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13 May 2007

A chequered career The twists and turns of people's lives fascinate me. I am a biography addict and love exhaustive 400 page tomes, the A&E bios, and the "quick fix" of the biographical info on IMDB pages. I also like hearing about how former schoolmates, co-workers and neighbours have spent their lives since I last saw them. Here's the story of what one former schoolmate of mine did with the ten years following high school. Among people I know, it's definitely the most remarkable thumbnail bio I have heard so far.

[More:]I did not know "Susannah" well. We just had mutual friends. So I heard this story from "Jodie", one of those mutual friends.

Back in high school days, Susannah desperately wanted to be a nurse because her mother was one. Unfortunately she just didn't seem to have the ability to get through the necessary schooling. She needed her grade eleven math credit to get into nursing school. Susannah had to take that course three times before she passed it, returning to high school for an extra (sixth!) year in order to do so.

It speaks well of her that she was so determined, of course, but it really was a warning sign that she wasn't capable of handling nursing school. She did get in, but she didn't last a semester.

She worked for awhile, and then took a community college progam to become a support worker for the developmentally handicapped. Jodie was her roommate at this time. Susannah told Jodie she had "led her class" and "was asked but declined to be valedictorian" of her year. Jodie found out afterwards that Susannah had just scraped through. And I am skeptical that there even was a valedictorian for her class — they didn't have such a thing at my community college graduation.

But at least Susannah had gotten through college and gotten a job in her field, so that was something.

Meanwhile, at the age of 25 she had been dating the same guy, "Don" for ten years. So, very reasonably, she told Don that they should either get married or break up. Don said he didn't think they should get married, so that was it for them. I'm all sympathy on this one, because that would have been SUCH a blow, worse in some ways than getting a divorce. Don was the only guy she'd ever been with.

Susannah soon met someone else, however, and greatly enjoyed being with him. She told Jodie that she never realized there were so many people in the world and so many things to do. Great attitude, but unfortunately she had set the bar for "people to be with" and "new things to do" FAR too low. And so here's where this story takes a decided turn for the worse.

This new guy's idea of a good time was going out somewhere with a supersoaker full of bleach and shooting it at random pedestrians on the sidewalk. He also liked to do drugs. Jodie met him just once, immediately knew him for the bad news he was, and refused to ever have anything to do with him again. And soon after she let her friendship with Susannah slide. But she heard news of Susannah through mutual friends.

Susannah soon had trouble financing her new lifestyle. The bleach wouldn't have cost much, of course, but drugs are expensive, and her job didn't pay well at all. She complained of this to new guy, and wondered where she could get more money. New guy said, "Ask your clients for it."

Please remember, Susannah's clients were mentally handicapped adults living on a $900/month disability pension.

Susannah took her new boyfriend's advice and asked her clients for money. They gave her money because they didn't know any better. Susannah made away with $5000 before she got caught. At which point she was sent to jail. And she was banned from working with the handicapped for six years, after which she could do it again, but would have to inform her employers of her record. In other words, that career option is not an option anymore.

Jodie and I figured Susannah wouldn't have gotten more than a few years' sentence max, so she would be close to 30 when she got out of prison, and she'd have no money, no skills, and a prison record which would bar her from doing most of the sort of caregiving jobs she would want to do.

Jodie says looking back there were signs along the way of what Susannah was capable of doing. For instance, they sometimes worked the seasonal sales at the yarn warehouse outlet in my hometown. These sales are HUGE. The already large store sets up big tents outside. Busses and minivans pull up and disgorge loads of rabid little old ladies. So Susannah and Jodie would be routinely dealing with many hundreds of dollars. One day Susannah said to Jodie, "Do you ever think what you might do with the money if you could just take it?" Jodie said, "No, I don't."

It seems to me Susannah is probably one of those people who will behave themselves fairly well if surrounded by decent people, but who is easily enabled to do wrong things if she falls in with bad company, and so prison would have been a bad place for her.

And I wonder what's become of her since...
Career and careen are sometime synonyms:

To lurch or swerve while in motion.
To rush headlong or carelessly.
posted by StickyCarpet 13 May | 11:27
I hope she's alright.
posted by hadjiboy 13 May | 13:28
Scarily, she'll probably get another job working with the handicapped. Around here we just had a school district bookkeeper busted for grand larceny for boosting at least $100,000 in school fees that parents paid in cash. Maybe three times that.

She had a previous arrest for forgery.


We also have a career liar and scammer that is involved in local politics. She's become so well known that when she ran for city council this year, the local paper endorsed everyone BUT her. She did not, however, come in last ...

Supposedly, when she was providing a foster home for adults with CP, she tried to get one of them to buy a home for her. No criminal charges, but they dropped her from that program right quick. Ironically, she's now a real estate agent ...

Really, I've come to know that somebody who is capable of one Big Lie is capable of one big lie after another. They're like potato chips.
posted by stilicho 13 May | 15:41
I always read these things with a shudder of humility. While I am not likely to demonstrate that type of behavior, I also know that I am not totally BEYOND something like that, albeit probably on a smaller scale.

(Once, I got 3 twenties from an ATM, rather than the 3 fives I requested, and I went in and reported it, turned in the money. Not out of honesty (although it was a credit union) but out of the almost certainty that it would get traced and I would have cops show up at my door.)
posted by danf 14 May | 09:37
You wouldn't get reported to the police for that, danf. An ex of mine got too much money from a cash machine. He kept it, and then he got a notice from the bank saying they were deducting the extra amount from his account.
posted by Orange Swan 14 May | 20:38
My house || So, how was your weekend?