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It was much too hot as Cali and I pulled up to the crowded gas station to wait our turn to fill the on-the-verge-of-empty gas tank in my truck. Cali and I have worked together for about four months. Between Cali and his wife, they have two jobs, one baseball-genius son…and one car. So Cali gets rides from me the four days a week we get off from work at the same time.

Working in the circulation department of the local public library has proven fun for me. There is an almost constant stream of characters that pass by the front desk where they are accosted by my greeting, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. The work can be fast paced, like the days when more people and books come through our doors than we can handle, but there are lulls in the day as well. Most importantly, my bosses seem to be more laid back than at my previous paid job.

In a previous incarnation (the one before I became Mom and stay at home worker), I was a legal secretary. Not one trained for the job, mind you. They hired me based solely on my inexperience since they could then pay me just over minimum wage and know I would be grateful. Everyone at the firm started work promptly at 9am, except for the receptionist who was to come in at 8:30am. The receptionist was a lovely older lady who had gone back to work after her husband retired. Ms. Gray arrived every morning just before 8:30 and was left to wait outside the front door of the office, rain or shine, hot or freezing cold or some combination thereof, until the junior attorney assigned to open the office early arrived. This was because they could not possibly trust Ms. Gray, who had worked for them a mere seven years, with a key to the front door.

Junior was rarely on time and I know this because one year into my five and a half year employment with them, I began to come in a sanctioned half hour early at 8:30am. Ms. Gray’s husband often parked in front of the building, especially on cold days, so that we could wait in relative comfort for Junior to turn up and release us from the waiting purgatory.

One cold morning, I decided I should engage Mr. Gray, a somewhat surly lump of a fellow, in conversation. I thought better of the idea a little too late, somewhere in the midst of his rant about some teenagers who were thoughtless enough to cut him off the previous day in traffic. He was infuriated and had followed them, wishing to let them know his fury by screaming some expletive or other at them, keeping the anger alive by recounting the story in as much vivid detail as he could muster.

Shocked into silence, I only dared to respond as I saw Junior walk up to the office door.

‘That’s a lot of negative energy to expend on people who don’t even know you exist,’ I commented as I left the vehicle. It was the last time I saw Mr. Gray since he made Ms. Gray a widow just a few days later.

None of this was on my mind as Cali and I sat in the line, or at least what I thought was the line, at the gas station. While we chatted, I saw an opening start to come available, but before I could take advantage of the opportunity, another car came in and whizzed around my puny little truck and snagged the open spot at the tank.

Furious at such inconsiderate behavior, I quickly pondered my options…1- Get out and yell at the people, 2- Honk my horn, but wait until another spot came available to then fill up my tank or 3- Squeal my tires as I raced out of the lot. Number one was fraught with the danger of getting yelled at or worse, completely ignored. There was also the possibility they would ask me what I wanted them to do about it and if they had to ask the question, well then it just wasn’t worth the effort. Number two was also laced with the prospect of being yelled at and frankly, I really don’t like confrontation. So number three it was!

Cali’s eyes widened unnaturally as I raced around parked cars to leave the gas station and pulled out into non-existent traffic. (We live in a very small town.) Still fuming as we turned down his street, I lamely tried to explain myself, but it sounded hollow even to my angry ears.

thoughtful womanIt’s only now, several weeks later, that I remember Ms. Gray’s husband and his fury at being cut off by some thoughtless drivers and my own calm and measured response. There is a part of me that has somehow been lost. I haven’t seen much of that calm, centered person in a long while and though I’m not sure where she went, but I have a feeling I know where to find her.

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