I Felt Like Pavlov’s Dog!


  I Felt Like Pavlov’s Dog!

I passed The Company’s personality/honesty test with ninety-eight percent. The Company’s representatives didn’t believe anyone could score so high, so I took another version.   It was as consistent as the first.  Next, I aced the polygraph test, personal interviews and finally, demonstrated mechanical ability, so the job was mine!

It started out as great part-time work where I wore a pager and worked on-call. That first year, the $50 weekly pager-pay bought our groceries, and I rarely had more than two service calls per week.  The calls meant extra money too.  Sha-zaam!

That was many years ago when my kids were young and I worked for a company that did first-line repair of ATM machines.

Everything changed when the company signed contracts with a few large banking institutions. My bosses were new in this game and not very cultured in business savvy. They liked the way I found resolutions for a number of contract, training and employee issues.

Soon I became a manager for much of Northern California and dealt with some of the other Northwest contract installations as well.  When an ATM was down, getting it back into service ASAP was important!  Every non-op minute meant lost revenue for the bank.

Just one hour, that’s all we had. As contractors for various banks, a Field Servicer’s clock began ticking the moment they were paged.   An ATM Servicer was obliged to drive to a troubled machine, get into the bank, deal with security and alarms, access the ATM room, disarm the ATM itself, add money or make small repairs to the ATM and close the call.  –  all in one hour.   Goodness!  Some bank sites were so remote that travel to the location alone, took most of the response time allotted. It was always a fight!

My job kept me on-edge. Although I wasn’t exactly aware of it until much later, it caused sleep issues along with other physical problems. During the hours of 7 a.m. – 11p.m., that pager sang about every 15-20 minutes.  I’d no sooner resolve one issue than another was plopped on my plate.  When no other field servicer was available, the managers had to run service calls too.  My poor car averaged 800 miles a week at times, especially in the summer.

Before cell phones, phone booths were a familiar sight. No matter where I was on the road, if the pager peeped, I’d have pull over to find a phone and call into my dispatch.   If I was lucky enough to be at home, I could track calls from my computer.  That I liked!

Forever on the phone, the job did allow me to work from home most of the time during the day. This was important to me since I had a new baby and other small children.   In the evening, after the banks closed, I was expected to be part the field service team and resolve calls when needed.

One year grew into ten before I was able to move on. I coped, but that type of work really took its toll on my body AND my mind. Honestly, I hadn’t realized just how much it had affected me.  It seems I had been inadvertently trained to always be on alert!  Always ON, never OFF – seven days a week!

Eventually, I rejoined the dental field and felt pretty good after a few months away from ATMs, pagers and road-trips. To celebrate, my kids and I dropped into a fast food place for a relaxing lunch.

Sitting with the family felt good and I was doing just fine until….until that blasted french-fry machine went off signaling that the French fries were ready!!!!

The shrill beep-beep-beep-beep-beep caused me to tense up immediately! I fairly jumped out of my seat and bolted for the car.   The kids laughed and laughed when I sheepishly made my way back to the table.

Just like Pavlov’s dog!  Yes, I was a trained puppy!  The noise of that machine was so similar to my previous pager’s tone,  that I responded like I was going to a fire!

Unsettling, that’s what it was, and I was not happy with my reaction. It was not a good reminder of years of long-haul travel and always being on-call!

It took a while of reconditioning and lots of prayer for me to settle back into a more peaceful lifestyle.

Similarly, each one of us is exercised. From birth, a variety of reinforcements exert influence, either subconsciously or consciously.  Some good, some bad.

Our broken world is ruled by a wisdom that brings no peace but continually steals from us. Why?  Because it is earthly sensual and demonic, holding us at bay, yanking our chains to elicit the required behavioral responses.

What responses? Yank! Worry… Yank! Fear… Yank! Unrest… Yank! Torment …. Yank! Foreboding

It reminds me of how I was chained to that pager and phone for work! Although I liked the work and appreciated a certain amount of flexibility, part of me cringed each time my pager activated or the phone rang.

Well, my brain has been retrained and so have most of my reactions, both physically and spiritually! That goes for work and living life, in general.

Now, my first response to “crisis” is to hold myself calm with The Peace that passes all understanding. That keeps my mind restrained so it won’t respond to the chain-yanks of my flesh while I check in with Father God for instructions.

Notice, I didn’t say it was always easy to hold myself calm, but it does open the door for Wisdom – – from above to take over.

That Wisdom is pure. It is gentle and brings peace! It teaches me how to obey God’s will while filling me with mercy and good fruit.  He is The Good Shepherd and I am His sheep.  I hear His voice and the voice of a stranger I will not choose to follow.

Yep! Outside triggers and unfavorable responses are no longer my taskmaster.   Ring that Bell all you want!


This post is shared at “Tell Me a True Story.”


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