Wednesday, September 26, 2007


by Gina Sestak

As most of you regular readers know, I've been writing about the many jobs I've held every two weeks for more than a year now. So far, I've covered about half of them. There is one job, though, that I remember almost nothing about.

It was a work study job for a department or group at the University of Pittsburgh. I remember that much. And I held it for at least one semester while I was an undergraduate. There were other people working there. Phil and Bruce and Karen and Jim; a few more whose names I can't recall. I even remained friendly with Bruce afterwards, talking with him on and off for years. I just can't remember what I did or where the work took place. I know that it was meant to have something to do with keypunching or typing. Unfortunately, I was able to do neither -- I'd broken a finger in karate class and had one hand in a cast. [Never do a sloppy down block on a front kick!] It may have involved some type of geographic mapping. I'm not sure.

You're probably all thinking that I must have really enjoyed the sixties. Well, maybe I did, but that isn't why I remember so little. It was the seventies when I held this job. The problem, I think, was the utter chaos in my life at the time.

I've mentioned my ex-husband a few times in prior blogs. We fell in love in 1970 and planned to marry that August. Then we got cold feet and moved in together. Then we broke up.

Breaking up is hard to do. Doo wah, doo wah.

But it was an amazing time in many ways. Emotional turmoil has a way of shifting one into an altered state of consciousness. In mid-winter, I'd sometimes find myself halfway to school without a coat, and realize that I didn't even feel the cold. Of course, I blamed the heartbreak for this new-found talent, but I explored the sensations from the inside and used the understanding I found as a base to develop the ability to control my reaction to cold. It's actually quite easy. You just relax into the cold, and let it dissipate around you. The same technique works well for getting rid of headaches. You lean into the pain until you realize that it's nothing but a group of separate things, like trees within a forest, and you relax into the painless space between.

I was attending school full-time and working to support myself and pay tuition. I found a sleeping room in an off-campus boarding house run by an old woman who refused to accept the fact that I really didn't want to eat with her and her family and the other (all male) boarders. It was cheaper if I scrounged for my own food. Then she kicked me out on one day's notice, claiming I had tracked mud into her house. I'm not certain if I did or not.

I was homeless for awhile. She didn't give me back my security deposit right away, and I had no money with which to find another place. I took to sleeping in University buildings or on friends' couches and floors. When I finally got the check for my refund, the bank it was written on refused to cash it because I didn't have an account there, even though I had good identification and it was clearly a business check. Having not eaten in three days or so, I lost it, cursing the bank employee and fighting off the temptation to whack him over the head with the triangular name plate on his desk until a bank guard threw me out. I still refuse to do business with Mellon. I used to hope I'd hit the lottery, just so I could deposit all my millions somewhere else.

I was able to cash the check eventually. I got other jobs, finished school, reconciled with Terry, married him, and then divorced. But I remember how to keep from feeling cold. And I can often enter altered states of consciousness at will.

You're probably wondering why I thought to write about this job today. The temperature in Pittsburgh hit the upper 80s, so I didn't need to use my skill with cold. I was reminded of it by the thought of keypunching, and how far computer use has come in the last few decades. This week and next, I'm participating in an on-line conference sponsored by the International Association for the Study of Dreams [], a psiber dream conference! [The spelling "psi" is on purpose.] More than a hundred people from all over the world are sharing discussions and dreams, something no one thought possible back when I held my unremembered job.


Tory said...

Gina, you forgot your byline!

I could have used some of your powers to deal with temperature yesterday. It was unseasonably hot, and I felt stifled. Does the technique work as well for hot as it does for cold?

And thanks, Gina, for answering everybody's unspoken question, "How many more jobs has this woman had?"

Working Stiffs said...

gina, I'm still new to the game and curious: what did you get your degree in?

Martha Reed said...

Sorry, that previous comment is me - but I'm still curious!

Joyce said...

I wish I could do that with cold, Gina. I hate being cold. The guys at work keep the thermostats on 55--even in the dead of winter. I have a nasty sign on the one in my office threatening anyone who moves it off 75. The heat yesterday felt good to me!

Gina said...

Tory -
Thanks. I went back and put my name on it.
Unfortunately, the temperature technique isn't quite as good with heat, but I've found that imagining myself on a wind-swept steppe in a blizzard makes me feel a little cooler. It is distracting, though, when I'm trying to work. I keep wanting to build up barriers around my desk as shelter from the icy wind.

Martha -
I got my undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology, with a minor in Computer Science. [Technically, Pitt didn't have minors then -- they were called "related fields." So my related field was Computer Science.] Then I went to law school, so I can now put both B.A. and J.D. after my name.

Joyce -
I tend to like heat, too. Good luck in keeping that thermostat in place.

ramona said...

Gina, I am so glad I read this today. I am going to Louisiana in a few days, and it will be a kajillion degrees. I am going to borrow that wind-swept steppe in a blizzard image to keep cool, if that's okay.

Joyce, aren't the guys in your office hot because of their vests?

Lee Lofland said...

Maybe it's Joyce who has the guys all steamy...

ramona said...

That must be it, Lee! Silly me, blaming the Kevlar.

mike said...

Gina--So much of what you wrote echoed my own experiences, so many thanks. But it's the bank scene that really struck home.

Lately, the tellers (I believe they call themselves "customer service reps" or some such claptrap) at Citizens have taken to asking if I've enjoyed my "banking experience" (their words). My response: Hey, a bank's a bank. What I really want to say is, Stuff it! I'm using the bank 'cause that's the system; the bank is using me 'cause that's what they do. I've carried a certain bitterness about banks since I tried to cash my last check from the Army a week after my discharge (when I desperately needed the cash), only to be told in front of a line of people that the bank wouldn't cash my government check because I didn't have an account with them. I had lived out of the country for two and a half years and wasn't ready for such treatment. I have a notoriously lousy memory, but some episodes just won't fade with time. This is one of them.

Nancy said...

Gina, are you keeping all your blogs in one file? Because this is a book. I'm not sure where it's going yet, but it's definitely a book.

I'm asking this as a rhetorical question, so don't feel you need to answer, although maybe it belongs in the same file. But where is your family in all this?

Nancy said...

PS. You made me remember an old job I had long ago---marking a map with the spots of all the fires that had taken place during a 10 year period in Williamsport, PA. I was amazed that nobody had thought to do it before. After about two days on this somewhat tedious job, it soon became clear to me that somebody in a certain neighborhood liked to watch houses burn.

Gina said...

Nancy -
My family was around. I guess you're really asking why I didn't just move home. That's kind of a long story. The short version is that my parents strongly disapproved of my going to college (and everything else about me), there was never a quiet moment (i.e., no tv, no radio) in the home, I spent the last several years I lived there having to make a constant conscious effort not to scream, I was terrified to spend anytime in my bedroom because it was haunted, and, being rebellious by nature, I chose to live on the street rather than go back there.

Joyce said...

Ramona, the guys do wear vests but they're not supposed to be in the station. They are to be out on the road except to write their reports. If we had a halfway decent report writing system, they could do that in the cars too and I'd never have to see them!

Lee, thanks for the compliment, but half these guys aren't much older than my kids. I'm old enough to be their mother!

Nancy, I love that story about the map.

ramona said...

Gina, I can't help it. I'm really curious about your haunted bedroom.

Hey, Joyce, who says you can't heat up a guy half your age??? I (like to think I) do it all the time.

Joyce said...

Ramona, I just scare them. It's much more fun.

Gina said...

Ramona -
I'm not sure who or what was haunting my bedroom. My family was renting a 3-story house in the Lincoln-Lemington area of Pittsburgh. The usually kitchen, living room, dining room was on the 1st floor. My parents' bedroom and a bedroom my two brothers shared were on the 2nd floor. My bedroom was one of two rooms on the 3rd floor. We used the other room up there as an attic. I always felt creepy up there when I was by myself, but at night things would happen. Something would pound on the attic room door, then that door would open (even after my parents put a hook & eye lock on it) and the something would walk into my room. I would hide under the blankets and pray that it would go away. Sometimes things would fall -- a mirror, my alarm clock. Sometimes something would scratch at the window -- and there were no trees around. I never had the courage to look at it, or ask it what it wanted. I heard later that a man who'd lost his legs had lived in that house and had committed suicide there. No one would live there in the 1930s because it was supposed to be haunted but, with the WWII housing shortage, people started living there again. We moved in when I was in 1st grade; my parents and brothers moved out while I was in college.

Nancy said...

I'm telling you. This is a bestselling memoir.

Joyce said...

I agree. Get writing, Gina!

ramona said...

A legless, suicidal ghost who scratches at the window? That's even scarier than Joyce. (Just kidding!)

You can't make up stuff that good. You go write that up now, Gina.

jody said...

Gina, our upstairs bedroom is haunted. I tried to sleep in it a few times (Attila-the-Husband was snoring so loud it was like trying to sleep in a wind tunnel - so I decided to try the guest room) Each time, I would be woken up by a crushing weight, pushing me down on the bed. I couldn't move, breath, or scream. The first time it happened, I rolled myself off the bed and onto the floor, then crawled out of the room. After a few days, I was able to convince myself that it was just a particularly vivid dream. Yeah. Right. After the same thing happened two more times, I decided to sleep on the couch if A-t-H's snoring kept me awake. We've had other people sleep up there, and I never told them about the 'problem', mainly because I don't want people to think I'm a nut. But when three other people had the same experience, I decided to do something about it.
The original part of our farmhouse is over 100 years old, and we don't know a lot of it's early history, but we do know that it was used as a 'halfway' home for handicapped children at one time. I contacted a Medium, who informed me that the entity was someone who had been a social worker at the halfway house and had sexually abused children in that room. We did some cleansing rituals that seem to have helped. I haven't had any more problems with that room, although one moring I awoke in that bedroom with no idea of how I'd gotten there, and my knuckles were all scraped and bloody.

Joyce said...

Okay, Jody. You're not getting off that easily. Finish the story!

jody said...

Not much more to tell, Joyce. Now I just use the room for storage and otherwise, just avoid it.
On a side note, however - all of the people who experienced 'the entity' had been abused in the past.