January 31st, 2019
There wasn’t much traffic on Highway 31 going south. Of course, I didn’t expect there to be since it was already 10:00 in the evening. Almost everything was closed, except for the bars. This bothered me a bit, because that meant that at least some of the drivers sharing the road with me had probably been drinking.
The thermometer on the dashboard showed an outside temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit. The polar vortex was still going strong in our part of the world. Admittedly, -4 degrees is better than the -22 that the thermometer registered at seven this morning, when Karin and I went to morning prayer and Mass at St. Rita. However, -4 can still be life-threatening for anybody who is outside. For that reason, I was driving to Kenosha in the middle of the night.
Somebody that I love started a new job tonight. She is working the graveyard shift at the front desk of a hotel in Kenosha. She normally would need to take the bus to work. Seeing as mass transit in our area sucks, the bus trip would have taken her an hour. The journey would have involved at least one transfer, and about twenty minutes of walking in the polar wind. This was not the best possible plan in subzero temperatures. In fact, taking the bus in these conditions would have been an excellent way to get frostbite and/or hypothermia.
The young woman needed a ride.
I gave her one.
A slight change of topic…
Being as I am retired, I have time to cook. Today I decided to make baba ghanouzh. I sliced up three eggplants, and broiled them. Then I put them into a blender and turned them into a paste. I added tahini sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper. Magically, it turned into baba ghanouzh, a Middle Eastern sort of dip. I took some of that, along with some tortillas, when I picked up this young lady. I didn’t know if she would get a lunch, and this bit of food at least qualified as a snack. Maybe it helped.
The woman was very quiet as I drove her to her new job. I could tell that she was anxious. I know that vibe. I can feel it. I often do the same thing. She stared straight ahead as I drove. Occasionally, she texted on her phone, or randomly changed radio stations. There was plenty of nervous energy. The atmosphere in the car was electric. After all these years, I know better than to engage in causal conversation with her when she is wound that tight. It is best to remain silent until she is ready to say something.
We got to the hotel a few minutes before eleven.
The young woman said to me, “I am going to wait five minutes before I go in.”
“Okay. How are you?”
She replied quickly, “Fine.”
Yeah. Fine. Somebody told me once that “fine” is an acronym that stands for “fucked up, insecure, neurotic, and evasive”. I’m not sure that is what “fine” meant to her at that moment. I know that “fine” has been that acronym for me many times in the past.
I asked her, “Are they going to train you tonight?”
“Well, they better. I can’t just learn the system by myself.”
I replied, “Some companies spend a lot of time training people. Some just throw you to the wolves.”
I instantly regretted saying that. I backtracked a bit.
“You told me that the people here were nice. I’m sure they will train you right.”
No reaction from the woman in the passenger seat.
We sat in silence for a little while. Snowflakes fell on to the windshield and melted there.
I remembered things. I remembered working nights for a total of twenty plus years. I remember my first few weeks on the pre-dawn shift at the trucking company, and how those bastards did throw me to the wolves. Sure, they trained me for an entire week, and then they expected me to supervise a ten-hour shift all on my own. The key phrase after the training was “handle it!”. Trial by fire. All those years of working in the dark and the cold, with maximum responsibility and minimum authority.
That sounds bitter, doesn’t it? I hate corporate America.
My reverie was interrupted by the young woman.
“I’m going to go now.” She gathered up her purse and other belongings.
“Okay. I’ll pick you up in the morning. It will still be really cold.”
She replied flatly, “Thanks.”
I told her, “I love you.”
She answered as she got out of the car, “Love you too.”