Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day Labor.....a traumatized friend....and a new name?

It's been a few days since I posted. 

A lot has gone on in those few days.

Since I last posted, I've gone out to pick up and fill out applications for jobs, and then, 2 days ago, well, 3 now, I went to one of the day labor places in Tallahassee. Day labor, for those not familiar, is where you go and sign up, really just fill out what is just like a normal job application, and then you sit and wait to see if they find an assignment for you to perform as your "job" for that day. They provide laborers to construction companies mostly, for cleanup purposes and other types of work that don't require a "skill", just an able body. However, ANY business or company can and often does give them a call asking for workers to assist them in various tasks like putting up large tents, or moving furniture. If and when you, the "worker", get assigned one of the jobs, and you go out and perform it, you then return to the day labor office at the end of the day, and you receive a check for the wages you earned on that job. Daily work, daily pay. It's a great opportunity to make money when you have yet to acquire a "regular" job, and there are people that more or less use them as their full time job, either because they are not able to find a job elsewhere, or, they like to have the opportunity to choose which days they will work. That's one thing about day labor, there's no one telling you that you HAVE to show up every single day, the basic premise is, if you want to work that day, you show up, and wait to see if a customer calls with work to do. Some days you get sent out, some days you don't. It just depends on what calls come in that day.

A great majority of the workers that come in every day looking for work are those who are VERY poor, many even are homeless, and living in the local shelter. They have almost nothing in the way of material possessions, I have seen several that have everything they own in a locker in the day labor office. They have no storage space at the shelter, and even if they did, the likelihood of their meager possessions being stolen is very high. So, it seems that since the day labor office provides them with lockers, they choose to keep most if not all of what they own there in those lockers. I have to tell you, while this is not the first time I have seen the life of someone so poor up close, I have seen a few things in these last 3 days that really show how good the rest of us have it. It's easy to take for granted having a place to live, and food to eat, but for some of the people I've seen there, things go BEYOND breaking it down in such simple terms. 

I talked to one man on my second day there, while waiting to receive an assignment (I didn't get one the first day) who appeared to be a little better off, I mean, HE at least owned a car. The advantage to that at the day labor office is that those who own vehicles are assigned jobs first, and while a first come first "served" system would seem to be more fair, it's done that way presumably because they who own a car are also able to transport those workers who do NOT own a car along with themselves. That's also probably why I was assigned a job on my second day there, because I too own a car. I was told by the man I just mentioned that it normally takes about 2 weeks before they send a person out, apparently it gives them time to get to know you, and to see that you WANT to work, and are not just there to have somewhere to go after you leave the shelter in the morning. I'm sure some people do just that, because when I was called to the window and offered my assignment, the first thing they asked me was "Do you want to work?"

That caught me by surprise for a second, because I figured that that was the whole reason anyone would come in at 6 in the morning and sign in. Apparently that's not the case. Anyway, back to the man I mentioned earlier. I had walked outside to have a smoke, and his car was parked next to mine in the parking lot. He was reaching in his car for something, and when I approached with my lit cigarette, he turned and asked me if I had one I could spare. I didn't give it a second thought, and gave him one, as I usually do if someone asks me for a smoke. But then he did something I did NOT expect. He offered me a package of crackers, while asking me if I had eaten that morning. I said something to the effect of "No, but I don't usually eat in the mornings", because I don't. I rarely eat breakfast, I may eat a bagel or something small, but usually it's nothing at all. However, right away I could tell he was offering it to me as a trade for the cigarette. And not from anything he said, it was just a feeling I got, because let's face it, if all you have in the world is in your car, and you are around a lot of guys who are just as bad off as you are, or worse, it stands to reason that in order to survive, you trade for your needed resources on a regular basis. But the fact that he offered me the crackers, and then to top it off, a few moments later, a package of stuffed peppers, really struck a chord in me. This man was obviously either living out of his car, or perhaps staying at the shelter at night, who knows, but he offered me some of his food, maybe something he was saving to eat later himself, just because I gave him a cigarette. But here's the kicker. Right about that time, after I politely declined the peppers, after all, I DID have food at home, he was called into the office for an assignment, and left the peppers on the roof of his car while he went in to get the work order. I'm not sure what made me do it, curiosity I guess, but I decided to check the expiration date on them (they were in a package you typically buy in a grocery store deli). What I saw shocked me. They were expired, by a full 5 MONTHS!

Most people wouldn't eat something that was expired at all, if only for a few DAYS, but here was a man that was willing to eat food that was so far expired that it had to be close to "science experiment" territory, if not already fully there. Later on, I checked the date on the crackers he gave me, and those had been expired for 2 months. There was no way that either of those items could be considered suitable for consumption, and were most likely even dangerous to eat, perhaps even fatally so. That really showed me how desperate a person's situation can get. How would your standards, of what is fit to eat and what is not, change if you were in his shoes? Do you think YOU could eat expired food?

I have always been aware of people who are homeless and hungry, like everyone else, we hear about it on the news all the time. But how many of us can say we have seen it firsthand, and spoken with someone who was in that situation? I can. And I can tell you, it puts a lot in perspective. 

There's that word again. Perspective. I have written about it before, I've said, "it's all in how you look at things". "You can be having the worst day of your life, but if you don't see it that way, then it's NOT", I said. But what if every day of your life is a literal fight for survival, so much so that you would eat food that has been expired for 5 months? What kind of perspective does it take to get to the point when you will do that? I have never been to that point, so I don't know, but I can tell you this. If I were, nothing else would matter. Nothing. Every day when you wake up, your only goal is to find a way to eat, and to find someplace to sleep. That's it. None of the "normal" worries of everyday life that we all take for granted are even a factor. Trivial things don't exist. You don't care about what car you're driving, because you probably don't have one. You don't care if the clothes you're wearing are out of style, you're just happy to have something to keep you warm. You don't care if someone thinks you are fat, or skinny, all you want to do is get through one more day without starving or sleeping out in the cold and rain. Nothing else matters.

I'm glad I have had the chance to see that situation up close and personal, without having to go through it myself. I am grateful to have a roof over my head, and food in my stomach. I look forward to working each day, no matter how hard the work is, and how exhausted I am when I get home, because I HAVE a home to come to. It could be so much worse. 

The job I was assigned these last 2 days was to move some furniture and other stored items from one building to another in an apartment complex.. I got up both mornings really motivated to go and do whatever work they had for me to do, which is a change in a way. This motivation is to strictly focus on working, earning money, and leave all other considerations aside. Before, when I had a job, even at Walmart, which I really enjoyed doing, I didn't have the same motivation. It's hard to explain, because it would seem like that is the only reason people HAVE a job to begin with is to make money. I guess the difference is that I have always tried to find a job that I enjoyed doing, something that made me feel like I accomplished something, or even that I was doing something that helped people. I wanted to have a sense of joy in my work, and would not be motivated to do a job I saw as "beneath" me, or one I did not enjoy doing. The fact is, especially in today's economy and job market, those are luxuries most of us cannot afford. If a job is offered, no matter what it is, it's best to take it. Because there aren't enough to go around. 

I have had quite a few jobs in my life, and I'm sorry to say I have been, in the past, fired or laid off from several of them strictly due to a lack of motivation. A lot of it had to do with my alcohol abuse that was rampant in my 20's and 30's, as it caused me to oversleep on countless occasions, and to call out sick when I was merely hung over. But a great majority of the time, the reason I did not have the motivation to go to work was because I was more focused on how "horrible" the job was, rather than the fact that without the job, there would be no money. And money is the only real reason people go to work, well, most of us anyway. So now, it's my only motivation. Whether I enjoy it or not, or if it gives me satisfaction, or any other emotional considerations are no longer a factor.

This is probably the longest post I have ever written, and it's not over. But I have my reasons. I applaud you if you have read this far down into the post, as I myself have found some of my writing to be exceedingly tedious and repetitious at times lol.......but now, for the second part of today's story.......  

I have a friend who just the other day had something happen to her that one would usually see on television on an episode of "Fringe" perhaps, certainly the stuff of science fiction normally, but for her, it was reality. She woke up and had forgotten the last 15 years of her life. This means she did not know where she was, because she and her husband had moved during that time frame. She had no idea who her own children were, as they were all born during the time period she had forgotten. She could not remember who some of her relatives were (those that married into the family during the 15 years she couldn't remember), the fact that she was active in a local church, and had no idea how to use her laptop, which prior to her memory loss was something that rarely left her side. She has friends she met in that 15 year span, myself included, and some very close friends that she met in that time frame, that she does not remember.

How would YOU feel if you woke up one day and had seemingly jumped forward in time 15 years, and you didn't recognize most of the people in your life, or much of anything around you? How would that affect you?

Again, it's a matter of your own personal perspective and perceptions, but there's nothing that can prepare someone for a situation like that. Nothing. Retrograde amnesia, in my opinion, is probably one of the most frightening things a person could ever experience. I can't even imagine what she's going through, the enormity of it is overwhelming. Luckily she has a great family that has rallied around her, and, she is a longtime friend of Bella's, they've known each other for 27 years, so she still remembered her. They've been talking a lot these past few days, which is hopefully bringing her some sense of normalcy in what has got to be one of the most chaotic situation a person can ever be in. I have chatted with her myself on Yahoo messenger twice since it happened, and she's told me how scary and confusing it's been, and she told me this even though, from her perspective, I am a total stranger. 

She is a wonderful person, I love her dearly. I pray that she is able to regain her memory soon, and hope that you all will keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

If you would like more information on her situation, Bella has written a much more detailed post about what happened, on her blog, Memoirs of a Crazy Witch.

In closing this post I would just like to say thank you, for taking the time to read about my ever changing perspective on life. I'm even considering changing the name of my blog from "Perthro's Pronouncements" to "Perth's Perspective", because I think it's more apt. What do you think?

I hope you all have a wonderful day.

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