Working Girl

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It’s five o’clock in the morning. I roll over in bed and remember that I am alone. Fifteen minutes later, Craig lies down next to me, fully clothed. He has just returned from the forty-five minute round-trip he makes each morning to take Kirstin to work. Her job in the bakery at Costco begins at 5 a.m. five days a week. Each morning Craig and Kirstin are up at 3:45, and by 4:30, they are on the road. This was our routine for the first six months that Kirstin worked at Costco. It was a miracle that she got that job in the first place. We weren’t about to mess it up.

After Kirstin had been working in the bakery for two months, Craig talked to the general manager to find out how she was doing. He said that she was not fast enough to meet the standard. They had decided to extend her probation period to 120 days, but he doubted that she would make it. He said that after that they would try her on some other jobs, such as folding clothes. If she couldn’t meet the standard there, they would have to let her go. It seemed that my worst nightmare was coming true.

I guess I forgot that this was Kirstin we were talking about. By the time she finished the first ninety days, she was meeting the standard and was off probation. She had made it over the first hurdle. At her first year anniversary, she was evaluated again. She had lots of room for improvement but was doing well enough to continue. She was given a raise to $10 an hour, but along with that came a new standard, sixteen boxes. This was a real challenge, but Kirstin was able to reach that one too.

Working in the bakery was hard work, but it was fun too. Kirstin’s coworkers accepted her as one of them from the start. They invited her to baby showers and going-away parties. They told her about their lives and their problems. Kirstin even went to a Country Thunder concert in Phoenix with Donna Rogers (her boss) and another coworker.

Even though Kirstin seemed to be doing well at work, in the back of my mind was still the thought that she might lose her job. Donna Rogers was transferred to Kansas City, and that meant Kirstin would have a new manager. This of course brought new fears. In fact she worked for several managers until there was a permanent one. Each manager had different ideas about how things needed to be done, and Kirstin constantly had to adjust. She had one manager who said, “There’s no crying in the bakery.”

Kirstin’s side of the story  I like to do my work every day, and I work hard at it. I like my boss, Kris. She helps me do a good job. I’ve had my job at Costco for a long time. That’s because I’m a good worker. I get a lot of compliments from the members. I care about all the people who come to my food court. I like to be helpful to people with disabilities.

There are some things I don’t like. I don’t like it when workers argue. I don’t like emptying the trash when it is heavy. But I do like getting paid every two weeks. I look at my pay stub on my computer to see how much money I make. I like getting benefits like health care and my 401k.

My advice to someone looking for a job is to be flexible and willing to help people when they need it. Don’t be afraid to learn new jobs. It makes you more valuable, and it’s job security.

From This Little Light of Mine: A woman with Down syndrome shines brightly in the world. Available on Amazon

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