I quickly finished my "business" and walked back out onto the floor, stopped by my bud's desk to ask if I had been committed to a mental asylum in the last 30 minutes, got the response I was looking for and waited for an attendant to cuff me into a nice, tight fitting straight jacket for one.
You see, my friend was also a college educated human being who needed quick cash to fund his graduate school dream, while I was simply funding my dream to sleep beside my hunny every night. I had no life plan and I was 27 years old, flat broke, living in the upstairs of a cape in East Cheddar, worrying if I'd have enough dough to pay next months rent. I vividly remember going to the local Pathmark on shopping day, having to ask the cashier to keep sub-totalling because I only had a certain dollar amount to fork over for food. Yes, it was embarrassing and yes, it made me appreciate having money now, but there was something twisted and sad about having to put back two cans of Goya beans because I just didn't have an extra $1.60 to my name.
I never ate lunch when I was working there...NEVER! For one, I was poor and couldn't afford it but the other blaring reason I chose to go hungry was because of the people who worked there. They were toxic horrors who could barely read and write (no lie my friends) wrapped up in tacky office politics and of course the Who's Who of Sleeping with Co-Worker's. I wanted nothing to do with those sorts. Of course a few of them were nice but for the most part, I'd rather spend time in a New York City public bathroom at the height of the summer tourist season, than make time with people who hated me because I wouldn't conform to their ignorant, uneducated ways.
Instead, my buddy and I walked the perimeter of the building, alongside the Long Island Expressway, everyday, talking about our past, our families and what we thought our lives would be down the road. One particularly cold winter's day in January of 1995, we decided to deviate from our normal route and headed for a somewhat lovely foot path that arched over the highway. We always talked about changing our walk but never seemed to get around to it. Since it was the beginning of the year, we thought we'd mix things up and set out for the path. As we chatted and laughed, we paid little attention to a man who was on a bike in the middle of the bridge. By the time we were smack dab in front of him, we noticed that he was looking at a magazine, opened up centerfold style. He was slobbering, drunk and very turned on. I'm not sure if I saw "it" but I'm sure he was pleasuring himself, out in the open, on a cold winter's afternoon while my friend and I stood there, frozen, staring at his privates. After a ten second delay, we turned to each other, screamed and scattered.
We ran all the way back to the building, half laughing, half frightened, realizing that our daily lunch soirees were much more than the average brown bag experience. It even topped the snooty gang who lunched out everyday at the various chain restaurants that littered the area. We were the cutters, the outsiders, the Breakfast Club cast all rolled up into two friends who both needed a social outlet outside of our cash for dreams jobs. Our friendship helped me withstand one of the worst job experiences of my life, but also gave me hope that I wasn't a sell-out, I was just doing what every other twentysomething was doing to get by financially. At the time, I knew he was right, but why did I let that particular notion dictate my entire career for the last 13 years. I didn't need to just get by...I needed to be proud of myself and learn to trust my gut. For some unknown reason, I turned off that voice in my head and listened only to the higher authorities who told me Hofstra was a great opportunity, it had wonderful benefits and a chance to get a graduate education for free. It all sounded good but in hindsight, I was wrong to stay at this job for so long, more wrong than I've ever been in my whole life. But, now I have the chance to find my dream. I'm reaching out. I'm shuffling through all the shit, feeling my way through. My happiness is worth more than dollars and cents or any job for that matter. My destiny will override all the bullshit that's been put on my plate. I can look at it but I sure as hell don't have to partake in the eating of it!