Old School

Two days ago the left rear tire on my car encountered some roofing nails on the road, like in some sort of cartoon, or a Charlie Daniels song.

Now, I’m used to bad things happening; red traffic lights or being hit by cars while on my bike in a green bike lane. Today, fate allowed me to limp to the local Big-O Tire. I expected to be out at least the day’s wages to repair or replace the tire, and to provide some context, the car comes with tires costing twice as much as a month’s mortgage.

The service manager was a pleasant man, as young as my children and who clearly knew his business. The shop was full (I got the last space in the lot), and I needed the car for my afternoon route; I had about two hours. He advised me it would be tight, but he would make sure it was done. When I asked him how much, he said it was free, that they would just fix the punctures.

The tires came with the car, so he was under no obligation.

I asked if he took tips; he said sales does not, but the technicians do. Long story short, I took all the cash in my wallet and folded it into my palm to tip the service guy, old school. He was very appreciative, as was I – the ordeal took only one hour. Within five minutes of arriving home, this shop had a 5 star Yelp! review.

Fast forward to today.

Mr. Lake is a man probably 20 years my senior and rides a stylish black Townie with cream colored balloon tires, an eight-speed internally-geared hub, and drum brakes. He was understandably frustrated as his bike had been ghost-shifting intermittently, first working and then falling out of tune. My goal is to be sure this guy never has to see us again outside of tuneups, nothing personal (this always makes a customer smile). After solving his problem, I let him know exactly what I had done, without the technical details, and asked him kindly to bring the bike back in a month for a free checkup. The entire visit cost him nothing but time.

The older crowd really responds to me, mostly because of the silver beard. There is also no substitute for attentive and thorough service, because that’s what matters when you boil the fat away from any interaction. Awareness. Attention to detail. Focus. And of course, kindness.

Mr. Lake had folded a $20 into his palm and shook my hand as he left, smiling broadly.

It comes back around, dunnit?

See Me

On the way back from work yesterday riding on freshly-paved King Street toward a busy intersection at Mission, a car full of college students coasted up next to me at a red light (the shop where I work is right down the road from the University).

The girl in the back seat on my side had rolled down her window. She was wearing a sweater with a hood that looked like a tiger’s head, ears and everything. She looked at me with these big blue eyes and said, barely above a whisper through cupped hands, “You are an amazing human being.”

I am not good at sarcasm, but this didn’t feel like that. I have a flowing silver beard and I’m riding a pink cyclocross racing bike with pink hubs and tattoos on both arms. I think nothing of my appearance (clearly so because if this big, stupid beard). This girl, half my age, took the time to say something nice about me, to me.

Or more likely, she was mocking me. Hey, but at least she took the time to comment, right? That’s a win for me in this day and age. I’m pretty fucking invisible.

Dark and Obsolete

When I was younger I twice landed jobs by sitting in the lobby of the office where I applied until I was able to speak with a hiring manager. Once I even came in for three days straight. This was before mobile phones, so just imagine reading every word of that day’s newspaper. Twice.

Times have changed. Until you are older you cannot possibly imagine the futility of a potential employer forcing blind shots into the void and then waiting for a response. Time is shorter, and yes, it matters. I have gone as far as to find the address of the home office and carry in a printed resume (I clean up real nice) to make personal contact and was treated as an annoyance.

I’m not here to lead a crusade for my demographic (over 50, IT, out of the business for over two years), nor am I complaining. I cannot change any of this, it’s how the machine works.

I responded to a friend this morning regarding how my dormant LinkedIn profile reads better than any poetry I write. Frankly I’m a shit poet, but that’s another topic altogether.

You’re a tiny bit younger, but you might get it. This Twitter thing is fun when there are words, but the LinkedIn reference is starkly true. I was in IT for 17 years. When the company I worked for was bought, they closed my data center. By the time that happened, at 50 I was out of the market for jobs because age and the speed of change in tech wiped me out like a tidal wave. I can’t get back in, so I took a 70% pay cut to work harder, longer, dirtier in the cycling industry. It’s all I knew aside from how to fix computers.

    I came up through the ranks of tech support back before ADSL; dialup days. I managed to get through without a degree or certification of any sort. I worked for a few different tech firms, and that last job was perfect. I worked alone on graves in a massive data center after they had let go the other three operators during the recession.

    And now I come home greasy every night, poorer, tired (not in the best way), in a place where I have great difficulty being in public, and now aim to parlay all of my earthly assets to my children in real time with specific direction so they don’t end up like me.

    Obsolete.

    My history…I miss that part of my life even though it has been a colossal struggle, and this why much of my writing is dark because I see no hope. Hope bears no value in the past, and only speculation determines future happiness.

    So this writing is about my only light, ironically, in its dark context.

    All that from an auto-responder, a one-off echo from the void.

    Heavy

    A heavy sheet of paper is tucked, folded into thirds in a nightstand drawer. I read it exactly once, when it arrived in mail a year and a half ago.

    The naïve boy in me did not see what was coming. She was busy, I was patient, and reading into situations is not my strong suit; I am a face value kind of guy.

    If there are pink slips in relationships, they are actually yellow and ruled, with that thin, vertical, double red line on the left.

    “She’s just a girl,” they say. “You’ll get over her.”

    It is not that simple – for a fella who is okay with words, I am still unable to express the attraction, the…stuff that made this special. History has a little to do with it, so very little because I never told her then.

    And you never knew
    How much I really liked you
    Because I never even told you
    Oh, and I meant to

    – The Smiths

    This morning I picked up the paper by accident; it’s one of those things I’ll never be able to read again. It felt heavy, like all of my feeling, the same feeling I have missed since reading it, was sucked into the words and weigh down the page, and the emptiness inside is largely due to a lack of care.

    Dead.

    One time I wrote a thing describing how my heart and mind work independently, never together:

    “I’m not looking for any trouble here,” I say while tearing my beating heart from beneath my ribs and offering it to you.

    Maybe my heart beat just once when I was born and every sound it has made since is merely an echo.

    Fringe

    There is no poetry more perfect than my first thought of you in the morning, before eyes flutter open or fingers reach for a pen, while you are still on the fringe of my fantasy, smiling in faded departure.

    Interest(ing)

    …written in a series of four tweets.


    Today a pretty woman smiled as I studied each of my steps while walking past her in a pet store. I don’t look up because this never ends well.

    By my age, everyone has a someone and I’m not that lucky to be caught in open windows, between heartbeats, within a stolen glance.

    The last time I responded to being noticed was a long time ago; like reading fiction, wishing to be in the story.

    Alas, life has become a dull, grey tale with no denouement. The natural conclusion is merely a continuation of uncertainty.