Sometimes life is ridiculous. Sometimes your circumstances have changed so drastically that all you can do is laugh. The absurdity of it all is overwhelming, the level to which you think you have sunk so low that the only way out, the only direction you can possibly look, is up, forward and on to the next thing. Sometimes the level of ridiculousness is incomprehensible. This became alarmingly clear to me during a recent work commitment.
I have made mention that I am working a minimum wage job for an event management company. I have not one illusion of grandeur in my role as fluky, grunt worker, unskilled labor, bottom of the barrel algae eater. I get paid the least amount allowable by law to work in some of the most unpleasant circumstances out there. I am well aware that what is asked and required of me falls well below what my experience, skills and education. I get it, I signed up for it, and at this point in my life I am OK with that. Most of the time I enjoy the challenges.
What I was unprepared for was the depth and breadth of the types of folks I would be working with and “for”. This continues to amaze and befuddle me. Perhaps I should not be surprised, and yet I am. Over and over again. I reflect on the dozens of diversity trainings I have attended and I do not recall any that would be helpful. Then again, all of those folks were similarly educated, employed and subscribed to a certain standard of behaviors and presentation of self. More alike than not in all of those settings. My how my times have changed! Tinder man is my first example.
The conversation started innocent enough at our community breakfast. “How did you sleep last night?” Most folks wanted to commiserate, as we were camped nearly on the off ramp of a highway just off the thruway to a main road in the park. The noise was never ending. We were up at dawn, while others worked through the night. We all signed up for this, some of us needing it more than others, but that did not change our need, and inability, to sleep.
“Not very well”, someone responded. “Did you hear the guy in the other tent?” Apparently, this gentleman and his lady friend were making a noticeable assortment of noises one would associate with intimate behaviors. To be blunt, they were having sex. There was polite laughter and then someone shared that this was a Tinder date. Eyes got bigger and some jaws dropped. Really?, many of us asked. The chatter turned to a discussion of how folks can do that and why. Someone mentioned that they did see an unfamiliar truck parked in our staff area. Tinder Man was the talk of breakfast and then the talk of camp.
Irony, as it nearly always does, snuck up on me the next night as several of us decided to hangout, drink beer, and talk around a fake camp fire. Unbeknownst to me, I was sitting next to Tinder man. How did I know this? I noticed him playing on his phone and, when asked what he was doing, he mentioned that he had a date coming. Me being me, unendingly curious and with a few beers and some wine on board, said “Oh, so you are the Tinder guy!” He had no idea everyone knew what he had been up to and, apparently, was doing again. I confirmed that he was the talk of breakfast and now he was sort of famous. I guess he was not done, because it was not 30 minutes later and his “date” showed up with her six pack of beer. She seemed pleasant enough, but that was also enough to shut down the fireside chatter. To be fair, we did have a 5:30 cattle call the next morning.
Unexpected in this environment, unanticipated while on a work weekend, and apparently uninhibited once they got going. Palm to face, shake head and chuckle. My, oh, my!
Now for round two. Early on Sunday morning we loaded into the van for our last day. Our last day of 95 degree heat in the full sun working on our feet. When I say early, I mean our van left as the sun was coming up. We were waiting patiently when the lead person/van driver asks the group, “Did anyone find a tooth?” WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? I thought in my head. My mouth said, “I did not expect to hear that this morning”. Laughter ensued as some of us tried to fit this statement into our reality. Well, for some of us, this does not really fit into our reality. The woman in the front seat started to actually look around for the tooth. Me? Hell no. I will not look for someone’s tooth. She holds up a piece of popcorn and says, “This looks like a tooth!” I calmly let her know that if she would have tossed that at me I would have exited that van so fast the person next to me would not have known I left. Nope, no human tooth in a van. No thanks, hard pass. Lost a tooth and want it back. Wow.
These two stories remind me not to take parts of my current life too seriously. I must work to remember that this, too, shall pass. Whatever I am doing that is not preferred, such as working long hours in the blazing hot sun with management that treats me like a child and barks at me like I am a dog for that minimum wage payoff, or working even harder for no pay whatsoever, I signed up for. I sought out these opportunities, these experiences, and have willingly arranged my life so that I am in these places and doing these things. Now, that alone does not give anyone the right to treat me in a demeaning, insulting or disrespectful manner. I don’t give two flying fucks who you are, that will not work with me.
But, the ridiculousness I now have in my midst, the extreme nature and diversity of the people around me, and the circumstances by which we gather, are a challenge and a gift and an environment rich in lessons. The lessons of acceptance, tolerance (in some situations) and camaraderie (in others) abound. The challenges of patience, kindness and respect are unending and ever present. The absurdity of my life does not go unnoticed.
I pray for the strength, wherewithal and patience to live my pilgrim life, follow my pilgrim philosophy and embrace my fellow men and women no matter where they come from, how they live their lives, who or how they have sex, and no matter how many or what kind of teeth they have. Amen.