Saturday, March 1, 2008

Back East

I like how people say "Back East" even if they've never been to The East, or even one state to the east of where they live. I'm sure the origin of that phrase is interesting, and the information can easily be found, but that's the kind of tangent that I can no longer afford to indulge in. I've got 15 minutes to find a job, and then it'll be March. That is official panic-time for me. Never has March sounded so cold, so final, so imposing and dreaded. It's already the most DISAPPOINTING month of the year. How much more disappointment can I endure?

Anyway, I actually AM back east, in that I lived here, in New York, previously, about 20 years ago. I worked at the Stand Bookstore, and so of course I had to consider going back there to look for work. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had, even though it didn't pay much.

So a couple of weeks, or should I say, now, months ago, I was out exploring, not yet feeling the panic of endless rejection, and I stopped for lunch at an absurd chain restaurant and ate a salad that did not excite me. It did less than excite me—it did not agree with me. We began to argue. Because the restaurant had one of those broom closets converted into a bathroom (“restroom for VERY SMALL customers only”), I started to look for another, nicer bathroom as I walked.

I finally came upon my former place of employment, The Strand. The bathroom used to be nasty, but now, in post-crack-epidemic New York, their bathroom is clean and comfortable, and larger than a lot of small businesses. For this alone, I’d recommend shopping there. And also, it’s unique place. Bookstores pay nothing, but that’s because people WANT to work there, because they love books. And how much longer can they survive, anyway, with... you know why.

I sat in this nice, warm bathroom stall until I felt better—then as I started to leave I had to rush back to the toilet and HEAVE! It wasn’t pretty, and it sounded even worse. I cleaned up everything, better than new, washed my face and mouth, and I ventured back into the store where patrons nervously glanced in my direction and then looked away in embarrassment and disgust. I was still sweating profusely, and I’m sure the sounds of my wet, then dry, heaves could be heard over the entire store.

At that moment, to add to my embarrassment, an employee showed up with a bucket and mop—and I didn’t envy his task, either. I was glad that I had cleaned up well—and so I assured him that I had taken care of it. Instead of seeming to be disgusted with me, this kind man asked if I was okay and looked at me with genuine concern. “Do you have a food allergy” he asked, which I thought was amazingly perceptive. I thanked him, and then moved on to the graphic novel section. People continued to move out of my way.

I felt a great deal of compassion for this place at this moment, and I even considered the idea of trying to get hired there again. But no, I thought, it would be too weird to work somewhere and go back over 20 YEARS LATER. I just couldn’t do it. Plus, the fact remained: I had returned to me my former place of employment, and I had HURLED. I don’t know what it means, but there’s something to that to be taken very seriously.

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