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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Go This Way! 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?”


“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.


C... said...

These guys are this fix because they failed to grasp right from wrong... so it's safe to say right and left were never given much thought. ;)

Jinksy said...

Almost as bad as instruction manual, that - they expect you to know 'this' and 'that' too! LOL

Leenie said...

I'm sorry I'm using my stupid smart phone to read yur blog so I can't. Comment at thia (see. What. I mean ...stupis) at this. Time.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Up down, right left, north south, over under...it's all relative. At least he knew he had to go somewhere (as long as it wasn't in your car).

Daisy said...

I remember when in Boot Camp some people didn't know their left from their right - they had to carry a pebble in one hand to know the difference. There are still people who can't read or write, who do illegal things because they need to eat or feed their families, etc. "Walking in their shoes" won't be easy, but what a great opportunity for learning and compassion.

What's a workhouse?

Pearl said...

It's good to not know what a workhouse is, Daisy. :-) Shows you've probably been hanging with the right pups!

Bouncin' Barb said...

For $15 cash an hour, I think I would have done it also. Just as long as they didn't bother you! Great story.

'Auntie' said...

Thank you for coming by my blog, and commenting!

Gracious me though... You are so far from even being nearing 50. You are in the bloom-of-youth, my Dear. And good for you. :-)

Keep remembering that, becoming *olden* will happen to all of us (of we are lucky). And that it's never too soon, to begin our personal preparation for so doing. Stuff like, do we have to be validated by others, to feel good about ourselves? And the like.

Never been here before, so I'm just getting acquainted. See you are a writer, and a good one!
Not too long. Not too short. Gather your reader quickly in, to what you are telling. Etc.

Gentle hugs,

Eva Gallant said...

Well, it's a wacky job, but someone had to do it! Glad you graduated from that activity!

vanilla said...

Now me, tell me "east" and "west." I might even (as did you) grasp (eventually, as did you) "this way" and "that way" but for heaven's sake do not ever tell me "left" or "right."

Vinny C said...

Considering my present state of unemployment, even that job doesn't sound too bad right now.

Travis Erwin said...

THIS post is Righteous or should I say THISeous.

lgsquirrel said...

Haha. My wife says to me, "Turn right, right. Turn right now! .......I mean the OTHER right......oh, wait....the map was upside down."

jenny_o said...

Within my family we have several people who have the hardest time with left and right, and these are intelligent people. I have often wondered if there is a genetic component to it.

Antares Cryptos said...

The journey is the destination.

Audubon Ron said...

Prolly a good you don't drive me anywhere - EVER. I say make a Louie here and then make a Ralph. And as they say in San Francisco, go gaily forward.

Susan in the Boonies said...

I think you missed your calling.
Culturally foreign language interpretation.

You have a gift.

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! I hope 'Difficult doesn't read this; he'll be over here begging you to drive us to our next night out, just so he doesn't have to be a passenger in my car. He's a big girl's blouse. And yes, there's room at the curry house for a third. Indigo x

Macy said...

Maybe there was a hint when they offered to pay you by the hour for driving across town!

iDifficult said...

Crumbs, that gave me pause for thought. I must also mention that there is nothing wrong with Indigo's driving, providing you have your eyes shut and have your fingers in your ears so as you can't hear the sound of grating metal and horns blowing.

Gigi said...

As long as you don't tell me to "go east on Main Street for 3 miles and then turn north on Elm...." I'm much better with "turn right on Main; go through three lights and turn left at the Wendy's.."

Of course, that's gotten me into trouble before too....when the person giving the directions not only got their right/left mixed up but also their fast food joints.

The Elephant's Child said...

When as a small child I had difficulties with right and left my ever helpful (not) father told me your thumb is on the left of your right hand. I have every sympathy with these individuals - though it would have made your job tricky. Thanks for the memories and the smiles.

Pearl said...

OK. All of you: get in the van. We're goin' on a road trip.

Cheeseboy said...

Why yes, that would make perfect sense to me. "Over there" would be straight. "Yonder" would be an S curve. You just have to speak their language is all.

injaynesworld said...

"...wasted potential." You? Never. You can spin anything into literary and humorous gold.

River said...

You had to turn left...right?
You do have some interesting jobs!
My kids as toddlers had sneakers with left and right printed across the toecaps, so they learned to read those words at the same time. I helped by explaining that your right hand is the one you write with, your left hand is the one left over. Of course that didn't work with my grand daughter who is left-handed.

Pat said...

Worse are the ones who DO know left from right - in their dreams.

Linda O'Connell said...

Left, right, all around, you take your readers in every direction possible and make us laugh.

Douglas said...

What a wonderful heart-warming story of compassion and avarice. Those two are always at war, ain't they?

Myself, being male, eschew directions. I even argue with my Garmin. I never get lost, however, I simply take what I call "The Scenic Route" on which I have visited various and sundry neighborhoods (or what passes for same) and country roads.

I get it from my mother.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Pearl. Whatever would we do without you and all your interesting jobs? Thank God you're poor.
....PS: THANK YOU *nerd alert* for following me. You rock, dearie. :)

Pat Tillett said...

Very funny! You may have had more jobs than I have...maybe.
I don't know how you keep coming up with this stuff, but I'm sure glad you do.