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Search for good job, into, goes on

June 06, 1997

(Editor's note: This is another in a series of continuing columns about Regina Graber, a 42-year-old Washington County woman re-entering the labor market.)

Regina Graber hates her picture.

Or to be more precise, she hates the picture that accompanied this column. I have to agree that it doesn't do her justice, because when you're talking to her, there's no one expression that stays put. Just as a fish swimming below the surface of stream creates ripples on its surface, Graber's emotions ripple across her face, narrowing her eyebrows when she's indignant, then sending them skyward when she has a happy thought. It's many things, but it's not a poker face, and no still photo can do it justice.

I offered to take a new photo anyway because I hadn't heard from her in a while, and one point of this column was supposed to be that it would run often enough to let readers begin to know her, and root for her to succeed. And so I called and left a message saying that I had a fresh roll of film in the camera. Did she want, I asked, to let me try get a shot more to her liking?

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A couple days later she called at about 9:30 p.m. and said the new picture idea sounded nice. Then she began to catch me up on what's been happening.

If you remember the last chapter, after a long period of searching, Graber finally snagged a job on the night shift in a stationery-supply warehouse. The involves three 12-hour shifts each week, checking orders before they go out, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

When she got the job she was upbeat, because she figured that she could leave just an hour or so before her kids went to bed and get home just as they were getting ready to go to school. And sleep during the day. It sounded awful to me, but I hate night work. The many windows that let light into the newsroom are as black as headline ink at night, and I feel like I'm on the bottom of the sea.

Back to Regina: Six weeks later, the job isn't what she thought it would be. For someone who enjoys working with the public, checking orders just isn't as much fun as talking with real people. There aren't any supervisors on the night shift, so if a problem comes up, she says the employees just have to handle it.

She also got hurt once, trying to lift a box off a fork lift after she saw another, smaller woman struggling with it. They should have called someone else to help, but it was only one box, or so they thought, but lifting it was enough to cause pain in her back.

"They made me go to Robinwood (Medical Center). I told them 'Just give me some pain pills and let me go back to work', but they wouldn't," she said.

"I found out I'm not 20 years old any more," she said.

She still remembers her 20s, she says, when she was the do-it-all person for the H.S. Peterson Company in Frederick. If a contract had to be delivered on time, she was the one who did it. She like the job because she wasn't a supervisor cracking the whip on her fellow employees, but was still doing things that were important to the company. She still wishes she could contact her old boss Tom "Gene" Kreuz, who was living in Leesburg, Va., for awhile, but is nowhere to be found now.

Not that I haven't tried. A Herald-Mail co-worker told me about Internet locator services that can search a state (or the nation, if necessary) for someone you're trying to find. I've used one called Four11.com previously and hadn't come up with anything, but another colleague suggested whowhere.com, which turned up a few possibilities.

The services basically load up the pages of every phone book in the nation, then create devices to search it. I used it to search for Kreuz in Leesburg, then in Virginia and finally all over the U.S. I found a Thomas E. (for Eugene maybe?) in Buffalo, N.Y., but the woman who answered the phone said he wasn't the guy I was looking for. A woman named Kreuz in Frederick may be his widow or a relative, but she hasn't returned my call yet.

While I was waiting for the callback, I decided to try to trace the company, which Graber told me went out of a business after the owner's wife was killed in a car wreck and he lost the will to go on.

My first call was to the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, which referred me to the County Clerk's office, which said it had no record of a license for the company.

Could you maybe refer me to one of the old-timers in the business community that might remember the firm, I asked.

"I am one of the old-timers," said the clerk, who suggested that I talk to the Register of Wills, which had no record of Peterson's will. I could seek him out through the Maryland Department of Vital Statistics in Baltimore, if I had any confidence in the thought that he either was born or died in Maryland.

And so I've accomplished nothing, not even persuading Graber to come in long enough for a new photo. She said she would stop by one day this week, but she didn't, and so the photo is old and the column is just snippets of conversation from a short phone call during which I thought I was arranging a longer interview. But sometimes, like now, you just have to go with what you've got.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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