Yesterday some guy cut me off on the way to Jack in the Box.
Wait. Let me rewind.
As many of my friends and family know, back in 2004 I started working at a little bar called Charly's, which has since changed ownership and been renamed The Wright Place. Two weeks before graduation from law school the job offer that I had been depending on was revoked due to a hiring freeze. I asked the new owners, Rick and Lynn, if they would let me come back to fill in and they did. Though I continued to submit resumes to law offices, I had no response and soon grew disenchanted with the rudeness I began to associate with legal practice. Two years after graduation, and two lost babies later, I am still at the Wright Place tending bar and taking on legal side jobs. I love my job, very much. I love my life. I feel very blessed that in a world where so many people are out of work, I have a job that I love and work for people who care about be.
Lately, though, I have grown increasingly disenchanted not with bartending, not just with the legal community, but with, well, everything. I've been stiffed by a client. That doesn't make me as angry as the fact that recently I have performed some work for another attorney, someone who lives in LA and needed some work done in Kern County, and she has stiffed me too. I know that eventually I will probably have to work my way into full time legal practice, but being reminded of how rude and unscrupulous people can be hasn't done much to instill faith in me.
I find my escape from that world, oddly, in a bar where we often see people at their lowest. I find comfort in being able to comfort others. I have learned that most of the time, my kindness towards others is rewarded by their kindness when I need it. The patrons at two different bars funded Gabriel's burial expenses almost entirely, just out of kindness. For my birthday this year, my boss took a simple step: She remembered what my favorite food is, macaroni and cheese, and made a huge dish of it for me. Another patron brought me a cherry pie, because I prefer it to cake. I love to be remembered. I love to feel special and important. I make a point to remember what might seem trivial details about others lives. I remember that Carmen likes her gin and tonic with a lemon and two olives. Donny collects state quarters like I do, so I try to remember which state he is looking for to keep my eyes open as well. Trudi prefers her Jager at room temp -- Like most bars, we keep ours in a cooler, but to try to make up for it I give her a room temperature shot glass. James likes his bloody mary simple, with just celery salt, tobasco, lime, and clamato instead of tomato juice. I remember these details because I know that just those little accommodations can go a long way.
Upon arriving at work yesterday I sensed that I was in for a long night when I opened the door and a row of loud, drunk, young guys turned and yelled "Hey."
"Let's try this again," I told them. I walked back outside, closed the door behind me, then walked back in. When I was again greated with the same boisterous "Hey," I knew I would just have to plug ahead. Hi-Fives down the bar were in order; Miguel is a 49ers fan, Wyatt is a Raiders fan, James is a Bills fan, and I am a Charger fan, and all four teams won that day. Remembering a man's football team is just one more way to make him feel special. I thought maybe the evening wouldn't be so bad after all -- until Miguel said the last thing I wanted to hear: "Why are you always so mean to me?" I'm mean? I'm MEAN to him? I'm the first to admit that I am not always smile and sunshine. My friendliness is not always in-your-face. I take a few minutes or more to warm up to people. But I'm NOT mean. And I'm certainly NOT mean to this guy.
I settled into a funk. Everyone proceeded to get drunk. A former co-worker stopped by and for the second time since Gabriel's birth and subsequent death, failed to acknowledge that any of the events of the past year had taken place. Everyone got drunker. People ran out of money. People whined that the bar doesn't take credit cards. A couple came in and offered apologies for their stupidity the last time I saw them, then proceeded to act like idiots again. I closed the bar and couldn't wait until the door closed behind the last of them. Good riddance. I love my job, but the night ended just in time to allow me to continue to love my job today.
I got into my car, further angered by the fact that my turn signal switch is broken and the dealer couldn't get the part until Monday (As in, today -- however when Ben called this morning, he learned the part hadn't been ordered). Why can't stuff just go my way? Why can't people be nice? Why can't people be thoughtful? I was thinking all of this when a man cut me off so he could get to the Jack in the Box drive-thru before me. It was all I could take. I ordered three of my favorite fried side items, drove all the way home without bothering to adjust my broken turn signal, and cried over my bacon cheddar wedges.
Some might think I just want pity for the last few months' events. That's not what I want. Some might think that I feel I've earned some extra niceness. That's not it either. Perhaps I was exceptionally edgy yesterday as I was anticipating Gabriel's four-month birthday today. But I don't think people should be nice to me because I lost my son. I don't even think people should be nice to me in particular. I just think people shouldn't be so damn rude and thoughtless. I just want to know that the next time I bring a child into this world, people will still have it in them to be nice.