Saturday, January 21, 2006

Begging for (a) Change

Today kicks off the first official Job Search Effort. The last time I actively looked for a job, it was 1997 and I'd just moved to San Francisco after a year abroad, free-wheeling and fancy-free. I thought I'd simply take The City by storm but instead I had to take a job at the antiseptic restaurant chain, California Pizza Kitchen, an experience I now lovingly refer to as "Hitler Youth Camp."

It was there that I had a very public meltdown. Though I'd been a waitress dozens of times before, company policy demanded I attend their six-week Waitress School to properly absorb the CPK philosophy while demonstrating ample enthusiasm for suggestive selling. While 'enrolled' in the 'school,' I would earn my wages as a busboy.

One night, sometime around midnight, I was filthy, tired and cleaning toilets in the men's room, when a wave of self pity overtook me. Here I was, a 31-year-old college graduate, a world traveller in this new sophisticated town and the best I could come up with was this? Scrubbing porcelain and hoping for measly tips? I was only grateful my parents couldn't see me. Oh, the tears! It was a mighty low point and honestly,I couldn't go lower. Or so I thought.

Finally, I left the restaurant around 1:00 a.m. and was approached, as always, by a homeless guy, begging for change. I shook my head emphatically, "Man, I am the wrong woman on the wrong night to be asking this question . . . sorry."

I sat down at the bus stop and began the lonely (and slightly dangerous) 20-minute wait for my ride home. Again, he asked for change and, when I again refused, he harrassed me further. I mostly ignored him, though I remember thinking to myself, "Why can't he clean a toilet? I've been doing it all night!"

However, when he uttered the words, "It's because I'm black, isn't it?" something inside my worn-out brain just snapped. I began screaming at him, hateful words in an angry rage - things I can't even remember; it was an out-of-body explosion of frustration. Alarmed, he backed away from me and then, he began to walk away. Apparently, I wasn't finished making my point so I started following him. Taking my words like daggers to the back, he began to run. So I ran too, still shrieking my blood red monologue through the streets of my new town.

It must have been quite a sight. A screaming blonde white girl, born and raised in the suburbs, chasing a freaked out black homeless dude, up and down the Tenderloin in the wee hours. I finally caught site of myself in a store window and stopped dead in my tracks. He, wisely, kept going.

Panting and mildly nasueous, I looked up in time to see my bus go past me. I'd missed my ride. Then, it began to rain.

I'm hoping this time around, I'll have better luck.

1 comment:

Fang Bastardson said...

I have those kind of days all the time. I'm glad your victim made it safely away from you. I marrried mine...