On the way to the grocery store last week, a police van stopped in front of me at a busy intersection and put on its lights. I reflexively wondered what I had done. The officer got out and walked back towards my car. I panicked – did I put my current registration in the glove box? He stopped and with a comical, defeated expression on his face, gestured for me to go around his vehicle.
I passed by slowly, wondering what was going on. On the other side of the officer’s van, a wild turkey came running out. In almost cartoonish animation, the ungainly, but speedy bird lurched this way and that in traffic, with the officer in close pursuit. The chase was on. And that was how his day started.
I once started my day at 5am, making donuts at a grocery store, wearing a horrific name tag that said, “I’m new, but I’m exceptional!” I was new, but the thought that this was me being exceptional depressed the hell out of me. Mostly I pulled frozen crullers and bear claws out of the freezer to defrost. I was also charged with mixing batter, feeding it like toothpaste into a doughnut press, and dropping the heart attack bombs into the fryer.
Starting out with paper routes and babysitting, I’ve had one job or another since I was 10 years old. Babysitting was where I got my first exposure to porn. After the little wretches were put to bed for the 400th time, I was looking through videos for something to watch and there were magazines. I was 11 years old and had no idea people did things like that with animals. I didn’t tell anybody, but I never babysat for the Creepensteins again. They had farm animals.
One of the toughest jobs I had was working as a security guard (sometimes a natural progression from the military) at a plant that made washers and dryers. It was a tough job, because I worked the graveyard shift (11pm-7am). This allowed me to attend college during the day. Apparently I didn’t need much sleep then. To save money, the company would use the non-union security guards to run and monitor their waste water treatment department. I spent the night watching chrome decanting monitors and opening barrels of treatment chemicals that burned holes in the front of my t-shirts. Those were the days of safety
first third or fourth.
Over the last couple of decades, I’ve worked in nicer places – a library, a hospital, office cubes, eventually an office of my own. It’s a different kind of work from loading boxes on a trailer or digging trenches at a park reserve. I find office work to be more challenging than any other kind of work, as I am not adept at being in close contact with humans all day long. And you can spend a whole day being busy and get absolutely nothing of concrete worth done.
Working from home is a blessing and a curse. My human interaction is sometimes so limited that I frighten the UPS man with my perky greeting that says “I haven’t talked to another human today. Be my friend”. Now they’re like pranksters, they ring the door bell and run, in the hopes the crazy lady in yoga pants won’t try and talk to them.
I used to regard my consumer interactions as a nuisance, wishing cashiers and hair cutters and post office workers wouldn’t try to strike up a conversation with me. I was busy, dammit. Let’s get a move on. Now that my human interactions are not so forced, I find it enjoyable to do more than smile and be polite. I am becoming the nosy old lady who wants to know if you and Bob over at the car wash are related, since you both have the same shaped eyes. I am becoming Miss Marple.
As a writer, I should understand and embrace this curiosity. I’ve always been introverted and reserved, but these days, I’m getting bolder and giving in to my unfiltered questions. It’s no longer enough to just observe. I asked the lady cutting my hair yesterday if her hands hurt after doing this all day. She told me how she got carpal tunnel when she was pregnant and how a coworker of hers has no feeling in her pinky fingers anymore.
Being curious about the experiences of others, putting yourself in their shoes, asking impulsive questions and most importantly, making connections – this is something I’m finally embracing. I’ve started to pay closer attention to the people who I encounter throughout the day. Whether they like it or not. Although a nosy Nellie might be a step up from a wild turkey.