In the late 1980's, I was working at my new full-time job as a medical transcriptionist with another young woman at an old, spooky hospital in central Virginia. My husband was earning his masters degree at the University of Maryland, so I was keeping up our tiny apartment and paying our bills while he was away for a year. I had some creepy experiences while working at the hospital, but the events in this story, while related to my job, actually took place in an old school house 10 miles away. Please bear with me while I set the stage for my strange experiences, and I hope you enjoy this story.
The two-person team of transcriptionists was supervised by a late middle-aged woman, Gladys (not her real name), our proofreader who was from the old school of English grammar teachers, so to speak. Gladys had been an English teacher back when children were taught how to diagram sentences and how to spell correctly, skills that were starting to fade as the United States public school system administrators were, even in the 1980's, "dumbing down" the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Gladys was strict but seemed to appreciate my long-standing interest in grammar and linguistics, and didn't have to worry too much about correcting my transcribed reports for the doctors.
Gladys' husband had died several years before I obtained the transcriptionist job. One of the hospital administrative assistants told me Gladys was not as cantankerous in the past, as her spouse's death evidently had brought about some negative changes to her personality. In short, while I admired Gladys, I found her to be vindictive and detested her habit of giving sly messages that were veiled insults aimed at me and my fellow typist. My days were spent transcribing medical reports from dictaphones and dodging my supervisor's uncalled-for and intermittent stinging remarks. I seriously did not like the atmosphere that added stress to my already stressed home life, with my husband of only five years being hundreds of miles away. I tried not to burden him over the phone with negative tales of my new job, because he was already worried about our financial situation and whether or not he would be able to complete his studies.
My husband did, in fact, earn his MLS with excellent grades and he returned home. A year passed and I was still working at the old hospital. My supervisor had "gotten used" to me and was a bit friendlier than when I first started working. However, when the administrators told us we would be moving into a new building across the street, the pressure made Gladys backslide into her nasty mannerisms. I started job-hunting when a hatchet man was hired to cull out unneeded secretaries and generally downsize the entire department. In all likelihood, I probably could have kept my job, but I started looking for a different job, just to be safe.
One Friday afternoon, I was beside myself with anger, as Gladys had spent the entire week slinging barbed arrows at me and my co-worker, picking on us over largely made-up infractions. The hatchet man had been in and out of our small office space, making veiled threats against the three of us - my supervisor, me and the other transcriptionist. The final blow for me was overhearing Gladys give my fellow transcriptionist a smarmy and negative evaluation to a potential new employer over the phone. My blood ran cold, and I realized I could not use Gladys as a job reference, which was very worrisome, since I had an interview the following Monday.
On Sunday afternoon, my husband took me for a ride in the country, to what had been an old school house, then old-fashioned store, and finally had been turned into a small antique mall. Before we left the huge, early 1900's, white clapboard building to go home, I climbed the back stairs to the bathroom. The restroom was an enclosed space in the middle of a cavernous, creepy attic, meant to be used by men and women, and it had a toilet, shower stall and sink. I carefully locked the door, because I was a little leery of someone creeping around this attic space. My husband was downstairs at the front of the store, and I felt very alone up in the storage area.
I was washing my hands when I heard a double knocking sound on the door. I said, "I'll be out in a minute!" and dried my hands. Suddenly, I had strange wave come over me, and I felt like I was going to faint. For some bizarre reason, I was compelled to look at the shower stall next to me, and had the sensation that someone was trying to give me a message. All this took place within less than a minute. I opened the door, looked all around, didn't see who had knocked on the door and noticed that the floorboards would have creaked loudly if anyone had walked back downstairs. No one was around. I pretty much ran downstairs and walked to the car with my husband. As I left the building and got into our car, I had another wave of "something" come over me, but this time, I swore I heard someone say in my head, "School is out!" The sun broke out from behind the clouds, sending rays of sunshine in through the passenger window, and suddenly I felt ecstatically happy. I mentioned this to my husband and said I was at a loss to understand these events.
When we returned to our apartment, the phone rang. It was one of the bookkeepers at work. She said Gladys had passed away about an hour and a half earlier, from a pulmonary embolism while taking a shower at home. School was out for Gladys, and it would appear she was trying to let me know she was in a happier place. God rest her soul and I did appreciate her contacting me in the old school house while I was in the attic bathroom. As a postscript, I did land the new job the next morning at my Monday interview, at a higher salary and with my own small office space.