Wishing I was somewhere else

I'll do anything legal for five dollars an hour, so today I loaded a U-Haul truck for some beautiful babe who’s moving. Earned twenty bucks for my trouble — ten for two hours of lift and carry, and ten for a tip.

I think she tipped me fairly large because I'd simply showed up and done what she told me to do, without dropping any boxes, and especially without dropping any hints or trying to make a move on her while she was moving. I wouldn’t bother a young and attractive woman with my fat interest anyway, but best-behavior is extra important when someone’s paying me.

Word of mouth will be crucial to making the "anything legal" idea work. If she mentions me to her friends, it has to be "I hired the guy off this flyer, and he was all about the work, no monkey business," not "I hired this creepy guy and he was eyeing me all morning."

Thus I did not eye her all morning. I said nothing much except "Good morning" and "Loading the truck will work best if we put the heaviest boxes on the bottom" and "Thanks."

After doing her heavy lifting, I bused over to Jose's, and spent the afternoon inputting receipts and invoices to a spreadsheet, in a cramped corner of his garage. Just like old times, I was Data Entry Boy. From 15+ years working in offices, I am quick at a keyboard and he was impressed.

When I'd finished, Jose said that after eating, we’d be reorganizing all the equipment in his garage. He wanted to eat first, though, and offered to make me dinner. I never argue with free food, and I’ve been eating whatever’s cheap since quitting Macy’s — lots of bread and margarine and powdered soup — so almost anything would’ve been my best meal in a month. 'Anything' turned out to be homemade burritos, maybe my best meal in two months, but...

When we went into the house, Jose was surprised to find his sister and a gaggle of her friends in his living room, and suddenly instead of me and Jose eating a quick meal, I was at a dinner party. 

Fuck dinner parties. Conversations with strangers is something I hate, and this was unexpected conversation with unexpected strangers who all knew each other. Normal people love people but I am not normal people and for me this was the worst of all worsts. I withdrew inside myself, like I always do around strangers, and everyone there was a stranger except Jose, and I don’t even know him all that well.

After a tasty but uncomfortable dinner, I faded into an alcove off the living room to suck my beer alone, while everyone else was yukking it up in the kitchen and the living room. There was no escape, though.

A very pieced, tattooed, and talkative woman came into the alcove, and plopped onto a chair across the room, not saying anything yet but looking at me. Gulp. I almost knew her name because she’d introduced herself before dinner, and she'd been talking all through the meal. She’d been the loudest person at dinner, and now she wanted to talk with me? Alone? I’d sat in the alcove to get away from the talking.

This is what extroverts don't understand about introverts. She thought she was rescuing me from having no-one to talk to, but it's the opposite. For a few minutes I'd blissfully had no-one to talk to, and then she walked in and ruined everything.

She talked at me because she's a talker and that's what talkers do, but I had nothing to say, nothing I wanted to say. After a day of sweaty labor and then mind-numbing number-crunching for Jose, I was not interested in pretending to be Mr Personality. I sipped my beer until it was empty, shook my head yes or no when she asked questions, laughed when she said something funny, and didn’t say much of anything else. Eventually she gave up and went into the other room. Victory!

If I’d been invited to this impromptu get-together, I would’ve politely declined. I was there to work, not to talk, and despite being fed I was getting fed up. And then… 

There was no work to be done. After the meal and after the tedious talk-talk-talk time, Jose said, “I'll let you leave, Doug. I don’t feel like working any more tonight.” 

I could’ve been with Stanley at a museum. He’d invited me, admission was free and I’d wanted to go, but instead I'd told him I needed to earn an income. Well, earning an income had ended almost two hours earlier, right? You never get paid for meal time. I'd assumed I was off the clock from the moment we came in from the garage for dinner.

All this time spent with other people’s friends felt like work, though, so when I tallied my time for the day I included dinner. I will eat for free, but I will not eat and talk for free.

Jose paid in cash and without question, and added an extra hour’s wages like he always does. He’s a tipper, and that’s appreciated. Tips are another tricky aspect of “anything legal” work. $5 an hour is cheap enough to make the phone ring with inquiries, but it might not be enough to pay the rent and buy groceries and have a life. Tips really help.

If I say that plainly to prospective clients, though, then I’m a bait-and-switch — “The flyer says $5 an hour but now you’re demanding a tip?” So I never ask for gratuities, only hope for them. My wage is five dollars an hour, and after that, like Blanche, I’m depending on the kindness of strangers.

Jose is a decent guy, and his tips help, and the burritos help too, but same as the woman in the alcove, he’s too outgoing. As I was leaving he even invited me to a party on Saturday night, making sure I understood that it’s unpaid playtime, not worktime. I stammered something like, "Nah, man, thanks, but I don’t do parties," even as I was leaving what had almost been a party.

No. No. No. I don’t know what I’ll be doing Saturday night, but I won’t be at a party with some guy I work for. I hate parties. Every party I’ve ever been to — all three of them — all I did was stare out the window and wish I was somewhere else, so on Saturday I’ll make my wish come true, and be somewhere else.

From Pathetic Life #10
Thursday, March 2, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Pathetic Life 

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  1. > I wouldn’t bother a young and attractive woman with my fat interest anyway, but best-behavior is extra important when someone’s paying me.

    Oh Doug, this is proof you are not the asshole you sometimes seem to think you are. I am now married and older plus fifty pounds and two children, and men leave me more alone now than they used to, but I still sometimes am approached in the most inappropriate situations. Thank you on behalf of that woman. Its nice to have someone who will just pack the UHaul.

    1. I know myself well enough to know I'm an asshole. I try not to be *that* kind of asshole, though.

      And I'll pack your UHaul any time.


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