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On my second day in Cambridge, I answered an ad from an upperclass student who needed a part-time personal care assistant (PCA). I decided my main job would have less responsibility than my earlier group home jobs, so I dropped off my resume at the Harvard Coop bookstore.
Out of my comfort zone, I also didn’t have internet access, with no laptop or smart phone. I dropped by the Harvard Information Center in the Holyoke Center Arcade to check my email on one of their free computers.
My third day, a young woman in a motorized scooter interviewed me briefly.
First thing on the fourth day, I started the PCA job. I drove to a dorm at the Quadrangle (called the ‘Quad’) north of the main campus. Driving instead of walking turned out to be a terrible idea. Parking required circling streets around my destination for a long time to find an open spot. My new job involved a long, complicated morning routine.
The fifth day in Cambridge, I left the car parked by my apartment. During inclement weather, the parking situation turned from stressful to impossible. For that reason, I walked almost everywhere regardless of the forecast, including the half hour each way to and from the Quad in the morning. I stopped back at the Coop employment office to remind the director about my application and management experience.
The sixth day, the Harvard bookstore called for an interview, and on the seventh, I filled out employment papers.
The bookstore was an historic co-op that paid rebates to students, which evolved into the official common name, The Coop. I worked full-time from 2 to 10 p.m. in textbooks. With the addition of my morning PCA job, I rarely saw my roommate and spent little time at the apartment during the day. When I did, I usually stayed in my bedroom with the door closed, reading books from the public library. I felt out of place in the dingy apartment.
I saw Beth often during the first orientation week, shopping with her in the Square or dropping off things she needed. She met me at the main entrance of the dorm to let me in. From there, we took the elevator to her second floor suite. She thanked me for setting up her dorm room, but didn’t give me a dorm key.
And I didn’t ask for one.
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