States, age discrimination is one of the least acknowledged. How many of us, when we first entered the workforce, were intolerant of co-workers with white or even gray hair.

At my first job I was a file clerk. Mrs. Pelkey, in my eyes, was in her 80s, but was probably in her 60s—a gaunt woman whose white skin practically blended with her white hair. She supervised two of us, both 17 years old. Francisca and I were, if not what my Nana would call holy terrors, then one file card short of it. Quietly, except for the giggles, we made fun of Mrs. Pelkey. She was our cruel entertainment as we sat at our table eight hours a day, facing frowny old Mrs. Pelkey, itching, for my part, to get downtown where the gay kids were.

With exceptions, old people in the workplace were joke fodder, disrespected, resented. And so we are today. It feels different on this end.

Marion was a petite, white-haired, African-American woman with perceptive, kindly eyes. I was in my 30s by then, she in her 60s, at least. Our jobs were burnout-stressful. I asked her once why she hadn't retired and she just laughed. Marion was sprightly, knew the most obscure of regulations, stayed attuned to everything around her at all times, and could solve any problem, no sweat. Her staff might bitch about her vigilance, but no one made fun of that woman.

For me, lesson learned. Elders could be like Marion: competent, respected and appreciated.

When Donna Festa fitted all the splinters of herself back into place the best she could, she bought some dye and covered up her hard-earned gray hairs. The Employment office swarmed with new layoffs. Her first unemployment check was about the amount of her rent. Her girlfriend of many years lived separately, bringing up three granddaughters.

Donna was highly motivated to find a job and confident her work record and skills would make for a quick hire. The economy, she read, was on the upswing. She went to the job seeker training, completed her first-ever resume, and attended every interview offered.

Meanwhile, she talked to everyone she knew, learned the Employment office computers, and introduced herself at every, mill, warehouse, and manufacturer in the area—then out of the area, although the cost of gas was going to be a problem.

Six months later, her unemployment ended. She felt herself splintering again. What was she doing wrong? Was it her resume? Because she was gay? Were immigrants taking all the jobs? Didn't companies want skilled and experienced applicants anymore?

She asked at the employment office if it was because she was over fifty. The worker told her, "The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older." She laughed in his face. "Who's enforcing that?" she said. "Do you think I'm a damn fool?" She was considered uncooperative and advised nothing more could be done for her.

There was a McDonald's near the Employment office. A few of her former workmates, all close to her age, would grab a dollar coffee, then sit around for an hour and talk about what they saw on the news, who they heard got hired on where. All the hires were younger people.

They were scared. Baby boomers had had it all. Now employers were avoiding them. Avoiding their predictable medical costs. Suspicious anyone even close to fifty wouldn't pull her weight on the job. They told one another they felt like ghosts. They all had a friend who traded in a stick house for a motorhome and followed seasonal work around the country. This wasn't the middle and old age they'd envisioned. None of them wanted to work in the relentlessly demanding Amazons of the world where they'd be fighting robots for their jobs.

Walmart offered Donna, now 55, a cleaning job. What the hell, she thought. Push-brooms had become her specialty. She took it until something better came along…

*Donna Festa is fictional figure drawn from a number of people in similar circumstances.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2019


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Lightfoot names two new appointments 2019-06-26 - Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced two new key appointments to her leadership team, including a new deputy mayor of public safety and deputy ...


Gay News

Lori Lightfoot discusses first month on the job 2019-06-26 - After about a month on the job, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is settling into her new job on City Hall's fifth floor. Never ...


Gay News

Softball player reflects on sexuality in sports, teamwork 2019-06-26 - From morning to night, Chicago Bandits pitcher Aleshia Ocasio commits herself to two things: softball and benevolence. During the season for the ...


Gay News

Chicago Dyke March in Little Village on June 29 2019-06-26 - The Chicago Dyke March Collective will present the 23rd Annual Dyke March in the city's Little Village neighborhood on Saturday, June 29. A ...


Gay News

Looking back, looking forward 2019-06-26 - As we look forward to the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and celebrate PRIDE month, I think about progress made—but also about work ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Something Clean 2019-06-26 - Playwright: Selina Fillinger At: Sideshow Theatre and Rivendell Ensemble at Victory Gardens Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-871-3000; VictoryGardens.org; $20-$30. Runs through: ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The River 2019-06-26 - Playwright: Jez Butterworth At: Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: Bohotheatre.org Runs through: July 28 It's both simple and impossible ...


Gay News

POETRY e nina jay aims to help women shed shame 2019-06-26 - e nina jay wants women to stop feeling shame. "I think about how much we, as girls and women, waste being ashamed," the ...


Gay News

ART Local lesbian artist on being banned from social media 2019-06-26 - Religious LGBTQ+ youth have a higher risk of suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Chicago artist ...


Gay News

U.S. advances in World Cup on Rapinoe kicks 2019-06-24 - Megan Rapinoe scored on penalty kicks to give the United States a 2-1 win on June 24 over Spain to book a spot ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.