Work Friends

I have worked good jobs with great people, but have had no position yet which I could say I truly loved. So far my work history has been varied and usually the result of desperate searches for any sort of employment. I think that in these transient jobs which we work in order to pay our bills and make it from point A to B, the most important thing we can find is another person who makes showing up for work each day a joy, or at least less of a burden.

I found myself taking stock of this recently, as I am about to leave one job for another. It definitely set me up for a trip down memory lane, and helped me to once again be grateful for some of the people I have encountered in years past.

My first job was a waitressing gig at an Indian food restaurant. I wasn’t really trained, and I was paid under the table. The place was called Temptations, and after I left when it was under new ownership the name was changed to Nirmal. I joked with family and friends that when I leave a place it goes from a name like “Temptations” to just plain old “normal.” I really crack myself up.

temptationsThe management there was awful – probably the worst work experience I’ve had to date. But there was one coworker who, when he wasn’t making eyes at me accompanied by inappropriate comments, made working there for the summer tolerable. Dale was a very tall, very buff, very tattooed blonde guy. He kept the skeezy managers off my ass and perpetually told me jokes to crack me up and make me smile. He also gave me rides home when it was too hot or too rainy to walk. He basically made everything about that awful job better, and I wish I’d loosened up more and hung out with him more often. Maybe then we’d have kept in touch once I left for school.

My second job was at my uni admissions office. It was a cushy job if there ever was one, so I didn’t mind that at all. However, a lot of the admissions staff could be cold and distant, and they didn’t want any joy to seep into the office. However, my direct supervisor – the office manager – always kept things interesting. Kevin was socially awkward and in dire need of a social life, so we kids tried to include him. He was only a couple years older than we were, so sometimes it was strange to have a friendship sort of relationship with our boss. Needless to say we got away with a lot, and the only downfall was when he started flirting awkwardly with us girls.

My third and fourth jobs were with my university bookstore, and with the counseling department of the university. I didn’t manage to find people there who made the jobs a delight, although they were pretty easy jobs to begin with.

tower innMy final year of school I was back in Michigan and back to waitressing. This time I was at a pizza and more sort of diner. It was faster paced and always full of local college students and EMU faculty. I didn’t like it, at all. I was working for pennies but it was all I could find near me. There were two guys I worked with which made the work tolerable. Adam was probably 6’6″, lanky, with long black hair and a goatee. He was covered in tattoos and had several piercings. Basically, he looked like a tough guy, but he wasn’t. I mean I’m sure he could be, but for some reason he took a liking to me and kept his eye out for me, helping me when I needed it and teaching me when I required it.

Adam wasn’t the sort of person most would expect me to be friends with, but I think in some strange way I made my way into his heart. He was always able to make me laugh with his off color sense of humor and his jokingly flirtatious ways. He joked that if he wasn’t twelve years older than me I’d be “in trouble.”

The other guy who made things okay was Wil. He wasn’t a waiter like Adam, he was a delivery driver. With a hipster look and a  dazzling mustache, his cheerful personality couldn’t be contained. At the time he was dating one of the other waitresses, but he always took the extra time to talk to me, to help me prepare trays to take out to the floor, or to answer questions the other servers would just laugh at.

When he and his girlfriend (who was an interesting person but definitely had him under her thumb) broke up, he was even more friendly, and it was another case of wishing we’d been better friends and stayed in touch once I moved. Between Adam’s humor and Wil’s kindness, the only days I didn’t hate were days when they worked alongside me.

While I was still waitressing I got a second part time job at a local dojo, where I became Assistant Program Director. During the three months I worked there, I had two more guys who made life bearable. Clayton was the Program Director and my direct superior. He was cute and funny and interested in many of the same things I was. Our endless conversations and occasional flirting were all welcome, until I met his wife, who I hadn’t realized existed. Nevertheless, after backing off a bit we continued to have the sort of friendship that keeps you coming to work happily.

And because being surrounded by attractive and unavailable guys is a position I frequently found myself in, there was also Brad. Brad was something of a hunk, and was the Black Belt instructor. He also taught the preschool class, and seeing both the side of him that could take down guys twice his size in a few swift moves, and the side that spoke to kids like he was born for it, he intrigued me. He also helped me learn the ropes of the programs and offered to give me some self defense classes on the side.

I’m not in touch with Clayton or Brad anymore, but I see their updates on facebook from time to time, and I think they’re doing well.

318At the end of the summer after graduation, I was offered a teaching position in New Hampshire, and I upended my life to move here. That is actually precisely where this blog began, almost two years ago.

When I started teaching there were very few like minded people to be found. There was only one teacher that I became friends with – Julia – and even then we didn’t spend off-school hours together almost ever. But there was John, who wasn’t a teacher, but the groundsman for the property which housed our school. We met rather awkwardly, and somehow didn’t speak much for months, despite seeing one another on a fairly regular basis. He hardly spoke to me and even though I said hello whenever I saw him, he claims now that he thought I didn’t like him.

Long story still long, we ended up friends, and when he’d play football with the middle school boys during recess we frequently stopped for a chat. He ended up becoming friends with my sister and brother in law as well, and eventually my whole family. He and his wife, and their now-5-month-old are basically our only friends in NH. He sometimes borders on inappropriately familiar, but when he manages to maintain his boundaries, he’s a great friend.

My second year teaching wasn’t a year, but a month and a half. That story is elsewhere on my blog. The teacher who replaced my sister was named Alfonso. He was my jolly balding Mexican friend. And although he too was married, he too did his fair share of flirting. That aside, it didn’t take me long to realize that we would be friends. I actually knew it the moment he shook my hand and he had a firm unwavering grasp. As he didn’t know anyone in the area, and his wife and two kids were staying with her family in NY while he looked for a house, my family took him in as one of us.

unnamedEveryday at work we would find ways to make the day and the problems at hand less tedious. Even just exchanging stories of the shenanigans our students would pull and the things that would go through our heads and barely escaped being said aloud made a difference. Then he’d come over some evenings with John and the three of us, and sometimes more, would sit around drinking and talking, or watching horror movies, or playing highly competitive beer pong. Sometimes John’s brother Matt would join us and with all the guys being loud and ridiculous, the night would pass quickly.

Now I’ve been working at Home Depot for the past several months. It was intended to be an interim position until I left for China, but when that fell through and I wasn’t able to find anything better in the area, I kept going. There isn’t anyone or anything in particular about HD that is awful, but it isn’t enjoyable either. Except for Billy. Billy and I haven’t ever had a full conversation. He works in the Lot loading everyone’s purchases into their vehicles, and I work in the back office, counting bills. We only even encounter each other briefly in the break room, or when I’m coming or going through the front doors.

But every time I see Billy he makes me smile. It started one day when I was leaving and he called after me “Tessa nooo, don’t leaveee mee!” I made some joking response and kept going, but ever since then, we repeat these exchanges. If I’m leaving he bemoans my loss and begs me to stay with him. If I’m coming in he cheers that I’m there and says finally the day can begin. I worked a couple days in the Garden department so we saw each other more and he didn’t stop expressing how happy he was. Since he discovered that I’m leaving for another summer job at the bank, he hasn’t stopped begging me to stay.

I don’t know anything about Billy except that he’s married and 256hasn’t yet had a kid – a fact that I’m not sure if he was cheerful about or upset about. He’s been working here for nine years and is one of very few full time employees at this branch. And that is all I know of Billy – but the welcome and the joy with which he greets me every time he sees me – it makes my silly job in this back water town tolerable.

So. This post is far too long already. But as I look at the many words on this page describing the wonderful guys who have made otherwise tedious days into enjoyable memories, I can’t help but to express my gratitude. Guys, I don’t know what I’d have done without you, and I love you all.

I’ve learned a couple things in retrospect, too. 1: only unavailable men are nice to me. 2: I should stay in touch with good people better than I do. And 3: we usually don’t know what we have until it is no longer ours. So the name of the game now is to learn to see what I have while I have it, and not take wonderful people for granted.

Cheers.

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