Kaya O’Leary was one of my favorite employees. She was 16, tiny, had a unique personality and was really sick.
Kaya came to her interview in a dress, always something impressive out of teens. She was smiling, not nervous at all, wanted to work any shift. She watched movies and had a good basic understanding of the business. However, she got quiet for a moment then asked how often she could take off.
I was a little puzzled by this. I explained how we could put her on a set schedule or limit her hours. She could even give me a schedule of whatever her activities were and if she was a good worker, I would work around it.
She looked upset and said it was not about school or anything. She was dying and was hoping to get a job before that happened.
I stared at her for an uncomfortable moment trying to discern if she was lying. you get a to of lying in these interviews. She teamed up. Not lying. OK. What to do.
I said I wold answer with a story, as I do. I explained the a few years previous I had an employee that found out she had a bad heart. She had to wear a monitor. I had to know what to do in different circumstances if she were to pass out or go pale, a bunch of things. We worked out what my role was to support her, how often she could work and what she may be limited to. We also worked out who would and wouldn’t know in the staff. Everything went fine. She was an amazing salesperson and a valuable member of the team.
Kaya had her smile back. I said we could work around anything. She was hired.
Her mom came in to go over emergency info I needed. We set up a training schedule. Kaya worked every shift for 4 months. Then she started having sporadic call-outs. She occasionally got shit from the staff if she missed a busy night. She secretly enjoyed it tho. Everyone at the theatre treated her like a normal person.
Kaya had a razor wit and loved to cut blowhard boys down to size. She was a dedicated worker and good with customers. She could tire easily so we had her working in the back room so she could sit for a while. Everyone loved her.
On days when it was me, a box office and a concession, she would tell me stories of her life. She had her left lung replaced twice. She had a metal hip that was magnetized. She could stick a spoon on her hip and it would stay. She loved gnomes and wanted to see every hobo burn. Kaya was very open to describing what she went thru daily if you were honestly interested. You could ask her anything.
Kaya was so thankful that she had a job. No one wanted to hire her. She had been looking for more than a year, even at the easiest kid-type jobs. She got to experience work, stress, accomplishment, comeradery, and made a bunch of friends.
A little over a year from hiring her I was moved to a new theatre. I had discussed with her that the new manager would not have the same understanding that I did. She understood. I kept in touch with her, as well as other employees. She wasn’t doing well health wise and work was falling apart as the new manager had little compassion for anyone and ran the theatre poorly.
About two years later she died from complications with a third lung transplant. I am great full that I got to be a part of her story and gave her some joy in life. She was a genuine human being.
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