Ghost stories bring to mind creaking hinges, gloomy basements, lost souls and apparitions. Not so this time. In fact, there was no ghost at all in the ghostly sense. But there was something invisible that didn't hesitate to give me a good stout shove when it counted. Perhaps this will be of interest to some of you.
It was early in 1979 as I recall. I had worked at a large mid-western zoological park for 11 years as a zookeeper. It was a city civil service position with a good retirement and decent income. It was a good job if you liked that sort of thing. I had outgrown the position, although I had been very interested in reptiles, which was the area where I had spent most of my time.
Political changes in leadership had occurred in the city, and major adjustments were being made in all city departments. It had also been made clear that some employees should not expect a promising future. Given my loss of professional interest and shifting political winds, my course was clear. It was time to move on.
Although I worked full time and had a part time job, I had gone to college at night. I graduated just in time to start putting in job applications. I also maintained my military status by remaining in the reserve components. My commanding officer had applied for a position in government and suggested I apply as well, which I did. I also applied to return to active duty for training in a restricted specialized field and was accepted.
I resigned my position at the zoo. My last day at work came, and at the end of the day I crossed the parking lot on foot. My destination was the time clock as I was required to punch out. As I made the 60 yard walk I began to have doubts about quitting my job. I was married and had 2 young children. I had grown up in poverty and well remembered how hard that experience was. I didn't want my children to suffer if my plans didn't work out as I hoped. I began to think about withdrawing my resignation when the unexpected happened, taking me by complete surprise.
A hand shoved me forward. It was across the width of my back. I could feel the fingers and palm, wrist up and finger tips down. It was not so hard as to make me lose my footing, but it certainly urged me forward without any doubt. I could feel the material of my jacket compress against my back.
I snapped around to see who the prankster was. I expected to see the guys laughing over their last day at work practical joke. There was no one there. I turned and headed for the time clock, my mind trying to grasp this in some logical way.
It happened again. The second shove not so firm as the first, but definitely there. I glanced over my shoulder at nothing and speeded up. I took this as a favorable sign and never looked back at the job I left behind.
As I write this the image of a mother duck herding an errant duckling comes to mind. I had been moved along in a no-nonsense way in a specific direction for my own good.
Everything worked out favorably and I had a far better career than had I stayed a zookeeper. The folks who remained city employees ended up with a failed retirement system that paid 10 cents on the earned retirement dollar. I feel badly for them and know that I was lucky to have escaped their fate.
I have no idea who or what pushed me that day in the parking lot. Perhaps you do.