Macky DiGilio – Off to School I Went

I had been out of work for 3½ years due to a disability. I was a 7-year, burnt-out high-end property manager. It was a useless thankless job but I did love it. At the end of a long grueling day I would wipe the brown off my nose, wash my mouth out with alcohol and come home to my children, tired and stressed. I was suffering from property management burn out.

My bills were mounting and I knew I would eventually lose my house. It was now time for me to return to work. I knew if I would return to work I needed to brush up on my skills. I was very concerned about the gap in my resume. When I asked a friend for advice and what to say I was doing for the past two years, he replied “working as a high end call girl,” this certainly would not look favorable on my resume (especially I did not look the part who would believe me—only a blind man).

So off to school I went trading in my $400 brief case for a book bag, packing my lunch, bringing an apple for the teacher, but there was no one there to tell me to be good in school. That was where I meet VJ, she was my job coach and we became fast friends.

I was in a financial bind and needed a part-time job after school. I felt like a 16-year-old where I could work CVS, McDonald’s (Do you want French fries with that hamburger?)

VJ assisted in getting me a part-time job as a reservation agent for a Limo Company 3 nights a week; we had both known the owner so the job was mine. So on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I booked clients limo services that were flying to exotic places, and yes, I was a little jealous.

School was ending in February so I decided to look for a job at the end of December. I went to the graduation ceremony taking my 26-year-old daughter and Aunt. I was actually full of pride in myself. It was not easy going back to school, especially with kids who were young enough to be my children.

Every Sunday I would read the paper; my favorite section was the wedding announcements, longevity anniversaries and who was turning 100, and especially the love stories. It made me feel hopeful that someday I would be able to send in my story.

However, I did read the want ads. That day there was an ad for a property manager in Lynbrook, managing buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn, not on site visits. Sitting in one spot sounded good to me; I was older and didn’t need to fly from one property to another. No property site visits in high heels, (always needed to look professional you never knew who you were going to meet). After a site visit my feet would hurt so badly I would drive back to the office barefoot; I felt like Annie Goolahee from Dogpatch.

The next day I received a call on the school bus asking me if I wanted to interview; I had to yell to the kids to keep it down so that I could hear what was being said. I was to interview the next day. The bus ride always made me feel like the bus matron. The bus was packed with children in their late teens and early twenties; I was everyone’s mother. Scolding the kids for having the radio too loud or asking them to stop throwing spit balls.

During the 3 ½ years at home I had gained over 30 pounds, some of it due to menopause. I was now the proud owner of size 34C “girlfriends, no more wonder bras for me”. I always weighed in at about 124 to 128 pounds; I am a little Italian lady. I had lost 25 pounds; I needed to loose 10 more, so I put on the tightest girdle I could find and squeezed myself into my black interviewing suit—took out my three-inch heels (no longer four inch for me) as I could barely walk in my flip flops. It worked. I looked professional.

I map-quested the directions; I am certainly not a descendant of Columbus. The job was on Atlantic Avenue in Lynbrook. I drove up and down at least 4 times before I found the building. It was a warm December day and I was glad I put on my deodorant twice, forgetting that I had already put it on. Happens a lot these days standing in the bathroom and trying to figure out why I am there.

I walked into the office and met the receptionist, Jeanette. Jeanette was an older woman who had started working for the company right out of high school and had been there for 45 years.

I interviewed with Ms. M, who I would be replacing, and Mr. J—one of the principals of the company. The interview went well and I was asked back for a second interview to meet the owner, Mr. E Sr., and Mr. E Jr., who I would directly work for. They were lovely gentlemen and I just knew it was a fit.

At the second interview, in walked Mr. E  30 minutes late (in his early eighties), making no apologies and barking orders as he walked through the office. This man intimated me; he was a force not to be reckoned with. He got right to the point—I had not worked in 3½ years and he was not going to offer me the salary I was making. He needed to take ten phone calls during the interview, so Mr. E Jr. gave me a tour of the office. It was like bingo day at the senior center. There sat the 90-year-old bookkeeper, Mr. E’s elderly administrative assistant, and the accountant that probably used a ledger made of stone for accounting.

Mr. E Jr. informed me that the average employee had worked for them over 30 years. At this company they did not disregard their employees because of their age, but valued the years of experience and knowledge that they brought to the firm. I felt like a kid. This was the place for me.

I took the job, and at 51 sat at my desk thinking in 30 years I would be gumming the words to my tenants to “Pay the rent or I will dispose of you!” And so my career began again, and now I am a proud employee of the E Senior Center.

A year and a half later I am still there; I was evaluated for a raise and received a substantial one. The moral of this story is that there are firms out there who value their older employees and don’t throw them away like old shoes. They appreciate the knowledge and experience that older employees deliver, and these are the people who have help make E/Burman the success it is today.

That little old man who intimated me has taught me so much, I now know how to renovate a building from the ground up, read blue prints and work with city agencies (if you are gruff, lazy and useless, there is good place to work!)

I am proud to say that I am part of the E/B group and they are what it is all about. The developers of 8 assisted living facilities and many 55-and-older residences.

And yes, back to school I will go, possibly to learn to be more experienced in reading blueprints or obtain my real estate license (failed the first, maybe the second time is the charm).

There is hope for the 55 plus workers, I am living proof that it can happen.

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