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Squeaky Wheels

by Melissa Lee-Tammeus, PhD, LMHC

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil, Missa.” This was my father’s mantra.

I thought he was crazy.

The first time I was up for a true-blue, adult job, that mantra was all I heard for two days straight. See, I botched it big time. I actually fainted during the initial interview and I was so horrified, I didn’t want to follow up. It was a medical company that made cauterizing needles for surgery. I asked to see a surgery video using their product, trying to seem like I was really into it. I fainted while watching some doctor splice open a woman’s breast and chop off her nipple like it was a bad spot on a potato. The person who interviewed me found me face down on the conference table. I woke up lying on a sick bed in some public restroom area with a group of people around me I didn’t know. I pretty much figured I hadn’t gotten the job and planned to never set foot in that place again.

My dad would have none of that. He shoved the green plastic phone with the cord a mile long at me. “Call them. Now.”

“But what do I say?” I whined.

“Anything. Anything to let them know you want it. That you will do anything to get it. That you will live and breathe this job if they give you this opportunity!” He shook the phone again, right under my nose.

“Call. Now.”

“Alright, already!” I angrily snatched it from his hand.

He gave me the look that made me know I was on the verge of being in real trouble. I made the call right then and there, stumbling over my words, barely speaking loud enough to be heard. It was one of those “we haven’t made a decision yet, but we’ll let you know” kind of things. Yeah. Whatever. I gave my dad an I told you so look and bounced up the stairs by twos to my room.

Then next day, my dad stopped me in the hall, my keys jangling, on my way to the mall.

“Did you call them today?”

“Daaaaad! No!” I actually stomped my foot. Drama 101 - all teenagers take it and pass with flying colors. Some of us use it as adults and make great progress with it. Some not so much.

My dad crossed his arms and stared me down until I walked, defeated and utterly mortified, to the phone. I called the medical place again and this time the receptionist knew me before I even said my name. She said they’d like to see me for a second interview. I barely eeked out a response as I scrambled for a pen and the piece of cardboard thumb-tacked next to the wall phone, the only thing left from a notepad. I scribbled the information down.

“Okay, 2 o’clock, great, that’s great."

I put the phone back on the hook and looked at my father.

There was no smugness, no I told you so in his body stance. He merely nodded and turned on his heel, leaving me to stare back at the phone in shock.

I got that job – they offered it to me at that second interview the next day. I came home elated. My first real job – in an office, with people in suits and meetings and coffee and file folders. No more smelling like hamburger. No more bathroom cleaning. No more pushing carts in drifts of dirty snow.

When he heard the news, my dad touched my shoulder, gave it a little squeeze.

“I knew you could do it, kid,” he said.

To this day, I am that squeaky wheel. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most times, I get it done, whatever it is. And, well, when I don’t, I figure someone else’s wheel was just a bit squeakier that time around and that’s okay.

And to that, I thank my dad.

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