I started my first job in August of 1980. My mother worked at this doctors office as a secretary, and they needed an office boy. That’s how I thought of it, office boy. I don’t know if I even had a job title, and I don’t suppose there’s such a thing as office boy anymore. But back then there was. And I became one.
I started right after I was finished with some sort of summer school thing with Tom and Kevin. I think we were helping Mr. Windt with classes of like elementary school kids or something. I don’t really remember much except the kids and the Rolling Stones “Emotional Rescue” on the radio. Minimum wage was $3.15 at the time, but I got hired at the princely sum of $3.50 per hour. I think Tom was making $3.15 at Bell at the mall. I don’t know if Kevin was working yet.
I seem to remember that there was some thought at first that I would do some courier work as well as be office boy. I rode around like maybe my first day with the office courier, between the Alexandria office and the Springfield office. A few years later I became the actual courier and drove the Mercury Lynx that the office owned, but this one day I rode around in this guy’s own car. Was some sort of old Falcon or Dart, some sixties vintage thing. It was pretty awesome, now that I think about it. At the time I probably thought it was just old.
And this guy, I can’t remember his name, was pure eschatologically nuts. Told me all sorts of things about the Book of Revelation, about how the U.S. government was going to tattoo all of us on our necks with like our social security numbers and how this represented the Biblical mark of the beast. Dude was probably in his mid-twenties or something, but I was all of sixteen and he was an adult and I took him pretty seriously. He freaked me the fuck out is what he did.
I told my mother about it and she just kinda laughed and scoffed and told me to ignore him. Whew.
But I didn’t do much in the way of courier stuff after that. Mostly I made copies. The office had a copier, but there weren’t really such things as document feeders or sorters or collators or anything back then. That was what office boys were there to do. So that’s what I did. Made copies one page at a time. Copies of thick folders of medical records.
There was a computer system that printed out a big fat list of all charges every month. I guess this computer didn’t have enough memory to store these charges, because there was a book of these charges for every month going back a few years, and if anyone wanted an itemized bill of their charges then I would go down into the basement to where these books were stored and hand copy the charges out of them for each month. Then one of the secretaries would type up the list and we’d send it to whoever had asked for it.
The computer was an IBM System 34 mainframe. It was about the size of a pickup truck. There were dumb terminals scattered around the billing office, maybe half a dozen. I suppose Shirley would have definitely had one. Mrs. Lyles too. Then Candy and Vicky probably. Maybe Mr. Brossette and Mrs. Higgison would have had them too, but maybe not.
I guess hard disks were a few years away. The system used like this cassette pack of floppy disks, like the old five-and-a-quarter-inch floppies, except that they were bigger, eight or ten inches. The cassette held maybe six or eight of them. They couldn’t have held much more than 512 kilobytes probably. Is why everything had to be printed out every month. Is why I had a job, I guess.
The place was called Northern Virginia Orthopaedic & Allied Specialty Clinics, Inc. (or maybe Clinic was singular). Abbreviated as NOVOC. Later it became like Orthopedic Group or something like that, and it was NOVOG. When I started there were eight orthopaedic surgeons and four radiologists. They were somehow affiliated with National Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, because I used to work there sometimes too. Again in the billing office. There was no computer system there at all. Each patient’s information was saved on a paper form, a half-sheet of letter-sized paper, thinner than regular copy paper stock, though not quite like onion skin paper. There were tens of thousands of these forms, and I had a stack of them to file every day.
We used the doctors’ initials in a lot of things we wrote down. Dr. Bigley was ECB, for Elmer Clarence Bigley. Dr. Rosenthal was SJR, and while I knew his first name was Sheldon, I always thought of him as Sammy J. Rosenthal. There was Dr. Leabhart, but I don’t remember his initials. Same with Dr. Kaye, who used to be a GP before he became an orthopaedic guy. I used to get him to write me a prescription every time I got conjunctivitis. I used to get that a lot, for some reason. I remember MCR was Marion Restivo. Later when I was the courier he used to make me go deposit his paycheck. We got paid once a month, and his paycheck was generally somewhere around $10,000. It was almost too much money for me to comprehend back then.
Later Mr. Brossette left and Mrs. Higgison took his job as office administrator and my mother took her job as office manager. Years after that Mrs. Higgison left and my mother became administrator. I think I was long gone by then.
Through the magic of the web, I find out that Mrs. Higgison apparently moved to Florida. Does good work down there still, as of a few years ago anyway. Mr. Brossette apparently left the healthcare field and opened some restaurants in Rehoboth. I used to go to Rehoboth in the late eighties when he maybe was there, but I didn’t run into him. He died in 1997 at the young age of 41. Funny to think that he was only 24 when I worked for him. He was the boss, so I remember him as older.