Tuesday, March 22, 2011

more of what's real

Today, I put on a nice pair of slacks,
nice sweater, printed off my most recent resume,
typed up phone numbers and names
of people I knew wouldn't mind
giving me references,
went to the video store
holding those "open interviews"
from 4 to 6 p.m.

Got there at about 4:15.
The parking lot was full.
The store was full.
People stood waiting
for their turn
to try to sell themselves
into a job opening.

I eavesdropped only a little.
Had to fill out the requisite application,
knew a resume was beyond
what was needed.

I heard "layoff" "pottery" "Walmart"
"going to court" "restraining order"

No one smiled
or if they did
the smiles were uneasy.
Except mine.
Mine was easy,
involuntary,
friendly, designed to comfort,
really, though I had this sense
the urge to comfort
wasn't ... what? Mutual.

The manager
and assistant manager
took applicants toward the back of the store
for their two minutes
or 30 seconds
or five minutes if you could make them laugh
(I could).

I swear, lovely readers, I could smell
desperation.
These people were hungry.

They didn't know how to dress
for an interview
or maybe didn't have interview clothes,
were used to working jobs
that required jeans
and calloused palms.

I had no business there.
I am not hungry
in the way these people
are hungry
(though I suppose
given the shifts in the world
and my world,
I could be hungry soon).

The manager
knows me
and wondered what the hell
I was even doing there
applying for a job
that starts off paying
only $7.50 an hour.

"I just want to work," I said.

He thought I had a job.

"Well, I do, but sometimes it pays,
sometimes it doesn't."

He was an honest man
who wanted honesty.

You know.

Before I left,
I rented a movie.

Tomorrow, I'll walk to the store,
return the film I rented today,
and rent another,
maybe tell the manager
or assistant manager
that an excellent paying freelance job
arrived in my email box
just that morning,
give someone hungrier than I
my slot.

Hungry town.
Hungry state.
Kind of heartbreaking, really.

1 comment:

  1. This is a window on the world that is poignant and pertinent. Nothing is as we thought it would be. Smiling is hard for too many people. Is an involuntary smile good or bad?

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