On The Job

Registrar of Voters, Orange County.

My first full-time job involved processing voter’s affidavits. Which is to say, tedium and monotony forty hours a week. The very definition of mind numbing. The office was located in Santa Ana, CA. In 1978 there were no office computers, rather, microfiche was the go-to device to aid in the task of researching voter names and addresses.  I made corrections by hand to every affidavit in need of updating. Slow work. In addition, I was to answer phones and give assistance to callers. Election years were characterized by pressure, stress and working around the clock through the early morning hours.

Now for the nasty truth. Smoking was not prohibited in offices in 1978. I had co-workers beside me, behind me, and virtually throughout the entire office, smoking at work. We were all tired by the end of the day, the smokers looked especially haggard. PSA: Do you want to look old and dried up? Then smoke.

Times have definitely changed. Cell phones and computers command attention. Microfiche is a relic. I have not been back to Santa Ana to confirm whether the Registrar of Voters remains where I left it. But, I have to assume the office no longer sanctions smoking at work.

Arthur Duncan

The consummate tap dancer. Two of my tap students and I had the privilege of meeting and dancing with Mr. Duncan in San Francisco a few years ago. In case you are not acquainted with the talented hoofer, Arthur was featured on the Lawrence Welk Show for a number of years. How do I know this with certainty? My Nana was an avid fan of the show in the 60s and by association I became a fan when I spent the night in her home.

One evening I drove a husband and wife team of dancers to the venue in San Francisco in which Arthur was to appear. I knew nothing about what to expect accept that he would be there. The place held fifty seats and all of them occupied by guests. Arthur gave details regarding his career in show business. Two hours of personal storytelling and his signature tap style to round out the evening. And then the moment we anticipated. The guests were all invited to join him on stage. No one remained in their seats. Arthur led us in amazing fun. We danced — some without tap shoes — but that didn’t matter as we moved to shuffles, cramp rolls and flaps.

May 25 is National Tap Dance Day. Do it!

 

Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet

I so love the Grocery Outlet chain of discount grocery stores. Why, just today I picked up a jar of ginormous blue cheese stuffed green olives, a bag of the best avocados (trust me, I am a guacamole connoisseur) and a set of four floor mats made for my VW. Ridiculously bargain priced. But the high point of my shopping trip didn’t center around any of the amazing deals. While reaching into the case holding the bacon, I had to ask a fellow shopper if she could move her cart a smidge.

She was apologetic, she moved, and then she said, “I am in no hurry, go right ahead.”

She was so sweet about it, I smiled back and thanked her.

“I am a retired psychiatric nurse with the prison system…those are the worst ones, the crazy killers.”

Ha! I laughed and I felt compelled to match her statement with one of my own. “Well, I am psychiatric, maybe you can lend assistance my direction!” This time we both laughed. She took my hand and emphasized that we are all a little bit crazy and she regaled me with more of her experiences in the world of the hardcore prison community. What an exchange she provided with her rich history.

This day will go down as one of the more interesting and rewarding shopping events. Right there between the dog food, the laundry detergent, and the light bulbs… the lady who offered the friendly slice-of-life within the Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet.

Tears

I found myself occupying space in a college Women’s Studies class. I enjoyed the atmosphere and I worked hard to provide the professor with some of my finest papers as it was a Writing Intensive course required for my major.

On one particular occasion the entire class was witness to Dr. Schoenlein in a moment of vulnerable release. She was informing the class of the environment in a WWII concentration camp that historical accounting gave credence to. Of course, the professor was not there at the camp, she was only 2 years old at the time living comfortably with her parents, but her story was compelling. It is necessary to point out that she is German. A few minutes into her dialogue she fell silent. Tears ensued. The room took on the dead silence generated by all the respectfully quiet students. She regained her composure. The last thing she said at that moment was, “I am sorry.”

My sense was that she was not apologizing merely because she cried in front of the entire class. She cried for millions.

Panhandler Man

I had just eaten my nutritious Jack In The Box meal. Driving out of the parking lot I spied a man crouched on the pavement with his sign. Oh, God. Feeling particularly benevolent, I opened my window and asked, “Would you like something to eat?” “No”, his answer came back to me. Wha? Seriously? A picky beggar? Made my commitment to never hand ca$h to panhandlers renewed with firm resolve. Okay buddy, may I never see you again. If we do cross paths again I may have to buy you a hamburger just to show you who is boss. So there.

Yes, my personal motto is never show cash to a panhandler.

In San Francisco I have been followed by aggressive panhandlers, or beggars (much more quaint) numerous times. I don’t know, maybe there’s a compliment in that.  Do I look wealthy? My son, Lance, seems to think I am a mark for that very reason. Hmm. And Trevor thinks he is the actor…ha!

On a busy downtown street in Portland I was asked for some spare change. Sure, I have spare change, I thought, but you are not going to see any of it. Instead, I responded with, “I won’t give you a dime, but I will buy you lunch.” He was all over that, thanking me repeatedly as we walked to the nearby McDonalds. I stood in line with my new (bedraggled) friend. He ordered whatever he wanted. A double quarter pounder, large fries, and a vanilla milkshake. I paid and turned around to leave. From the point at which he received his food, to the moment I exited, he was calling out his thanks. Maybe it served as the best meal he had all week.

Don’t pass your cash to panhandlers. Be smart. Be proactive. And don’t hand your hard earned pay to anyone who refuses your offer of help in the form of a bite to eat.

 

3-Days Worth

The number of newspapers I am willing to devote time to. We have a subscription to the Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions of a familiar newspaper. We would subscribe to the local version but after we turn the pages twice, we run out of paper. So, the Fairfield Daily Republic holds some mystique. Perhaps because it is out-of-town. Exotic piece of news heralding all the newsworthy stories in and around Solano County. I once subscribed to 6 magazines. I did devote time to every page.  They accumulated throughout the house and I ultimately chose to whittle it all down to one, and then none. I ended my magazine spree. So, newspapers it is. I realize this makes our household something of a den for  archaic reading material. But, I just feel smart when I read a newspaper…smeary, inky pages and all. I also read a substantial number of articles online. Just not quite the same. No ink.

We have no intention of doing away with the subscription. When the papers are scattered on the family room floor, the place resembles a learned person’s home, by my definition. And, I don’t use the newspapers to line my parakeets cages. I was told the ink isn’t good for the birds’ feet. I hold a newspaper clippings collection that dates back to the 1970s not because I am particularly sentimental, rather, on the hunch that the Smithsonian will open a new “Cyndi Wright Wing Of Antiquities” exhibiting the relic smeary, inky pages.

We sit ready for next week’s installment.

Finite

How much time we have on earth. A finite, measured length of time.

I once muttered loud enough for a classmate (who happened to be as old as me…so, old) to hear me. This man was the only other “mature” adult in the room.  Even the professor was younger than he and I. Remainder of the class was made up of twenty-somethings. Hence, the designation, “mature.” Just audible on my part this man picked up my statement, “I don’t have much time. I have to get my education done asap. I don’t have much time.” I repeated myself. “Not like the rest of these students, they have a lot of time ahead.”

The man’s reply took me by surprise. “How do you know that any of these younger students will be around tomorrow?” They do not necessarily have more time ahead of them than you.” “How do you know that any one of these people will outlive you?”

Well, it is just the order of things. But, it was a sobering thought he left me with. How do I know with any certainty? I don’t. I do know that life is finite and offers no guarantees. My mom is 90. She has outlived many of her contemporaries. She never sat in a college lecture hall listening to the statement issued by my friend. She has been known to wonder how it is she got this far. She has seen two sisters pass on. And friends…

It remains a mystery just who will go first. The 21 year-old sitting behind me. The man across from me. The professor. Will I even outlive my mom? A finite number of days.

Tranquila

This word graces the whiteboard in one of my classrooms. Spanish classroom. It means “calm”, as it applies to people or things, like the ocean…or, me. It is up in its place on the board because rarely are the young students representative of calm. I need a certain calm to give the lesson. But, I’ll concede it is up there for me as well.

While a student in a college level Spanish conversational class, I thought it strange that the young, likable professor, would enter class space and say “Tranquila Cyndi.” She offered this to no other student. What the …?!? How did she know I needed any entreaty to be calm? How did she do that? Impressive and mysterious.

There is a palpable energy given off by people in general. A bit unnerving…her little stunt. Uncanny. I had better do inventory. She was wayyy too close to the truth. She looked right through me and saw the intent and inherent spirit within. A bit restless but every bit sincere. I so enjoyed my romp in her class. The psychic professor of Spanish, and I. Tranquila, Cyndi.

The Happiest Place On Earth

It’s nearly summer and where do our thoughts naturally go? Disneyland. Living In Orange County, CA meant that Disneyland was practically in my backyard. Friends and I and later co-workers of mine enjoyed the diversion. My husband and my children made the park a necessary stop-over during the years we lived out of state. Fun. For the most part.

However, $12 hotdogs and very long lines, made the entire experience less endearing to me in particular. If we were lucky enough we might board four rides in the afternoon.  Staying till closing time we could count on seeing fireworks displayed and that was pretty impressive. Okay, now I have seen fireworks in various venues and they no longer hold much novelty appeal.  Been there, done that.

Life is not a day in Disneyland. Rarely does anything in life mirror the tag line, The Happiest Place On Earth. I suppose that’s why one would have to be there…to become happy…for at least a day. And even while visiting the park, well, a $12 hotdog serves to dampen enthusiasm.

Life is not a day in Disneyland. Life is full of toil. Actually, maybe that is Disneyland-like. One can walk among the crowds. I have a friend who lives in Orange County and has raised two boys there. She informed me that her kids never warmed up to Disneyland owing to the fact that the crowds and noise were off-putting. Apparently it is not universally held that happiness exists here. If you do join the throngs of visitors you will invest some time standing in a long line, pay $130 for the privilege of saying hello to Mickey & Minnie Mouse and sing along with It’s A Small World After All. That package is bound to make you happy. Or, wish you had gone to the beach instead (see, Santa Monica).

Re-route

This happened to me last night.  I was to return home from Portland where I had been visiting my mom for Easter.  I bungled.  I missed my flight. I approached the Alaska Airlines counter and informed the person there under the sign “Assistance” (and, boy, did I need it) that the kiosk for boarding passes did not show my flight.  There must have been something wrong with their kiosk.

“Ma’m, see right here, your flight left 40 minutes ago.” Arrrgh! Okay, now what?  I was offered a re-route to San Jose.  My husband was already at the Sac Metro airport terminal. Well, guess what?  You get to drive all the way to San Jose, because that’s where I am! I ultimately spoke to him via paging and use of the little white phone because he had left his cell phone at home.

Because the Alaska assistance agent took pity on me, he waived the $125.00 fee for re-route.

A wonderfully refreshing exchange took place between me and my seat-mate on the plane. After he was finished doing whatever it is people do on their phones, he put his phone away and launched into conversation with me. Amit is 36 years old and hails from India.  He spoke of life in New Delhi.  His parents remain living there. He has a sister in New York and a girlfriend in Portland.  He is in finance for an IT company and he goes back and forth between Portland and the Bay Area weekly. He learned of my jobs in the Bay Area, my two sons, and the fact that I teach Spanish to a largely Indian population.

Amit and I had established a connection.  How many people flying these days can that be said about?