For Vincent’s last day we decided to ride the Staten Island ferry. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. We explored and poked around a bit. It was fun. And free. Over the weekend I’d sent several applications for writing jobs. One was for a documentary film company specializing in social justice issues. Giving voice to those who need it. I know it’s silly, but every once in a while, I realize that I have ten years of professional writing experience. I mean, it was in my job description, so I sent in an application. On Monday I received an email inviting me for an interview. Pretty exciting.
Vincent left early on Wednesday to drive to Quebec City. I got up and did my routine of searching for jobs and sending applications. At this point there’s not much new that I haven’t applied for, so I started to think out of the box and went to craigslist for jobs. I found a few writing jobs, and then I found an ad for a legal staffing firm that is processing thousands of bankruptcy claims and needs people to go through them, working long hours. Great. I sent in my stuff, and I got a phone call two hours later. I had a Skype interview, and started today, on Thursday.
Yes, it’s terribly tedious, but I am doing something and getting paid for it. Only a few dollars less than I made in my old job in Michigan, with the possibility of overtime! I can work Monday through Saturday up to 11 hours a day with overtime. Today we entered claims, but I gather we will be climbing up the responsibility ladder and get more interesting tasks.
I get off at the Rector street station and walking to Broadway I passed a basement level doggy daycare. It looked like large blue pits – like empty swimming pools – and there were all these dogs playing with a staff member. I mean, she was practically buried in puppies. Maybe I should get a job there. I miss my dog.
I could have left at 8pm tonight, but I called it quits at 7pm and took the train home. I’m pretty much riding the one train from beginning to end. I get on the next to the last stop at one end and the next to the last stop at the other. I have been talking about people watching but I confess I downloaded a word game on my phone the other day and started playing that to pass the time.
Tonight, after work I accidentally took the train the wrong way and ended up at South Ferry. One stop. As the train went back uptown, I started playing my game again. At 42nd street there was an express train, so I thought maybe I could cut some commute time if I took it. I think it shaved 15 minutes off. While on the express train I leaned against the doors next to a young man with earbuds staring at his phone. A homeless man was walking through the car, but instead of vaguely asking for money he was angrily looking people in the face, “you got some money you can give me?” He approached the young man next to me and looked him right in the face and demanded, “you got some quarters?” The young man didn’t respond, or shook his head vaguely, and the homeless man yanked one of the earbuds, “Do you hear me?” “No, man, I don’t have anything.” The young man said. But it was unsettling.
This morning on my way to work an old homeless man was asking for change and I gave him a dollar. He made a point of looking me in the eye and saying, “Thank you.” It was a moment of sincere eye contact and connection. Anyway.
Going home, when I got back on the One at 96th street the car was full. There was an old Hispanic man speaking loudly, mournfully, sitting in a coveted end seat. I made my way to the middle of the car and watched him surreptitiously. At first, I thought he was talking to someone, but realized no one was making eye contact. He ranted loudly, and then would break into song. He had a nice voice. A seat opened near him (although an empty between him and me) and I took it. I was playing my word game, but I felt bad about this man’s obvious loneliness. Everyone ignoring him. I was curious. Every once in awhile he’d turn to me, or in my direction with his raving and I tried to nod my head or acknowledge him. This, of course, encouraged him. He started speaking more directly to me, making gestures. I would make facial gestures mimicking him, or nod, or shrug. I had no idea what he was saying. I just wanted him to feel seen. A few times he gestured to his heart, and I would nod knowingly. Sympathetically. Somewhere around 137th street I saw a woman about my age looking at me across the car and nodding approvingly. Then she got off. I kept it up for several stops. I’d go back to my game, and he’d start talking, and I’d stop. Then at one point I went to my game and he said “No,” gesturing to my phone. So, I put it away and gave him more of my attention. Then his arm gesture on the right side brushed a young girl standing at the door and he slid over towards me on his left, offering her his seat. She said she wasn’t sitting, but he didn’t change back.
Now, he’s sitting right next to me and I can’t get away with nodding and shrugging. He is asking me real questions and I must admit I don’t speak Spanish. He reached an arm behind me, and I thought he was tapping the guy on my left to ask for something, because he didn’t actually touch me. An older black man sitting across from me broke into chuckles. I looked at him, and he was watching us, no doubt thinking I deserved what I got for encouraging this old man.
So far, no line had been crossed. I pointed at my wedding ring and said “mi esposa” a few times. He switched to English. “How do you compare me?” he asked. “I don’t’ know what you mean.” I said. “How do you compare me to you?”
“I don’t. You are you and I am me. I don’t compare.”
“You are the best woman. How do you compare me? I am not the best like you.”
“You are the best you that you can be. I am the best me that I can be. There is no comparison.” I was trying here. Not sure what I’d gotten myself into. I started counting the stops. The old black man who’d laughed, was still smiling, but he gave me a nod as he exited the train. We were at Dykman. Five stops to go.
“You are the best woman. You know why? Because you see me, and I am not like you.” I really didn’t know what he was getting at but suddenly he put his arm around my shoulders and told me to lean in closer. I straightened and nicely said “Okay, you’re getting too handsy, let’s stop that.” And at the same time a young man I hadn’t noticed sitting across from us jumped forward and said to the old man “You have a great singing voice. What was that you were singing?” The old man’s attention turned. At first, he was confused, but the young man kept asking him eagerly about his singing. His face was open and fresh, and he looked truly interested. Best bystander Intervention ever. I stayed where I was, wondering if I could make it to 238th or if I should get off now. I felt a little embarrassed, that I had to be rescued, but also proud of this young man for stepping up.
The old man started demonstrating his singing voice. He really did have a nice voice. And the young man listened attentively. I nodded along as well and agreed. At the 231st I looked around to see where we were and the young man looked me straight in the eye and said it’s 231st. I didn’t know what his stop was, and I was debating getting off when he did, or waiting for 238th, or getting off early and hoping the young man would stop the old man from following me. Something in his look told me to get off there. I needed the exercise anyway after sitting all day, so I jumped off the train, saying good bye on my way to the old man. The young man jumped off too. He said to me, “That was really nice of you.” And I thanked him for being a good bystander. He wasn’t following me to the exit, and I realized he’d also gotten off before his stop.
I think he had dementia, the old man. He didn’t smell. His breath had no hint of alcohol. It was sad. A man in his late 70s or 80s riding the train and talking to no one.
Friday I went to work and did the entry again. I have discovered Protein Water – like Vitamin Water but with 15g of Protein and so perfect. I kind of stopped at all the delis on my way to work looking for it, which made me late. But it’s hourly, so no one really cares. (So not Midwest!) I got in at 10am. At 1:30 I had an appointment for the scriptwriting gig in Brooklyn. I left around 12:42 (everything has to be in 10th of an hour – law firms – so 12:42). I made may way to the place and waited for several moments for the “principal” to be free to interview me. I’ve been so busy with this job, that I wasn’t nervous about the interview. But I have to say it was great talking to the guy. You know, I’ve done this work for 9 years, done videos with companies, etc. I felt completely comfortable describing my working process with this man, and it’s always sort of a switch from other job interviews. But still. He asked good questions, but I had ready answers and examples. He offered freelance work, and I thought that was only fair since I was a newcomer, but of course I’m hoping for more. I hope I’m not being too naïve. On the other hand, this is a world I never dared explore before, so I am excited. He will send me some interviews and example videos of their work and I am to write up scripts. I think I can do that.
I worked at the bankruptcy claim job on Saturday as well. This time with my kindle for the commute. I am an avid book reader, so I really enjoy the hour commute to immerse myself in my book. Saturday morning there was a homeless man coming my way on the train. I dug out a dollar to give him, but the young man before me did the same and then became entangled in a 10-minute conversation on theology. It was really amusing, and I had some great moments making eye contact with two men on either side of the conversation, laughing at what was being said. The homeless man was going on about the bible, Adam and Eve, and then why he was Muslim. But he started with “I’m not gay but that’s a good-looking beard you got!” to the young man who’d given him a dollar. He then went on for a bit about why he didn’t mind gay people, and he loved everyone and moved onto the bible. I wondered each person who gave him money got entangled so deeply but didn’t have the chance to find out because I switched trains soon after.
Today, Saturday I did 6.5 hours of input and that was enough. Yawning on the way home. Still looking for more permanent work. Ideally part-time, or steady three days a week like I used to. Seriously following the freelance writing gigs. Why not?