A Girl in the World & the World in a Girl…

{February 10, 2011}   The Old Man with the Can.

Everyone laughed, (including me).
He was startled.
The frown in his brow had the familiar look as if he had heard
those kinds of taunts one time too many, and especially here of late.
He tightened his utility belt and gathered his bags, and extra-large
heavy-duty garbage can then pushed it to the center of the isle.

My eyes met his.
I could feel his heart beating and a mile a minute; matching the
uneasiness he was feeling from everyone laughing so loud and so
hard…belly laughs.

I had to let him know that the burst of laughter had nothing to do
with him at all. (I only had a few seconds to communicate this without literally
communicating it to him). So I looked at the guy and girl who were the
subjects of the laughter:
“Oh man, you should have seen you two guys both sitting right next to each
other-chair-to-chair; both of you nodding and falling asleep in unison.
I’ve never seen anything like that!”
I lead.

(Everyone began to adlib and imitate the sources of our laughter).

I looked back up at the man and gave him a respectful nod and said to him:
I beg your pardon,” while using my hands to demonstrate the need for
all of us to make room in the isle for him to walk through.

He relaxed his brow.
Although his heart beat slowed down a bit, he still did not fully trust me,
(so he gave me an “e” for effort).

I handed it right back to him though (mine was for empathy).
Because I understood…
That startled expression on his face told me everything I needed to know…
Regardless, even if he were in a $3000 double-breasted Italian suit and $800
leather shoes, I still saw a man-a man whose face and facial expression had a
story to tell.

He had cleaned enough office buildings, and walked through far too many isles
to this same kind of laughter (most probably about him: An aging veteran,
insisting on working any job available to him. He would much rather die on one
of the many floors he swept, vacuumed and mopped than to die at home on his own
floor-doing nothing but pacing it).
I could tell.

I knew his story…
While turning the pages of it, I could tell that he had experienced life as-was
now caught up into life as-is.
It read:
“Look at all these inconsiderate kids in this isle. Computers, laughing and
playing on the job-sitting on their asses most probably watching new-age cartoons
and playing video games 90% of the day. Probably doing real work only the other 10% of it.
They have no idea what “real” work is. Neither one of ’em haven’t a
callous on their hands or a real soul in their chests-insensitive, pompous assholes and
inglorious bastards, these kids are. No care in the world and especially none for the next man.
I could sit and tire them all out with stories of what “real” hard work is.
They couldn’t even handle it in a conversation; much less entertain the thought of doing it!”

I closed the page of his book and watched him walk through the isle with his extra-large
heavy duty garbage can leading the way.
Still, I sent him packing and off with that respectful nod, letting him know that
I read his story.
Final score:
E: Empathy for Him.
E: Effort from Me, (still) 😦

And still…I went home to my “as-is” life, and my “as-is” living: A side of hurry up-no wait,
wrapped with everything in an instant.
This is life!

I thought nothing of the old man for the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours.

Then, he reappeared.
Same bat-time.
Same bat-channel.

We were all turned to the computers (actually doing “real” work as we knew it).
The isle was free and clear.
It was quiet this time.
Not so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, but you could hear the keys of about ten hands
(free of calluses) typing at a speed that was still unimpressive to the old man.
No one seemed to be impressed with him either-ever, he didn’t even exist.
His presence was so unacknowledged and unimpressive that, if he was crazy and wanted
to do anything crazy; no one in the whole office could probably even identify him.

As if I had eyes on the sides and back of my head, while still typing, I watched as
he would do his norm: reach under or around each of us at our cubicles-in search of
our mini garbage cans filled with soda-cans, paper and snack wrappers from having eaten
all day (allegedly, while working -so his mind said, and I read in this open book of his).
I read on:
“I hope none of you spilled anything that’ll smell,” said the man.
“Because I’m going to grab and dump-no new clear plastic baggies for you little
boys and girls,”
he laughed to himself.

By the time he got closer to my cubicle, I quietly turned to look at him across from me,
dumping my co-workers mini garbage can-still lined with the same liner warmed-over and over and over.

I turned my head quickly, so that he couldn’t see me stare while reading his book.
I closed it quickly.

Instead of the norm and what he was used to happening to him floor wide;
I had to show him different.
I had to show him that someone acknowledged his hard work and that it was work nonetheless.
I had to show him that not all boys and girls were inglorious, pompous, insensitive and
inconsiderate bastards, and that sometimes-we just get swept away in our own little
cubicles of the world and only tend only to (unfortunately).
Blame it on the as-is (or just, as we are)-still, I wanted him to know that he was
appreciated and that if no one read his book, I at least did.
So instead of having him bend down and underneath the cubicle desk where I sat,
in search of my mini garbage can; I took it upon myself to reach under and hand it to him-making
sure that I still acknowledged his presence while still typing onto my computer.
Like a kind of curtsy, along with the mini garbage can; I also handed him a nod, a friendly smile,
and a barely-there whisper that could be read by eyes: “Hello to you sir.”
He returned the nod.
I read his lips and barely-there whisper:
“And hello to you,” he smiled back.

I continued to type and noticed that it was taking a longer than usual time for him to
hand back to me-my mini garbage can, so I slowed down and turned to my right to look at him.

He smiled again and placed his index finger in the air to signal for me to “wait.”
He winked at me as if he had a secret he was a about to tell me.
I smiled.
He then reached into his utility belt wrapped around his body to get a
new clear plastic bag for my mini garbage can, and snapped it open like
a magician performing a magic trick!
I smiled harder (as did my heart).
“Thank you,” I barely whispered-and he read…
“You are quite welcome-thank you,” he barely whispered (and I read).

He insisted on replacing my newly decorated can neatly- and back in place beneath my desk.
Yet this time, like the proud man and gentleman he was, he wanted to return the mini
garbage can in its rightful place as a gesture of appreciation for merely being acknowledged,
respected and appreciated-all without having said or done much of anything but a mere look
in the eye, a barely-there whisper, a nod, and a smile.
He did me one better.
He wiped down the sides of my cubicle with something smelled like heaven.
And me (with all my “as-is” life-living in all its splendor), I somehow felt
“special” …in an “as-was” kinda way.
The smile on my face probably matched the feeling I could tell he probably had never
felt in many years: the acknowledgement of a hard-working old man who would probably
out-work the average young man.
I just had to let him know; somehow, someway, someday-that I noticed if no one else did.
I simply cannot explain to you (in words) how much that meant to me, too-being acknowledged by him-(too).
We both got something out of mere gestures of kindness that did not even require conversation.

You know.

Sometimes we get caught up into our la-di-da lives and whether selfishness is to blame,
or the mere routine of having tunnel vision is to blame; we have to slow down sometimes
and acknowledge the fact that there are people in the world around us who
[if they receive nothing but a mere smile and nod] could make their day.
You never know someone else’s story, what they are feeling or what they have gone
through that put them in or out of a situation that they are in.
Everyone’s (true) story is not always on their sleeve, their forehead, behind their
smile [or in our as-is lives]; on some internet wall.
Simply because we may not identify with some things or some people in the world around us,
does not mean that they or those things will just-go away: poof and be gone.
A mere leg turned to the side to allow someone to reach beneath you to grab a garbage can
without so much as looking up to acknowledge their presence can communicate: “Poof! Be gone!”
Continuing to work and if not acknowledging them by looking them in the eye, but rather,
merely saying: “thank you,” is acknowledgment nonetheless.
So be that as it may… smile at someone today.
You never know, it just might make their day.

(And at the very least, make your desk cleaner than your neighbors) 🙂

The end…

[…] If you follow me, you’ve probably read about my being interested in people who the worldly world h…, and too, you’ve probably read me tweet about never turning down people with cups in their hand at highway exits, or those old men that stop and ask me for money or food and how the one old man who hung out where I would frequent-would get me every time for money. And every time, I would take him inside and buy him a meal and/or hand him whatever I could so he could be free to do with it-whatever he wishes. […]

[…] If you follow me, you’ve probably read about my being interested in people who the worldly world h…, and too, you’ve probably read me tweet about never turning down people with cups in their hand at highway exits, or those old men that stop and ask me for money or food and how the one old man who hung out where I would frequent-would get me every time for money. And every time, I would take him inside and buy him a meal and/or hand him whatever I could so he could be free to do with it-whatever he wishes. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: