Rapidly keying for eight hours alongside rough-looking city mommas, who also worked the mole shift, I didn’t envy our supervisor. She presided over rows of tired women who processed data to earn medical benefits and enough money to pay taxes to the IRS, for whom we typed. The no-nonsense supervisor kept a serious face; our emotional connection to authority might lessen productivity. But the photos on her desk, next to a radio trailing earphones, made me suspected she was a momma like the rest of us. We worked at night to be available to our children during the day.
Amongst the monotonous hours, an occasional chuckle peaked into the air of the vast room. Or, a co-worker’s random hum fell flat on a note from her headset that only she heard. Even though our supervisor didn’t walk the dark city streets alone from a bus stop to get home each night, she proved her grit by maintained our large, potentially noisy department.
After years at IRS, I moved to New Jersey’s suburbs. That meant no longer riding public transportation; buses to Jersey stopped running before the late shift ended. My first driving experience came with a dramatic Chevy Nova that refused to run when the mood struck it. Up and down the lines of IRS keyboards tipped my complains about the testy car.
Empathy showed on the faces of those enduring women as I clunked out of the gated IRS parking lot alongside their group crossing the boulevard to wait for the bus I once rode with them. The probability of the Tycony/Palmyra Bridge opening before I had a chance to cross it was high at that time of the night. My co-workers threw me a backwards nod as I sputtered onto the dangerous six lane Roosevelt Boulevard. But the next incident happened traveling from home the following afternoon.
My Nova stalled before reaching the middle of the bridge in rush hour traffic. The delicate vehicle didn't do well in the early September heat. My car's theatrics made me yell: "If I'm late, I’ll get a late slip." The thing was now a Jersey snob and refused to enter the Philadelphia side of the bridge.
Affronted when a police cruiser pushed it from behind over the bridge, the fussy car still agreed to take me the rest of the way to IRS, knowing I'd return to Jersey after my shift.
Late, I moved fast past the rows of whispering mommas. And approached our supervisor's separate, lone desk. Before I could explain, she grinned and said, "We knew you'd be late. We heard on the news that there was a disabled vehicle on the northbound side of the bridge."
Rushing from the parking lot caused me to swallow a breath before replying, "Oh, yeah, that was me."
My supervisor slapped the side of her metal desk and I jumped. Her raucous laughter caused the rows of woman to swivel their heads in our direction, still clicking their keys. Our superior cut off in mid-laugh and resumed typing, leaving me standing there. So I slunk to my monitor, realizing she hadn’t asked me to sign a late slip.
Yep, she was a momma.