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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Go This Way! Go THIS Way!!

As is well known around these parts (especially the parts between my own two eardrums), one of the most ridiculous jobs I’ve ever had consisted of picking up and driving ne’er-do-wells at various levels of misbehavior from the local workhouse to their jobs.

Nothing too exciting, just your average scofflaws: people without drivers’ licenses, small-time drug offenses, people with drunk-in-public escapades. This was not my usual line of work, of course, but with winter well in place and no job on the horizon, I had succumbed to my fear of unemployment and went against my better judgment.

I had been sitting on the couch, staring at my bills and counting and recounting my money when I got the call late Friday night.

“Do you,” Kevin asked, “know how to drive a stick?”

“Yes.”

“What about drugs? You doing any drugs?”

“I’m unemployed,” I told him curtly. “I can’t afford drugs.”

“What about young men?” he asked.

“I can’t afford to do those either,” I said.

“No, I mean are you okay with working with men? Men who may have criminal backgrounds, sudden meetings with their public defenders, men with various interesting dental problems?”

“OK, Kiki,” I said. “What’s going on here?”

Kevin laughed. “The majority of my workers are in the workhouse right now. They can leave for work but they need to be picked up. I need you to drive them to the job sites, maybe do some work, and drive them back.”

“What are they like?”

“The workers? They’re okay. Mostly dumb, generally harmless.” Kevin laughed again. “Just put yourself in their shoes – they just need a ride to work.”

And then Kevin said something that cinched the deal. “I’ll pay you $15 an hour. Cash.”

I started Monday.

So I put myself in their shoes, and I learned a couple things.

One: The desperate will smoke things they find laying on the ground.

Two: The workhouse is not a punishment if you don’t care.

And three: Direction is relative.

This information came to me at a cost, but for you? Today?

Almost free.

Picture, if you will, 6:30 a.m. on a January morning in Minneapolis. It is dark, it is cold, and you are silently taking stock of your life and mulling over words like “wasted potential”.

Luckily, I have my passengers to guide me.

“OK, so at these lights, you’ll go this way.”

“What? What way?”

“This way! This way!!”

By this time, I have run through the lights and must now turn around. “Can you just tell me right or left? Just tell me which way to turn.”

But not even five minutes later we have the same scenario.

“Go that way! Go over there! Go that way!”

“Look, what the @#$@ are you talking about? Just give me direction, don’t make me take my eyes off the road, dammit!”

But it was not to be; and after several moments involving shouted commands of “THIS way! THIS way!” on his part and equally loud musings on his genetic make-up on my part, I came to a conclusion.

From the passenger seat, THIS way was to his right.

THAT way was to his left.

Now if I could only sort out the directions I had been giving myself up until that moment.

Kevin was right. Sometimes, you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

And sometimes, those shoes are State-issued.

29 comments:

EcoGrrl said...

exxxxxcellent

Flea said...

I hear state issued shoes pinch. That must be it.

Gigi said...

As much as I hate to admit it in a public forum - but I have been guilty of the This Way/That Way direction giving. But in my defense, I was navigating my husband - and after almost 20 years of marriage he should know what I mean!

white rabbit said...

I used to flap my hand as well as indicating 'that way'.

It doesn't work.

Lisa said...

I love the stories about you driving the guys from the workhouse. And yeah, walking in someone else's shoes is a valuable practice.

Eric said...

I had a job as an Evening Supervisor in a homeless shelter. Responsibilities ranged between counseling, advocacy and helping people find jobs, to telling grown men it was lights out and they'd better shut up. I went into the job very idealistic and left very jaded. It was hard for a child of liberal parents to acknowledge how many of the guys just really didn't want to get jobs. I also learned something, though, about getting stuck---having your thoughts go round and round in a closed circle not allowing you to see a way out---and how your external world can begin also to form into that shape. So many of the clients explained they couldn't get out of homelessness because they needed legal IDs to get into rehab or get assisted housing or join work programs, and they couldn't get ID without showing their birth certificates, and they couldn't get their birth certificates without bus fare to the towns of their birth, and how were they supposed to get bus fare? Sometimes an outside force has to crash in in order to break close walls of that circle. It's either disaster, or the actions of nice people like yourself.

Grant said...

You could have made much more than $15/hour if you had been willing to do young men, although the older ones generally pay better.

Pat Tillett said...

hilarious!
another great story! I have to keep this comment short, cause I got to get back to my cell...

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

Very interesting. I'm intrigued to find out more, but I'm sure it's highly anxiety provoking for you to go back that way.
xoRobyn

Eva Gallant said...

Too funny! But Grant up there does have a point! And you could work from home, if you choose. lol

Hilary said...

Too funny.. and a tad nerve-wracking.

You've Got to Be Kidding Me said...

I would lose my mind.

Symdaddy said...

That sounds just like my job, only when I ask "Which way?" the answer I receive is mostly something like "Where they filmed Dr. Who last Christmas ... that way!", "Down that street where that woman was knocked down by a bus" or "What am I going to have for lunch? I forgot. Silly me!"

Thank God for giving us the SATNAV!!!

Linda Medrano said...

I'm glad this exciting job is keeping you on your toes. It beats taking in ironing (which I have done), or cleaning neighbors apartments (which I have also done and for less money!) LOL! Love this!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Oh, Pearl, this is a lovely post. I guess after your scary-story experiences, a job like this one wasn't so unimaginable.

Ricky Shambles said...

Brilliant post! Yes, my wife does this way/that way. All the time. Hilarious.

Pat said...

I often am guilty of telling my husband to go right and when he starts to turn right, I say, no, no, I mean left. I'm a retired math teacher and I still get left and right mixed up. Factoid: More women than men get left and right mixed up. I think it's because we have a thicker corpus callosum, the bundle of nerves joining the brain hemispheres. We're well in touch with our right and left brains all the time, I guess. Sorry...I digress with trivia.

That job you had didn't sound fun, but, then again, how many jobs are truly fun?

a Broad said...

I agree with You've Got To Be Kidding Me ... I would lose my mind... after I beat everyone close to me around the head ... a lot. ... I am irritable just thinking about it ...

Kal said...

When I was younger our Saturday newspaper always had a column written by Erma Bombeck. I am sure you remember her. She wrote on a thousand of different topics (like you) and each and everyone was a neat little reminder of the glories to be found in everyday life and experiences. It is amazing to me how much of her writings I remember today. Seems she was my favorite blogger/storyteller before all that was even cool. Like you I was always more impressed by how she ended her postings as I was by their content. You have that same gift. You should be writing or publishing these columns in a newspaper. I have yet to find a bum in the lot when it comes to your output. I love the way you complete the circle no matter which planet you start the story on. Just wanted to let you know today how much I appreciate the effort and how very talented you are.

"Just David!" said...

Brilliant!

Kay Dennison said...

I worked for a non-profit for a short time that worked with recently released cons and can really relate to this post. It's really like Scotty beaming you to an alternate universe!

Thanks for visiting me -- and do come back!!! And yeah, I like your blog, too!

Tempo said...

Youre assuming of course that your new friend knew his right from his left?...not likely.

Jhon Baker said...

ahhh, the state issued shoes - I think you ought to flesh out your stories a bit and submit them to various magazines. You're every bit as good as Sedaris and I would pay to read your stories.

ladyfi said...

What a great experience - life formative even, perhaps...

Martin H. said...

This scenario sounds familiar to me. In the 80s, I did voluntary work for the Probation and After Care Service here, in the UK. I was unemployed, and feeling a little sorry for myself...until I got the measure of those shoes worn by others. Loved the post, and your writing style.

Friko said...

Hi pearl,
I am so glad you found my blog; a brilliant way for me to find you. Getting to know you will be a pleasure.
I can tell that I am going to enjoy you very much.

River said...

I laughed all the way through this.

Jinksy said...

Which all goes to prove, your own viewpoint is unique to you, as mine is to me! :)

thoughtsappear said...

Kudos to you for deciphering his directions. I think I'd have been screaming, "Make the Ls with your hands!!!"

A fellow blogger pointed me to your site. I'm loving it!