At the end of one of my shifts last week, I passed on getting a drink after work because I had to catch my bus back home. So instead of sipping a Jameson and ginger, here I was sitting across from Jeff, a fifty five year old blue collar dishwasher who works at a hotel on 7th ave. We had been talking at the bus stop for a little bit before we boarded, and I guess at this point that conversation would have to continue for the short ride back to Aurora Village being as how I didn’t bring my iPod to listen to music, and sitting across from him staring at my phone at this point would seem rude and anti-social.
“I like you Christian.” He says “I appreciate your friendly nature.”
Normally I’m not that friendly at almost 2am on a Wednesday morning when I ride public transportation, but for some reason there was something about this guy’s plight in life that really struck a chord with me. Jeff was wearing a baseball cap, sported a push broom mustache, thick coke bottle glasses, and he spoke with a “Warsh-ington” accent that reminded me that I am NOT in Kansas anymore. In fact, I never was in the first place, but when Jeff tells me one of his children is now in his early thirties and lives in Montana, a state I have never been to, being on a bus sure feels like Kansas.
Jeff was unemployed for awhile but lately has been working his ass off, still in debt much like me and trying really hard to make a good life for himself, but I could tell that the recent events he had been through had been weighing on him.
“I was born in California near Orange County, fifteen years before your time.” He stated with a sense of accomplishment.
Jeff talked about being paid almost eighteen dollars an hour to wash dishes at a hotel, and he was proud of that fact, and immediately I was reminded of when I worked the same kind of job at a Friendly’s in New Jersey for $4.50 an hour in 1995. I was a little LESS proud of that fact, but that didn’t stop me from blurting it out. Jeff reminisced about his lady friend that left him four months ago, his car that needed a new alternator recently, and as I stared down at his bandaged and weathered hands, I thought about how I had cut my finger twice at work this week, put out five hundred dollars for my new tires and how I haven’t even HAD a lady friend for four years. Shit, we have a lot in common. Of course the next thing that went through my mind was….am I going to end up like Jeff?
At this point I notice he pulls out a nail clipper from his jacket pocket and starts to groom the dry skin around his thumb and index finger. Two things come to mind….
1. I don’t know if public buses are the appropriate place to do that, Jeff.
2. Who the hell carries a nail clipper on them at all times?
None of that really matters at this point, but what does matter is the fact that here I am riding the bus about to start working two jobs, six days a week to try and cut my credit card debt in half by the end of the year. I think it’s a good plan to immerse myself in work and it wasn’t too long afterwards that Jeff told me he understood because he is in the same boat as me, although I’m floating in much deeper debt waters than he is.
“You have two jobs?” He exclaimed surprisingly “I wish I could get two jobs.” He then muttered to himself.
Yeah, I have two jobs because one of them is seasonal, and the other one could turn into something great down the line and for me to live this life that I’ve chosen, I need to rely on myself first, and not make excuses and whine anymore about how hard it is to live. Sure, sometimes it’s difficult but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel just a little bit lucky at the fact that even though I’ve only been here for 45 days, I went on three job interviews and I got hired at two of them. I would have gotten the third job too, but both me and the owner of the comedy club knew I was overqualified for that gig from the start.
“You’ve only been here a month and you have two jobs?!”
“I have a good resume.” I replied.
“I wish I had two jobs.” Jeff repeated to himself.
I thought about that for a second and then it hit me. I’m actually doing pretty well in the grand scheme of things. I’m still in debt up to my neck from the last two years I spent in California, but four months ago when I came up with this grand idea to move out of L.A. for the sake of my well being, in my mind I had this plan that I was going to get an apartment and a second job tending bar if needed so I can keep myself busy and really fight for a chance at this life that I am so privileged to be living. I got to remember that.
I have to be honest, I was shocked at how quickly I was able to manifest everything I wanted. It’s like I decided to put the energy out in the world, and the universe felt it and gave me exactly what I said I desired. I should be happy about this, and I truly am, but then I started to wonder why the fuck wasn’t I this powerful the last few years I lived in Hollywood?
Why couldn’t I create a job to keep me in L.A., or a legitimate contract for the TV show Tasha and I killed ourselves to create, write, and produce, and why couldn’t we both manifest a shit ton of money that came with it? Why did I have to leave everything I had known for thirteen years to make a better quality of life for myself and why have things gone so smoothly during this transition?
Then I remembered to stop questioning why, and start appreciating the fact that I got what I wanted. It’s just that simple, but I can’t talk like that to Jeff on this bus ride back to North Seattle because when you start saying that we all have the power to create your own reality, people think it’s bullshit and most likely will call you crazy, but that’s ok because you can bet I’ve been called worse.
Jeff and I talk for a few more minutes before the bus drops me off at 95th and Aurora. I shake his hand and he tells me he’ll stop in to my bar for a beer on Friday when he is done his 8 hour shift at the Marriott, and I hope he does cause I would like nothing more than to buy him that beer because even though I barely even know this guy, it’s clear to me from his humbleness and his demeanor that he has earned a whole free case of beer.
Am I going to end up like Jeff? Probably not. We don’t have the same outlook in life and I would assume when I’m 55 I will look like I just turned 42. I’m not going to start washing dishes cause I’m a little too fancy for that type of work, and if all goes well I’ll be writing my memoirs and getting paid for that shit. I’m not going to drive a Volvo that needs repairs, and I don’t think I’m going to meet my next girlfriend while I am having coffee at a McDonald’s, not to mention that I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a baseball cap and thick glasses when I’m fifty five unless someone paid me to do so, or I was trying to hide from the public. The latter seems more likely than then former.
Honestly, I don’t wear hats and I only need glasses at night when I drive, but aside from all the different physical characteristics between Jeff and I, I think the point here is that me and this stranger currently have a lot in common at this moment in time. I can empathize and relate to him, even though at first glance I wouldn’t have even thought we had ANYTHING in common other than we are both on this fucking bus back home. For some reason, life put this guy in my path and maybe I needed to meet him that night to remind myself of lucky I am.
In fifteen years, I’m not going to be riding a bus at 2 in the morning from downtown Seattle after I have just finished my shift at a hotel. I don’t believe that I am going to meet some young kid that is 40 but looks 28 and I won’t be slightly envious of him because he works two jobs. Yet, the one thing I can take away from the last half hour is that Jeff is a good person, and someone who works hard. Jeff may have picked an inopportune time to decide to trim his cuticles, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I can tell, regardless of what I see on the outside, that Jeff is an inherently decent human being. I’m so glad I didn’t go for that drink after work because I guess it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I ended up like Jeff.