EMBARRASSED INTO ENLIGHTENMENT
EMBARRASSED OUT OF A JOB
"A series of embarrassing jobs causes a young man to lose interest in the "American Dream" of owning a house, owning a car, and owning lots of material possessions, and instead start to dream of someday leaving America, and living a much more simple life as a "minimalist".
The following are 10 of the jobs that I had in my youth which I ultimately lost
due to my guru "embarrassment"...
JOB #1 - "WALMART"
The first job I ever had was stocking shelves at a "Walmart", and the "Walmart" that I worked at was one of the giant "Super Center" stores which sold over 100,000 different items! When I first started working there I of course didn't know where every one of the 100,000 different items were located, plus I was extremely shy and nervous around people and a lot of the customers who shopped there looked scary to me, so I feared customers coming up to me and asking me where random things were located.
Sometimes a customer would ask me something easy like, "Where are the TV's located?" and I would confidently tell them where they were at, but then a few minutes later I would suddenly realize that I was wrong and that I had accidentally sent the customer in the totally wrong direction. Then I would start to panic and worry that the customer might be really mad at me about it, and that they might even be on their way back to confront me over it! So I would get scared and run to the employee bathroom, and just hide in a stall for half an hour to avoid running into the customer again.
I wasn't "stealing time" when I would hide from customers in the bathroom at work, because as a Walmart employee I was supposed to be given two 15 minute breaks every day and the managers would purposely make me work through both of them. So as long as I didn't spend more than 30 minutes a day hiding from customers in the bathroom (or as long as I didn't average more than two and a half hours per week or 130 hours per year doing it) I wasn't doing anything "unethical".
"MONKEYS ON TYPEWRITERS
Working at "Walmart" wasn't all bad, and I actually managed to have a lot of fun during my time working there. I was always getting asked where random things were located so one day as a joke I drew a really detailed map of the store and I put a big red "X" where the blow driers were located. Then I put the map in my back pocket and brought it to work with me every single day until finally after about 5 months of always having it in my back pocket a guy came up to me and said, "Excuse me young man, but can you tell me where the blow driers are at?"
I was so excited that someone finally asked me where the blow driers were that I quickly reached into my back pocket and pulled out the map, and then I handed it to him and walked away without saying a word...
About 20 minutes later I was working and I glanced over and saw the man who I had given the map to staring at me from a distance. He looked so confused and it was obvious that he was trying to figure out how in the world I just happened to have a map to the blow driers in my pocket, and why in the world a map like that would even exist in the first place. I stared back at him and carefully observed the way that he looked and dressed until he got uncomfortable and walked away.
The next day he showed up at the store again, and it was obvious that he was still really wanting to know how I did what I did because he walked up to me very slowly and nervously said, "Excuse me, but I just wanted to thank you for your help yesterday when I couldn't find the blow driers." and then he just stood there anxiously waiting to see what I would say...
I then reached into my back pocket and handed him another piece of paper, and then I walked away without saying a word. (I had fully expected him to return, so the paper that I gave him this time was a very realistic picture that I had drawn of him looking really confused and using a blow drier!)
"THE LADDER INCIDENT"
The "Walmart" that I worked at was so big that the top shelves were about 20 feet in the air and sometimes customers would ask me to get something for them that required a ladder to reach. (The problem with this was that all of the managers at work told me that I wasn't allowed to use a ladder due to how nervous and jumpy I was, so if a customer asked me for something that was really high up I would have to go find another employee to actually climb the ladder and get it for them.)
One day a very beautiful lady approached me and asked if I could get a kids bicycle for her that was way up on the top shelf so I said, "Sure, one moment please." and then I ran around the store looking for another employee, but every employee that I saw was either talking to a customer or talking to another employee and because I was such a polite person I was too uncomfortable to just walk up and interrupt their conversation.
I was also terrified of public speaking and was uncomfortable hearing my own voice, so I couldn't just get on the store intercom and announce over the loud speakers that a customer needed assistance in the bicycle aisle either.
I didn't want to keep the woman waiting (and because she was so beautiful I didn't want her to know that I wasn't even allowed to use a ladder because then I would probably never have a chance of being her boyfriend someday) so I decided to take matters into my own hands...
I went to the back and dragged out a big ladder, then I set it up under the bicycle that she wanted and began climbing the ladder. (I was scared of heights, but I really wanted to make a good impression on her so I just kept climbing and didn't look down.) Then when I finally made it to the top I started to reach for the bike and I heard the lady yell up to me, "Sir." so I looked down to see what she wanted and when I saw just how high up in the air I was I instantly felt my legs go limp and I started to fall backwards so I yelled "Ahhhh!" and quickly wrapped my arms around the ladder and started hugging it for dear life.
After several moments of awkward silence the lady yelled up to me, "Are you OK?" but I was so paralyzed with fear and embarrassment that I couldn't move or respond to her question, and I actually started crying.
The lady felt really bad for me and yelled up, "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry that I had you go up that high... I didn't know that you were afraid of heights!" but all I could do was just keep my face buried under my arms in shame...
After what seemed like an eternity I looked down again and saw that the woman was gone so I was about to climb back down the ladder, but then she suddenly returned with a manager named "Mark" (who was really mean) and as soon as he saw me on the ladder he started yelling at me, "Hey! What the hell are you doing on that ladder? I told you that you are never to even touch a ladder! Get down from there this instant or you will be written up!"
Because he was yelling at me in front of a beautiful woman I felt even more immobilized, and because he was yelling so loudly several other customers started coming to the aisle to see what was going on, and before you knew it there was a large crowd of customers gathered under the ladder looking up at me.
Because I was completely non-responsive the manger pulled out his walkie-talkie and called for security to come to the aisle, and then a really big security guard showed up and had to climb up the ladder and try to talk me back down. He did his best to nicely ask me to come down, and when that didn't work he tried to grab my leg but I screamed so bad that he realized that he wasn't going to get me down that way either, so he finally got frustrated and told me, "Look man, if you refuse to come down the ladder I'm going to have no choice but to call the actual police, and you might even have to spend the night in jail!"
As soon as he said the part about going to jail I felt more scared than I had ever been in my life, and to make matters worse I then heard the beautiful woman who I had tried so hard to impress under the ladder say to someone, "Oh my God, can you imagine what would happen to that poor boy in jail?" Then several of the customers started yelling up to me that I had better come back down because there was no way that I would survive a night in jail, and a few of the customers even started laughing and joking about the thought of me going to jail!
I then looked at the security guard with fearful eyes and because he was so used to dealing with criminals he could "smell fear" like a dog, and he knew exactly what I was thinking so he looked me in the eyes and said, "If you go to jail the first thing that they will do is take your "mug shot", then they will "strip search" you, then you will have to have to take a shower with a bunch of other naked men, and then you will be put in a cell with a bunch of other inmates and you will all have to share one open toilet, and because you are so skinny and are basically the closest thing to a woman that some of the prisoners have seen in years..."
I then stopped him and said, "OK, OK, OK, I'll go back down!" (My fear of going to jail was clearly far worse than my fear of heights, and honestly, just the thought of having to get my mug shot taken was already too terrifying for a person like me who is "camera shy" to cope with!)
When I finally made it back to the floor the crowd of customers all started clapping and cheering over the fact that I wasn't going to have to spend a night in jail, and I felt so humiliated by the whole experience that I wanted to quit my job over it!
But because I had been working at "Walmart" for a while I had kind of gotten caught up in the belief that happiness was something that you can buy, and I had accumulated a MASSIVE amount of credit card debt due to buying stuff that I didn't really need and couldn't really afford. (And it was mostly from buying fancy and expensive things for my apartment that I thought would really impress a girl if I ever got a girlfriend.) So I felt "stuck" and unable to quit at the time.
Although the "Walmart" that I worked at was the biggest building that I had ever been in, during the holidays there would be so many extra customers in the store that I would actually start to feel "claustrophobic", and to make matters worse the customers were a lot more angry and aggressive during the holidays too...
I had to work on "Thanksgiving" day and while I was there an old man crapped his pants in the store. I felt sorry for the old man, but deep down I also felt certain that if it wasn't a holiday it wouldn't have happened. (The fact that the store was so full of customers who were all stressing out because they had waited until the last minute to prepare for their holiday meal was probably just too much for him!)
Later that same day a customer got arrested for punching an employee just because we were out of canned cranberry sauce! (I doubt very seriously that anyone could get mad enough to punch someone over cranberry sauce if it was any day other than "Thanksgiving" and everyone wasn't "expected" to eat some cranberry sauce that day.) There were also several "fender benders" in the parking lot that day and it just seemed so obvious that it was due to the fact that everyone felt pressured to follow a tradition even if it was unnecessary and inconvenient for them to do so.
Because it was "Thanksgiving" day the managers had a bunch of traditional "Thanksgiving" food in the break room for everyone who had to work that day, but because I was into health and fitness I just ate an apple instead. Everyone was looking at me like I was an alien for not eating any of the holiday food, and at one point I looked over at a co-worker named "Susan" (who was a "vegetarian" like I was) and did a double take because she was actually eating turkey. As soon as she saw that I saw her eating it she got embarrassed and tried to cover up her plate so I wouldn't see it, and I got embarrassed and tried to pretend that I didn't see it. But it was obvious that I had seen what she was eating so she got a bit defensive and said,, "Even if you're a "vegetarian" I think that it would be pretty extreme to not eat turkey on "Thanksgiving" day!"
I left work that day feeling disturbed by just how easily people could be controlled by "traditions".
The day after "Thanksgiving" was "Black Friday" and the customers were acting so hostile that day that 11 people got arrested and an ambulance had to be called to the store twice! (Plus everyone was talking about how a customer at a different "Walmart" actually got trampled to death by a mob of shoppers who were all rushing into the store as soon as the doors opened at midnight.)
I had originally planned on buying a big screen TV and a bunch of other things as soon as my shift was over that day, but I was so shook up and traumatized by the warlike behavior that I witnessed that day that I didn't stick around to buy anything because all I wanted to do was get out of the store as soon as possible!
During the month of December they would play the same 10 "Christmas" songs over and over again over the intercom at work and this would drive the employees so crazy that I would often hear co-workers say things like, “If I have to hear "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" one more :&%#@(* time I'm going to bring a gun to work and just start shooting people!"
There were also a lot of white people protesting outside of the "Walmart" that I worked at in December because we had a black employee dressed up as "Santa Clause" and posing for holiday portraits with kids. (The white protesters were claiming that if their kids saw a black "Santa Clause" it would confuse them and ruin their "Christmas"!)
I had to work on "Christmas" day and a "Jewish" woman who worked with me got really offended and actually yelled at me because I said "Merry Christmas" to her. (I didn't even know what the word "Jewish" meant at the time, and I was just trying to be nice when I said it to her.) But I couldn't help but notice that she didn't get offended at all later that day when the manager walked around and gave everyone a surprise $50 "Christmas Bonus" check. (As a matter of fact, not only did she smile and thank him for it but she literally yelled "Woohoo" and started clapping and dancing for joy because of how happy she was to accept the "Christmas Bonus" money even though she was "Jewish".)
"BECOMING A CONSCIOUS CONSUMER"
All of the holiday madness that I witnessed got me to start thinking about and questioning the whole concept of "consumerism", so I did some research on-line and was alarmed to hear a statistic that 99% of the material goods that are purchased at places like "Walmart" are no longer in use 6 months after purchasing them. "That can't be true!" I thought to myself, but then I looked around my apartment at all of the stuff that I had bought to impress a girl someday and I realized just how much money I had spent on things that I had never even used and were now just collecting dust!
I then learned about something known as "Planned Obsolescence" which is where things are purposely designed to break down or become obsolete after only a short amount of time so that people will have to throw them away and purchase newer versions of them. I had also noticed that people were being conditioned to think that it was embarrassing to still own things that were considered "old fashioned" and to get rid of them even if they still work perfectly fine. (For example, new TV's were getting bigger and new phones were getting smaller, so if you owned a big TV and a small phone you were cool, but if you still owned a small TV and a big phone you should feel embarrassed and get rid of them as soon as possible to avoid having all of your friends and family members thinking that you are a total loser!)
One day I was working in the "Pet Aisle" and I noticed that there were even products that were designed to embarrass people's pets into becoming life long loyal consumers! (For example, there were cat litter boxes being sold at Walmart that came with a "privacy tent" so that cats could use their litter box without the awkwardness of having their human owners staring at them when they used it, and because I had "Bladder Shyness" I knew that this would train cats to be like me and to eventually not be able to go to the bathroom without complete privacy. And they also had a big clothing line just for dogs, and because I was so bashful about my body I realized that products like this would train dogs to to be like me and to eventually feel uncomfortable to be seen without any clothes on.)
A lot of protesters would show up at the "Walmart" where I worked at claiming that "Walmart" was "evil". (They would claim that the products we sold were made in sweatshops overseas and that it was causing unthinkable amounts of environmental destruction to produce them.) But because I had never traveled and had never seen any of these evils with my own eyes (combined with the fact that so many racist and homophobic people would show up at "Walmart" to protest ridiculous things) I didn't pay much attention to the protesters at first, and if I showed up to work and saw protesters standing by the front door I would walk around to the back of the store and knock on the back door until an employee finally let me in so I wouldn't have to go through the awkwardness of having to walk past the protesters.
I viewed the protesters as "crazy" and as just one more reason to be embarrassed to work at "Walmart", but the more I researched "Walmart" on-line the more I started to think that maybe some of the protesters weren't so crazy after all. (And the more uncomfortable it became for me to buy things from "Walmart" even when they were on sale.)
"THE PEOPLE OF WALMART"
"Walmart" was notorious for having some really strange and unusual shoppers, and one day I showed up to work and oddities were out in full force...
Within 5 minutes of starting my shift I caught a crazy looking guy stealing peanut butter, but instead of simply taking a jar of peanut butter and sneaking out of the store without paying for it like a normal shoplifter would, he opened a jar of peanut butter and scooped out a big handful of it, then he stuffed the handful of peanut butter into one of his pants pockets, and quickly walked out of the store! (I made no attempt to stop him and I actually thought it was pretty funny.)
A few minutes later an overweight black man with a big white beard and overalls rode up to me on a motorized handicapped shopping cart and asked for my assistance. He told me that one of the rain gutters had fallen off of his house, and he wanted to know if I thought that a bottle of "Elmer's Glue" would fix it. (I had to laugh and was now in one of my super silly moods where everything seemed funny to me.)
Later I saw an angry old white man walking around with a bag of hamburger buns, and as soon as he spotted me in my "Walmart" uniform he walked over to me looking Irate. I did my best to keep a straight face as I politely asked him, "Can I help you with something?" and he held the hamburger buns up to my face and shouted, "This is horse shit and you know it!"
I immediately burst out laughing because he was cussing, and then all of the other customers around us stopped what they were doing and started looking at me and the old man. The old man was furious that I was laughing at him so he started cussing me out in front of everyone, which only made me laugh more, which only made him cuss more, which only made me laugh louder, which only made him cuss louder, etc...
Me and the old man were caught in an intense exchange of polar energies and it got so powerful that my chest started to hurt from all of the laughter so I grabbed my chest and fell to the floor. Then the angry old man became so angry that his chest started to hurt from all of the rage so he grabbed his chest and fell to the floor as well...
As we both laid on the floor about to die (me from laughter and him from a heart attack) I had a "Near Death Experience" and below is a detailed description of what I remember of it...
"MY NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE"
I was laughing so hard that I could no longer breathe, and even though I knew full well that I would die if I didn't stop laughing I just couldn't stop laughing! But then I suddenly saw some emergency paramedics running over to help me and the old man, and because I was so uncomfortable about being touched I immediately stopped laughing and quickly jumped back up to my feet to run away from the paramedics.
But as I was getting up off the floor I happened to look down and see my lifeless body still laying on the ground!
I then turned to a customer who was standing right next to me and asked him, "What in the world is happening to me?" but he completely ignored me, so I raised my voice but he still acted like I was completely invisible. I then started yelling loudly to get everyone's attention, but nobody even noticed me, so I realized that I must have died and that I must be a spirit now...
Normally this is the part of a "Near Death Experience" story where the person who died will say that they watched their lifeless body being revived by the paramedics, but unfortunately the first thing that the paramedics did to my lifeless body was take the shirt off of it so they could perform CPR! I felt so embarrassed over the fact that everyone was seeing me with my shirt off (and because I was a spirit there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it except cringe with embarrassment and lose any desire to ever get back inside my body and come back to life) so I took off running out of the building to get as far away from my half naked body as possible!
When I got outside of the store I felt a strong and whirling wind above me as if a tornado was about to touch down, so I looked up and saw an emergency helicopter hovering above the store and ready to "life flight" me and the old man to the hospital. Then I heard some shouting behind me so I turned around and saw the angry old man running out of the store and coming straight at me with a vengeance so I took off running as fast as I could!
The old man chased me down the street and as we ran past people's houses I saw tons of merchandise from "Walmart" that appeared to still be in good condition just piled up along the side of the road and waiting for the garbage trucks to come and haul it all to the dump! (Furniture, clothing, kids toys, electronics, and all kinds of other merchandise from "Walmart" was being carelessly thrown away as if being "wasteful" was the ultimate symbol of being "wealthy".) The old man chased me all across America and in every city there were small mountains of merchandise from "Walmart" piled up and waiting for the garbage trucks!
I was running as fast as I could but the old man was still behind me, and it seemed that every time I turned around he was a little bit closer to me! I then looked ahead and saw that we were about to reach the edge of "California" and I knew that if the chase continued much longer the old man would eventually catch me. So instead of turning left or turning right I kept running straight towards the water, and when I finally reached the edge of the shore I made a big running leap and I jumped all the way across the Ocean and landed somewhere on the other side of the world!
I had jumped across many time zones so it was now late at night and I had no idea where I was. I had landed on a street and I noticed right away that all of the street signs were written in Chinese, so I figured that I must be in China. I then started walking down the dark street and it must have been really late at night because I didn't see another person anywhere, and none of the houses that I saw had any lights on. But then I noticed a building with a dim light shining through the windows and a strange mechanical noise emanating from inside, so I curiously approached the building and when I saw that the front door was opened I walked inside to see what it was...
It was a factory that made cellphones and there were lots of people working inside, but I was shocked to see that even though it was late at night most of the people who were working there were young children who were still in diapers! I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but then I looked more closely and noticed that even the adult workers were wearing diapers!
Everyone in the factory was just wearing a diaper and nothing else and it didn't take long for me to figure out that the reason that nobody was wearing a shirt or pants was because of how incredibly hot it was in the building. And the reason that everyone was wearing a diaper was because they were being forced to work extremely long hours, and they weren't even allowed to take bathroom breaks!
These poor workers had quite literally been "stripped" of their dignity just to keep the production of cell phones high and cost of cell phones low for people like me who lived in America, and because I had "bladder shyness" I felt so much sympathy for these people. (I also felt kind of guilty over the fact that I was actually able to "hide" in the bathroom at work for long periods of time without anyone even noticing my absence!) But then one of the workers saw me and started pointing at me and shouting something to everyone in Chinese.
I didn't speak Chinese, but I could tell that fact that I was an American and the fact that I was wearing my work shirt which said "WALMART" in big letters and had a big smiley face on it caused these mistreated sweat shop workers see me as the devil himself!
I got really scared and ran out of the building, and then everyone in the factory stopped working and started chasing me down the street!
The workers chased me through the streets of China and as they were chasing me we ran past several other sweatshops that were full of mistreated workers who were being forced to produce cheap products to be sold at "Walmart" stores in America, and who were being denied bathroom breaks. The workers in those buildings also came outside to join the chase, and before you knew it I was being chased by millions of people in diapers!
I kept running until I reached the edge of China and I once again made a big running leap and I jumped all the way across the ocean and landed on a strange island somewhere...
I had jumped across many time zones so it was daylight again and I was in a beautiful forest that appeared to be completely "untouched" by humans. Although there were no other humans around the forest was filled with music and dance as exotic birds were singing and male animals were trying their best to get the attention of females with their unique dance moves. It was quite a spectacle, but then I listened carefully and noticed that I could hear the faint rhythmic sound of man-made drums coming from a distance, so I followed the sound to see where (and who) it was coming from...
I kept following the drumming sound until it lead me up a big hill, and when I reached the top of the hill I looked down on the other side and saw a tribe of really dark skinned people playing drums and dancing. (These people were naked, yet not embarrassed about it, and although they clearly had no contact with the modern world and didn't even know what a TV, a phone, or a car was they seemed a lot happier than the people in the U.S. who had all these things, and they also seemed so closely bonded as a "tribe" that it actually made me feel kind of guilty to think that I didn't even know the names of any of my neighbors!)
But the happy drumming and dancing came to an abrupt stop when the loud and vile sound of chainsaws filled the air and the tribe became angry and started to gather up their bows and arrows so they could go to war with the mysterious "white man" who was destroying their home forest! But then one of the tribe members saw me standing on the top of the hill and started pointing up at me and shouting in a language that I had never heard before.
I didn't speak their language but I could tell that the fact that I was a white man made them think that I was the devil himself!
I took off running and they all started chasing me! They chased me through the forest, and as we were running several other tribes of primitive and dark skinned people who's future was being threatened by "the white man" came out of their huts and tree houses to join the hunt until I was being chased by countless naked people!
I kept running until I reached the edge of the island and I once again made a big running leap, but this time I didn't land in another country and I simply landed somewhere in the middle of the ocean...
The ocean where I landed was full of floating plastic and it was all whirling around like a gigantic whirlpool. I didn't know how to swim but I was able to grab some empty "Clorox Bleach" bottles and use them as temporary flotation devices. I held onto the empty bottles for dear life, but the ferocious speed of the spinning "Garbage Patch" was so great that I eventually lost my grip on the bottles, and just like the many spiders that I had flushed down a toilet back when I was a lot younger and a lot less compassionate towards smaller life forms, I was doomed and I got sucked in and sank downward into the ocean!
As I was sinking I saw several fish eating small pieces of plastic because they thought it was plankton, and I even saw a big sea turtle eating a big plastic bag because it thought it was a jelly fish! Then I saw some whales who were morning the loss of a fellow whale who had gotten stuck and died in a gigantic abandoned plastic fishing net, and when one of the whales saw me it started singing to the other whales.
I didn't speak their language, but I could tell that they were highly intelligent creatures and that the fact that I was a human made them think that I was the devil himself!
They then started to swim up to me so I got scared and tried to swim away from them, but it was no use, and a big whale swam right up behind me and swallowed me whole!
I was still alive, but I was in the whale's stomach and it was so dark that all I could see was the color black! Then I suddenly felt something hard and loose under my foot so I reached down and picked it up. I could tell by the feel of the object that it was a flash light, so I turned it on, and I was shocked to see that the inside of the whale's stomach was completely full of random and indigestible man-made objects that had somehow ended up in the ocean, and ultimately in the poor whale's stomach!
There was enough man-made stuff in the whale's stomach to have a big "Yard Sale" and I couldn't help but curiously start browsing through all of the different stuff that it had swallowed, but then all of a sudden me and all of the man-made objects in the whale's stomach started tumbling around in circles like clothes in a dryer, and when the tumbling finally stopped about a minute later the whale opened it's mouth and a bright light came shinning in from outside the whale...
I got up and walked towards the light until I got to the whale's mouth, and then I stepped out of the whale's opened mouth and found myself on a sunny beach. (The whale that swallowed me had been washed ashore.) I then looked around and saw that there were dozens of other "beached whales" as well so I tried desperately to push them back into the ocean so they wouldn't die, but sadly they were way too heavy for me to even budge. Then I heard a loud beeping sound approaching so I turned around and saw a giant garbage truck driving along the shore to collect the whales since they had quite literally become giant sacks of man-made garbage that had been washed up to the "curb" of the ocean and were now ready to be taken to the dump!
I then woke up in a hospital bed to the beeping sound of a heart monitor, and I realized that my "Near Death Experience" was a dream! But deep down I felt certain that the environmental nightmares that I had just envisioned were actually happening, and I knew that I absolutely had to quit my job at "Walmart" and find a new job that was a lot more "environmentally friendly"
JOB #2 - "WHOLE FOODS"
I got a job working at "Whole Foods", and although I felt really good about the fact that I was working at a "health food store", the prices at "Whole Foods" were so high that it made me feel embarrassed to work there!
Even the managers at "Whole Foods" were so embarrassed about their prices that they would purposely not even have price tags on items that were ridiculously expensive. This of course would lead to a lot of customers coming up to me and asking how much things cost, and when I would tell them the price I would have to deal with the bulging eyes and the "ARE YOU SHITTING ME???" responses from customers who felt outraged and even "insulted" by our prices!
As a shy person I dread having to be the "bearer of bad tidings", and for me personally would be just as uncomfortable to have to be the one to tell someone that a tomato they want to buy cost $7.00 as it would be to have to have to tell them that one of their loved ones was just in a serious car wreck and was in the emergency room!
Although "Whole Foods" was providing a lot of unique health foods to the general public that couldn't be found in regular grocery stores, I felt that they were also causing the general public to develop a strong and limiting belief that if you want to eat healthy you have to be rich. (Hence the nickname "Whole Paycheck" that I would have to hear multiple times a day whenever the managers would make me run a cash register and I had the incredibly uncomfortable duty of having to tell people how much their total was!)
One of the things that I liked about working at "Whole Foods" was that the managers let me draw all of the decorative signs in the store. (Instead of using normal printed signs like other stores did "Whole Foods" would use chalkboards and colored chalk to create unique and artistic signs throughout their store.)
One time I had to draw a sign for a pickles display that featured pickles that had been imported from all over the world, and the jars of pickles were ridiculously expensive (One of them was from Brazil and cost over $600!) and the managers asked me to draw some cartoon pickles and write in big letters "Imported Pickles".
Because the pickles were so expensive I decided that as a joke I would write the word "Important" instead of "Imported" so that the sign would say "Important Pickles". I then made the sign and hung it up for everyone to see, and what was really funny to me was that nobody even noticed the misspelling because everyone was so used to seeing the word "imported" on expensive products throughout the store that their minds would just "auto-correct" the word "important" to "imported" when they read the sign. (I thought that it was hilarious that nobody could see what I had done even though they were looking right at it, but it also caused me to stop and seriously wonder how often my own mind will "auto-correct" things that I look at in order to make more sense of them?)
I lived on the 3rd floor of a big apartment complex and one night I was woken up at 3:00AM by the sounds of sirens and people yelling outside, so I got out of bed and looked out the window to see what was going on, and I was shocked to see that my apartment complex was on fire!
Luckily firefighters showed up pretty quick and started trying to put out the fire, and the police also showed up promptly and were pounding on everyone's doors and yelling that everyone had to evacuate immediately!
The fire was spreading and was getting closer to my apartment so I knew that I had better hurry up and get outside, but then I looked out the window and saw a "CHANNEL 8 NEWS" van pull into the parking lot, and then I watched in horror as the news van doors flew open and several camera men jumped out and started filming the fire, and then a really beautiful female news reporter with a microphone got out of the van and started interviewing all of the neighbors who were being evacuated on live TV!
Because of how "camera shy" I was I was actually more scared of the thought of being on TV than I was of the fire, so I felt trapped in my apartment and unsure what to do...
"WHAT TO WEAR?"
As the fire raged on and the temperature in my apartment rapidly started to rise my desire to live also rapidly started to rise, and I decided that I wanted to live and that I had to go outside. But I was still in my underwear so I ran to my closet to put on some clothes first...
I went to grab a shirt from my closet but because it was late at night it was too dark to see which shirt I was grabbing, and I knew that if I turned a light on in my apartment everyone outside would see the light and know that I was in my apartment (including the camera men and the beautiful reporter) and I definitely didn't want the attention that it could bring!
I was too afraid to just put a shirt on without knowing which shirt it was because I owned several shirts that I wouldn't be comfortable wearing on TV. Plus almost half of the shirts that I owned were "work shirts" that said "Whole Foods" on them, and "Whole Foods" had recently been all over the news due to getting busted for selling "Asparagus Water". (Which was nothing more than a small bottle of water with 3 stalks of asparagus in it for $6.00 a bottle.) So I feared that if I put on a shirt and it ended up being a "Whole Foods" shirt the beautiful reporter would realize that I worked at "Whole Foods" and might start interrogating me about the "Asparagus Water Scandal" on live TV!)
It then occurred to me that because I was a male I could technically just go outside without a shirt on, but I simply didn't have the confidence to do it. I then looked out the window again and noticed that some of my male neighbors who had just been evacuated were actually standing outside without a shirt on and they didn't seem to be embarrassed about it at all. (And they didn't even try to cover up their chests or anything whenever the beautiful reporter would walk up to them and start interviewing them.) I then thought about "Charles Darwin" and had an epiphany that if I died in the fire it would be "Natural Selection", because a man who is too embarrassed to be seen without a shirt on will not likely go on to reproduce anyways!
Then my apartment started to fill up with clouds of smoke, so I sat on the ground and then I instinctively got into a meditative position. I then imagined myself as a monk who was about to willfully be set on fire, and was about to just accept my fate. But then all of a sudden an idea came to me and I quickly stood back up, I grabbed my phone, and I dialed 911...
When the operator answered and asked me what my emergency was I told her that my apartment was on fire and that the fire department was already there to put it out, but I was really shy and there were so many people outside of my apartment (including people from the news who were filming everything) that I wanted to know if she could please get a hold of the police who were there on the scene and ask them to please ask everyone to turn around and face the parking lot for just a minute or two minutes so I could leave my apartment without everyone looking at me...
The operator didn't empathize with me one bit and just shouted at me in a commanding voice, "IF YOUR APARTMENT IS ON FIRE THAN YOU HAVE TO LEAVE NOW!" then the phone went dead due to the fire, and I'm guessing that she traced my call and reported it to the fire department because less than a minute later a fire fighter started pounding on my apartment door and yelling, "I know you're in there, you have to leave NOW!" I was too afraid to respond and just pretended to not be home, so he walked over to my living room window and punched it twice, and on the second punch the window shattered!
He then crawled into my apartment while shinning a flashlight at me and I tried to run away from him but my apartment was so full of smoke that I couldn't see where I was going, and I ran right into a wall and fell to the ground! Then the firefighter (who was a very big and strong man) picked me up and hoisted me up on his shoulders, and then he took me outside and carried me down the apartment stairs while I had nothing on but a pair of underwear (and while I was kicking and screaming in terror but also smiling and laughing too due to how ticklish I was) and of course everyone was looking at me!
When we got to the bottom of the steps he set me down on the ground, and luckily another fire fighter came running over to me with a big gray fire blanket and wrapped it around me so that only my head was showing. (And when the beautiful female reporter came running over to interview me I quickly ducked my head down into the blanket like a frightened turtle!)
The woman tried to interview me but I just kept my head down and my mouth shut, and when she finally got the hint that I was embarrassed and didn't want to be interviewed I heard the sound of her high heel shoes walking away from me across the pavement. Then I slowly poked my head back up, and I saw my apartment completely engulfed in flames!
"A NEW BEGINNING"
It turned out that the fire had started because one of my neighbors had fallen asleep on his couch while he was smoking a cigarette, and the fire ended up destroying 28 apartments. (Including my own.)
Rather than getting angry or depressed about it I decided to view the fire as the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and as a sign that it was not only time for me to find a new place to live but it was time for me to move somewhere far far away and to find a totally new job (and possibly even have my name legally changed) since I had appeared on the local news that day in my underwear!
When I was finally allowed to go back inside of what was left of my apartment all of my material possessions that I had bought (and had gotten myself into debt over) had been completely destroyed, and all that I could really salvage was about 13 dollars worth of coins.
I desperately needed clothes, but based on the kind of places that I was used to shopping at I imagined that 13 dollars wouldn't even be enough money to buy a decent T-Shirt. However, one of my nice neighbors named "Edward" (who I ended up having no choice but to meet due to the fire) told me that there was a "thrift store" across the street where I could find lots of really inexpensive clothes.
I had never been to a "thrift store" before and all I knew was that it was a store that sold used clothes, so I guess that I had always just assumed that the clothes at a "thrift store" would be really old and raggedy looking, and that the only people who would shop at a place like that were people who were either really poor or homeless. But left with no other options (and realizing that I myself was now really poor and homeless) I reluctantly went to the thrift store and I was amazed at what I found...
The "thrift store" was full of "slightly used" clothing that still looked brand new to me and that cost practically nothing! (As I walked around the store I kept looking at the price tags in disbelief and telling myself that I would never go to the mall and buy brand new clothes ever again!)
With the 13 dollars that I had I was able to buy a really professional looking business suit, and I wore it to my next job interview and got the job...
JOB #3 - "THE OFFICE"
"HOLDING THE DOOR OPEN FOR SOMEONE"
I got a job working as an "office temp" and on the morning of my very first day of work I pulled into the parking lot and started walking towards the front door of the building. But as I was approaching the door there was an old man in front of me who was also walking towards the door, and he was walking a lot slower than me so I purposely started walking a lot slower just to avoid getting close enough to him that we would have to say "Hi" to each other.
When the old man finally got to the door he opened it and was about to go inside, but then he turned around and noticed that I was approaching, so instead of going in he just stood there and held the door open for me to be nice. (You have to understand that friendly gestures like this make socially awkward people like myself extremely uncomfortable, because although he may have been saving me the trouble of having to open the door he was putting me in the much more difficult situation of having to open my mouth and say, "Thank you" and risk having to engage in meaningless "small talk".)
So I started to walk a lot slower and hoped that he would just give up and go inside without me, but it wasn't working and he just kept patiently waiting for me at the door. I then pretended that one of my shoe laces was untied so I bent down and acted like I was tying my shoe, and after about a minute of fidgeting with my shoe laces I looked back up and couldn't believe that he was still standing there just waiting for me! I then stood back up and actually started to slowly walk backwards. Then I started feeling around my pants pockets with with a confused look on my face as if I had forgotten something important, and then I turned around and ran back to my car and got inside of it. I then pretended that I was searching for something in my glove compartment, and after spending a few minutes just staring into an empty glove compartment I glanced back up to see if the old man was still standing at the door, and I was horrified to see that he was actually walking towards my car!
I frantically pulled my car keys out of my pocket and started up my car, and then I drove away from him as fast as I could! I drove around the block a few times just to kill some time and when I finally returned to the office I was relieved to see that he was no longer outside. (But when I went inside I found out that he was actually my boss and I was over 20 minutes late because of the incident AND he was also really mad at me because I had left black tire marks in the parking lot when I had sped away from him!)
It was such an epicly bad first impression, and it still blows my mind to this day that he didn't fire me over it.
"BRING YOUR KIDS TO WORK DAY"
On my second day of work at the office it was "Bring Your Kids To Work Day" and I was literally the only employee who didn't have any kids. (Back then it was still considered "strange" for an adult my age to be single not have any kids, so this naturally lead to a lot of my co-workers gossiping about me and asking me if I was gay or if I was still a virgin.)
During lunch break that day all of the kids went outside to play "kick ball" and all of the adults stayed inside and watched them playing from the break room windows. There were two big tables in the break room and all of the male employees were sitting at one table while all of the women were sitting at the other table.
As we were watching the kids play one of the kids kicked the ball really hard and it flew across the field and hit an overweight boy right between the legs! (Which caused the overweight boy to fall down and caused everyone sitting at the "male table" to cringe and say "Ouch" at the same time.) The overweight boy slowly got back up and limped back inside while holding his groin, and when he entered the break room he walked right up to his mom and in front of everyone he said to her loudly, "MOM MY BALLS HURT!"
I was shocked that the boy had said the word "balls" to his mother, so I turned to one of my male co-workers named "Eric" and asked him, "Could you say that to your Mom?" He looked a bit puzzled by my question and asked, "What? That my balls hurt?" so I said "Yeah" and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I guess so... Why?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing so I asked him, "You mean to tell me that you could actually say that to your mom and not feel weird?" and then he asked me somewhat defensively, "Well what are you supposed to say if your balls hurt???" I then tried to think of an alternative word for "balls", but even words like "testicles" still seemed way too embarrassing to say if I was talking to my mother, so I had no response...
He then shook his head in disbelief and said, "You must have lived a very sheltered life growing up!" and then he added, "And I bet that if you woke up with a mysterious lump on your balls you would be too embarrassed to go to a doctor to have it looked at!" So I thought about it for a moment and then I confessed to him that I would be too embarrassed to even call and schedule an appointment for something like that over the phone!
He then pulled out his cellphone and called his mother, but she didn't answer so he left her the following voice message...
"Hi Mom, it's "Eric", and I just wanted to call and tell you that I love you. I also wanted to let you know that the kids are all doing really well in school, and that I'm going to buy dad that set of golf clubs that he was talking about for his birthday next month! And before I forget "Susan" asked me to please call you and thank you for giving her your lasagna recipe. We had it on Sunday and although it wasn't quite the same as when you make it, it was still phenomenal and we all loved it!
And... Oh yeah, my balls hurt a little today...
Well OK mom, I gotta go, bye!"
He then hung up the phone and everyone at the male table burst out laughing (including me) but I still think that it's weird to be able to say something like that to your Mom!
Although the office building had lots of windows they were never opened, and the temperature inside was completely controlled artificially via air conditioning and electric heating. Because of this the office was air tight and I had to sit between 2 large women ("Barbara" & "Roxanne") who would always wear really strong perfume that would make me feel nauseous and even dizzy! (And it would always blow my mind when the other men in the office would actually compliment "Barbara" & "Roxanne" on how "good" their perfume smelled!)
Deep down I felt lonely and desperately wanted to find a girlfriend, but the problem was that literally every woman that I knew (and perhaps every woman that I had ever met) wore perfume, which was basically a repellent to me in the same way that "bug spray" is to an insect. (What kind of a relationship could I ever hope to have with a woman if I couldn't get anywhere near her without feeling sick?)
I also refused to wear cologne (even though women supposedly loved it) because the smell of cologne would make me sick too. (And it would always blow my mind to think that these toxic and horrible smelling colognes were often marketed for their "power of attraction" and would actually have brand names such as "Seduction", "Temptation", and "Irresistible"!)
I begged and pleaded with my boss to please move me to another part of the office so that I wouldn't have to sit by "Barbara" & "Roxanne" anymore, and he finally moved me to the other side of the office. (But unfortunately he also told "Barbara" & "Roxanne" that the reason he moved me away from them was because I kept telling him that their perfume was making me want to throw up, so any time that I had to interact with "Barbara" or "Roxanne" at work it would be super awkward!)
During my lunch breaks at work I would eat fruits and vegetables, and everyone in the break room would be looking at me like they had never seen anyone eating fruits and vegetables before! (Everyone else would eat "junk food" out of the vending machine, or they would all chip in and order something from one of the local fast food restaurants. Plus almost every Friday the manager would reward everyone for a great work week by ordering pizzas or having cake and ice cream for us in the break room, and I would always be the only one not eating any of it.)
Sometimes people would ask me ridiculous questions like, "Don't you ever eat "Real Food"?" and what I wanted to tell them was, "Fruits and vegetables ARE "Real Food"!" but because of how shy and nervous I was I would usually just shrug my shoulders, put my head down, and whisper, "I don't know." Or they would ask me really embarrassing personal questions like, "Won't eating fruits and vegetables make you have to go to the bathroom?" and what I wanted to tell them was, "Yes! Of course! That's what's supposed to happen when you eat food! And if the foods that you eat don't make you have to go to the bathroom it means that you're constipated and that you need to stop eating junk and start eating more fruits and vegetables!" but instead of saying that I would just get really uncomfortable and have to leave the break room and eat my lunch alone in the hallway.
I worked with a guy named "Dan" (who was always bragging and was a real "show off") and one day I was eating a bag of cherries in the break room and he told me that cherries were his all time favorite fruit. He then started telling everyone in the break room that he could be stranded on an island with nothing but cherries and be a happy guy, and because he was going on and on about his love for cherries I extended the bag to him and asked "Would you like some?" His eyes lit up with excitement as he took a big handful of cherries out of the bag, and then he took one of the cherries and threw it high up in the air, looked up with his mouth wide opened, and caught it perfectly in his mouth which resulted in a thunderous applause from everyone in the break room. But then he bit down on the cherry and yelled, "OUCH!!!" and an awkward silence filled the room. He then spit the cherry back out into his hand and looked at it all confused while holding his jaw in pain, and then he turned to me and accusingly asked, "Why didn't you tell me that cherries have a hard seed in the middle???" (So my guess is that he had either never eaten a cherry in his life, or the only time he ever had one was if he was eating an ice cream sundae and there was a cherry on top that already had it's seed removed, and I wasn't sure whether or not I should feel guilty about his toothache.)
"SITTING ALL DAY"
It wasn't until I started working at an office that I realized just how fragile humans were becoming. (Not just physically fragile but mentally fragile as well.) For example, all of the men in the office were required to wear black dress pants as part of the "dress code", but there was a guy at work named "Rick" who would always complain about this rule and say that he didn't like the way he looked in black pants. "Rick" kept showing up to work wearing blue jeans instead of black pants like he was supposed to and eventually the manager called him into his office for a meeting about it and told him that if he showed up to work wearing blue jeans again he would be sent home. After the meeting "Rick" went to the bathroom and cried about it for over an hour, and then the following day he actually showed up to work with a "doctor's note" saying that he couldn't wear black pants!
Because I was always on my feet and moving around a lot in all of my previous jobs I found sitting still in a chair for 8 hours a day to be extremely difficult to do. (And it seemed that I was only one in the office who felt this way because other employees would often show up to work on Mondays and almost be bragging about how they spent their whole weekend sitting in front of their TV watching movies, playing video games, and "binge watching" entire seasons of TV shows.)
I lived within easy walking distance from work and because of how tired I was of constantly sitting I actually started walking to work instead of driving just to avoid having to "sit in traffic". Because traffic was so slow I noticed that it actually didn't take me that much longer to just walk to work, and I also noticed that I would show up to work feeling more awake and more energetic when I walked there.
I started to really enjoy walking and because I lived within easy walking distance of all of the other important places that I would regularly go to like the grocery store, the bank, and the thrift store I actually started considering the thought of just getting rid of my car altogether. (Plus my auto insurance payments were outrageously expensive since most adult males my age drank alcohol and would purposely speed and drive recklessly.) So I decided that I would get rid of my car, but when I told my male co-workers about this decision they all told me that no woman would ever want to date a guy who didn't own a car, so I got scared and decided to keep my car even though I was no longer even using it.
There was something about walking that seemed to help me think a lot better, and one morning while I was walking to work I thought of a simple yet brilliant idea to not have to sit for 8 hours a day at work...
When I got to work I took some boxes of paper from the "supply room" and put them on top of my work desk, and then I put my computer monitor and keyboard on top of the boxes and I was now able to stand while typing. I felt so happy that I would no longer have to spend 8 hours a day sitting, but unfortunately the fact that I was the only person in the office who was standing resulted in a lot of strange looks, and some of my co-workers would even complain about it and say things to me like, "Will you please just sit down? You're making me really uncomfortable by standing!" and eventually enough people complained about it that the manager told me I had to sit down like everyone else because just the sight of me standing was too uncomfortable for my sedentary co-workers!
I was so upset about not being allowed to stand up at work that when I got home I immediately grabbed the one chair that I had in my apartment, and I took it across the street to the local thrift store and donated it. (I was so sick of sitting that I didn't even want to look at a chair when I wasn't at work!) And when I went to work the next morning and told one of my male co-workers about how I didn't even have a chair in my apartment anymore he burst out laughing and told me, "Dude, you're going to be a virgin forever!!!"
"THE HALLWAY OF DOOM"
Sometimes I would have to use the copy machine at work which was in a room that was on the far side of the office, and I had to walk down a long and narrow hallway to get to it. Although I enjoyed the opportunity to get up and move around a bit while I was at work, sometimes a person who had just finished making some copies would be walking out of the copy machine room as I was approaching it, and because the hallway was so narrow we would have no choice but to acknowledge each other with the usual and empty "small talk" such as...
Them: "How are you?"
Me: "How are you?"
Or even worse the person would say something that was supposed to be funny like, "Working hard or hardly working?" and I was expected to laugh even though it was the thousandth time that someone had said that to me and it wasn't even funny the first time I heard it.
I simply couldn't take these uncomfortable encounters anymore, so if I was walking toward the copy machine room and someone suddenly walked out of it and started walking towards me I would simply turn around and come back later.
But then one day I was walking to the copy machine and when I was about half way there "Roxanne" (who was still offended because I had said that her perfume smelled bad) suddenly walked out of the copy machine room and started walking towards me. I of course turned around to walk away from her, but when I turned around I was horrified to see "Tod" (the "new guy" in the office who I hadn't introduced myself to yet because he had only been working there a few days and it usually took me a few months before I could finally build up the courage to say "Hi" and introduce myself to a new employee) and he was on his way to the copy machine too and was walking towards me from behind.
I looked back and forth at both of these two people who I was way too uncomfortable to interact with approaching me from opposite directions and I realized that I was trapped! (It made me think of the "bridge scene" in the movie "The Temple Of Doom" when "Indian Jones" was standing in the middle of a really primitive bridge that was made out of wood and ropes, and there were people with swords who were coming onto the bridge from both directions wanting to kill him.)
I then remembered that "Indiana Jones" did something totally crazy in the movie. (He pulled his sword out and just cut the bridge in half!) So once "Roxanne" and "Tod" were only a few feet away from me I reached my arms high up in the air as if I was holding an imaginary sword, and then I slammed my arms down, but instead of cutting the hallway in half I pulled down the emergency fire alarm lever that was on the wall in front of me, and the fire alarm went off!
The alarm was so loud that "Roxanne" and "Tod" both stopped walking and stared covering their ears, then the sprinklers in the ceiling turned on and they both ducked down and started covering their heads! I then jumped over "Tod" and ran down the hall, and since I knew full well that I was going to be fired over the incident I went ahead and just ran out of the building and never returned!
Working at an office simply wasn't for me, and I was determined to find a new job where I could be on my feet the whole time and where in addition to getting a paycheck I could also be getting a good physical workout...
JOB #4 - "STEEL FACTORY"
"ALL MALE CO-WORKERS"
I got a job working at a steel factory which was great because it involved a lot of heavy lifting and physical exercise, but because everyone who worked there was a man it was a very different work environment than I was used to.
There was a lot of "homophobia" in the all male factory, and it seemed that everyone was just trying to prove to each other that they weren't gay by bragging about all of the women who they had slept with (or all of the women who they would like to sleep with) and because I didn't have anything to add to these kinds of conversations it quickly became obvious to everyone in the factory that I was still a virgin, and all of my co-workers made it their self appointed mission to "get me laid" even though I didn't want their help and I wanted to keep my personal life to myself!
I worked at the factory 6 days a week and would often work 12 hour shifts, but the factory was closed on Sundays so I was always off on Sundays and I would usually just stay home and rest that day, but one Sunday I was at home and I suddenly got a knock at my door, so I quietly tip toed to the door and when I looked through the "peek hole" I couldn't believe what I saw...
It was 2 Mormon missionaries! (It was obvious that they were Mormon missionaries because they were so young and clean cut, and of course they were dressed like Mormon missionaries and were both holding a copy of "The Book Of Mormon". I was too afraid to open the door so I just pretended to not be home as they continued to knock, and when they finally gave up and were about to get on their bicycles and leave they slid a note under my door and it said...
"Hello "Lee", we really miss having you at church, and we would like to invite you to come to church next Sunday."
"How on Earth did the Mormons find me?" I wondered to myself. It had literally been over 10 years since I stopped going to the Mormon church, and heck, even I didn't know what my address was! (Any time I needed to know my address I would have to look at some of my "junk mail" just to find out what it was because I had no social life whatsoever and it was so rare that I had to tell someone what my address was that I simply never memorized it.)
For the next several weeks the missionaries kept showing up at my apartment and knocking on the door while I would pretend to not to be home, and I was getting so uncomfortable about it that when my apartment lease was about to expire I told my landlords that I wanted to stay, but that I wanted to move to a different apartment within the complex. (Just to hide from the missionaries.) The landlords told me that the only empty apartment they had at the time was a "studio apartment" (which was basically just one small room with a tiny bathroom attached to it) and because of how desperate I was to hide from the Mormons I decided to go ahead and just "downgrade" to a much smaller "studio apartment".
When I moved into my "studio apartment" I hated it! It was embarrassingly small. (So small that there was no way that I could have a girl friend for the next year that I was contractually bound to stay there!) Moving into a smaller apartment felt like going backwards to me and I kept thinking to myself, "I should have moved into a bigger place to live, not a smaller one!"
Then after only 3 days of living in my super small apartment I opened my door to go outside and I was startled to see the Mormon missionaries walking up to my door! I froze like a deer in the headlights and one of them said to me with a big smile, "Hello Lee, do you have a minute talk?" I didn't know what to do or what to say so I simply shut the door and locked it as fast as I could, and then I hid in my bathroom as they knocked on my front door for what seemed like an eternity in hell!
"Where do I have to move to get away from the Mormons?" I wondered to myself while I was hiding in my bathroom. It was so frustrating for me to think that I had gone through all of the trouble of moving into a tiny apartment that I didn't even like just to hide from the Mormons, and that it all ended up being for nothing! (And I was once again left wondering, "How did the Mormons know where I live???")
About a week after moving into my "studio apartment" the hot water in my shower stopped working and only cold water would come out. Because I was so shy and I didn't want to bother anyone I was too nervous to tell my landlords about it, but after about a month I really needed to take a shower so before I went to work one morning I told my landlords about it and they said that they would send someone out to fix it later that day.
Because of how uncomfortable I was about the thought of a stranger being in my apartment I went to a store called "Odd Lots" as soon as I got off work and spent a few hours just walking around the store (and probably looked like a shoplifter) just to avoid the risk of being home when the stranger was there fixing my hot water. But when I finally went home that night I was frustrated to find out that not only did my hot water still not work, but nobody had even showed up to look at it!
I waited about a week before finally getting the nerve to go back to the landlords and politely remind them that they needed to fix my hot water, and when I did it they acted annoyed that I kept "bothering" them about it, and told me that someone would be there to fix it later that day. So once again I spent a few hours at "Odd Lots" after work, and once again I came home only to discover that nobody had even showed up to look at my hot water!
I was way too nervous to go back to the rental office and bring up my hot water problem for a 3rd time, but I desperately needed a shower, so I had no choice but to try taking cold showers...
The first time that I took a cold shower I freaked out and jumped around like a fish out of water as soon as the cold water touched me, and I could only last a few seconds before having to turn the water off!
The second time I took a cold shower I got in the shower and spent about 10 minutes debating whether or not I should even turn the water on. (I tried to talk myself out of doing it by telling myself that I didn't really need a shower that day, and that I should just go back to the rental office and demand that they fix my water since I always paid my rent on time.) Then I finally turned the water on and at first I just let the icy water touch my feet, then I slowly let the water move up my legs and up my body, and eventually I let some of the cold water touch my chest (which for me personally was the most difficult body part to expose to cold water) and the whole experience felt like torture to me!
These agonizing cold showers continued until one morning I woke up and told myself that "enough is enough" and I decided to be brave for a change. (No, I didn't bravely march myself to the rental office and give the landlords a piece of my mind, but rather I bravely marched to the shower and without spending a moment of time procrastinating about it I got in the shower and I immediately turned the water on and let the cold water hit me full blast in the chest.) It was intense, but I saved myself a lot of time by not procrastinating about it, and when the shower was over I felt really awake and invigorated!
After taking a cold shower every morning for a month I noticed that whenever I would have a really difficult task to do I would get started on it right away rather than putting it off until later, and I totally credit this to taking cold showers. Cold showers helped me to become a person who didn't put off until tomorrow what could be done today. And I also saved a lot of money on my water bill because back when I would take hot showers I would often spend 20 to 30 minutes in the shower because of how comfortable they felt, but when I started taking cold showers I would be in and out of the shower in only a minute or two because of how much they were forcing me to step outside of my "comfort zone".
Cold showers became a daily morning "exercise" for me, and I felt so grateful that I started taking them that when a maintenance worker finally showed up a few months later saying that he had come to fix my shower I told him that he must have the wrong apartment because my shower was working great!
"NO TOILET PAPER"
I have never bought toilet paper in my life due to how embarrassing it would be to be seen buying it! (Even though I know full well that it was a basic household item that everyone else was buying and using too.)
When I lived with my parents they would of course buy toilet paper for me, and when I moved out of my parent's place and into the "real world" what I would do is simply go to the bathroom at work and take a small amount of toilet paper, then I would fold it up neatly, put it in my pocket, and take it home with me. I did this for years, but I felt kind of guilty about it because even though it was just a small amount of toilet paper it was still technically "stealing", and after a while I started to have really bad nightmares about getting caught stealing toilet paper at work, and not only getting fired over it but also having it show up on my employment records any time I tried to get a job in the future, so I decided to never steal toilet paper from work again!
Because I was too uncomfortable to just go to a store and buy toilet paper, I simply went on www.amazon.com to order some, and to save money and not have to to keep re-ordering it I went ahead and ordered a HUGE box of 400 rolls of toilet paper! (I also paid an extra $15.00 to have the giant box "gift wrapped" just so there would be no chance of my neighbors seeing what it was when it got delivered.)
According to the tracking information the package was delivered to my door step on a Monday at 1:14 in the afternoon, but I was working that day and I didn't get off work until 5:00, and by the time I got home someone had stolen the package! (Rather than getting upset about it I looked at it as "karma" for all of the toilet paper that I had stolen over the years, and I also imagined that it was karma for whoever stole it when they opened up the box and realized what it was!)
A few days later I got a credit card bill and when I opened it I was confused because there were some charges that I didn't make. (Someone had used my credit card number to purchase a little over $500 worth of stuff from some stores in Italy!) When I called the credit card company about this they told me that it sounded like I was a victim of "Identity Theft" and that I should call a lawyer immediately who would investigate all of my recent purchases in detail, and not to worry because I wouldn't have to pay for any purchases that the lawyer felt was "Identity Theft".
I was about to call a lawyer, but then I panicked because I realized that if I met with a lawyer over my recent purchases he (or even worse "she") would see that I had recently purchased a gigantic box of toilet paper and that I had even paid to have it "gift wrapped" and sent to my own apartment! Because of this I was too embarrassed to call a lawyer and I ended up just telling the credit card company to cancel my card immediately before any more charges could made by the person in Britain who was pretending to be me.
Since I refused to meet with the lawyer I ended up having to pay the $500 worth of charges that I didn't even make! I was really upset about it at first, but looking back I'm so grateful that it happened because it forced me to finally get rid of my credit card which meant that I no longer had the ability to buy things that I couldn't afford. I then devoted the next several months to paying off my credit card debt and once it was finally paid off I felt such a powerful feeling of freedom that I gathered up everything in my apartment that I didn't really need and I donated it all to the “thrift store”, then I went back home to my now very empty apartment and realized that I was becoming a "minimalist" and I liked it!
The only negative thing about no longer having a credit card was that I couldn't order toilet paper discretely on-line, and since I was too embarrassed to buy or steal it I ended up resorting to using "junk mail" as toilet paper for a while. (Which kind of hurt!) But then one morning I went outside to check my mail box for more "junk mail" and I didn't bother to put shoes or socks on since my mailbox wasn't that far from my door, and I accidentally stepped in some dog crap from one of my neighbor's dogs! I quickly went back inside and hopped on my clean foot to the bathroom, and then I put my dirty foot under the sink and ran water over it until it was clean. Then it occurred to me just how inefficient (and unsanitary) it would have been if I had tried to clean my soiled foot with "junk mail". (Or even with toilet paper for that matter.)
Water was so much more powerful and effective at cleaning that it got me thinking that perhaps water would be the best way to clean ANY part of my body. I then remembered hearing that there were special toilets in Britain called "Bidet Toilets". (Which was a toilet that had a built in water spray the butt of the person who was sitting on the toilet and the water would do such a good job that there was no need to use toilet paper after using it.) I then looked down at my "Super Soaker" squirt gun that I had on top of my toilet (I have "bladder shyness" and I would sometimes spray the squirt gun directly into the toilet water to produce a “peeing sound” to help me have to pee if I had trouble going.) and then I took some duck tape and duck taped the squirt gun to my toilet in just the right position so that I was able to convert my regular toilet into a "Bidet Toilet" and I no longer needed to use toilet paper!
"7 DAY VACATION"
After working at the factory for 1 year I had earned a 1 week vacation, and I decided to take it during the week of my birthday. (Not because I had any special plans for my birthday, but because my male co-workers would often say that for my birthday they were all going to chip in and hire a stripper to come to the factory, so I wanted to make sure that I wasn't anywhere near the factory on my birthday!)
I had been working 6 days a week for a solid year, so I was anxious to finally give my body a chance to rest and heal. But just a few days before my vacation started I got a notice on my door from my landlords informing me that they were going to be replacing all of the air conditioners in the apartment complex during the week that I was on vacation, and that maintenance workers would have to enter my apartment to remove the old air conditioner and install the new one, "sometime" during that week.
"My vacation is ruined!" I thought to myself, because there was no way that a guy like me could possibly relax when I knew that at any moment a stranger could show up to replace my air conditioner!
Day # 1
On the first day of my vacation I was woken up early by the sound of 2 men pounding on my apartment door and shouting "Maintenance"! I wasn't expecting them to show up on the first day, much less so early, and because I didn't even have time to shave and comb my hair I was too embarrassed to open the door and greet them, so I quickly ran to my bathroom and decided that I would just hide in there until they were finished installing the air conditioner...
After knocking several times they finally used a key to unlock the door and then they entered my apartment, but because I had become such a "minimalist" and my apartment was so empty (other than the furniture which all came with the apartment anyways) I heard one of them say, "I guess no one lives in this apartment." and then the other one said, "Then why don't we go ahead and just use this vacant apartment to store all of the old air conditioners until they come to pick em' up on Saturday?" and then the other one said, "Sounds good to me! Plus whenever we have to piss this week we can just use the bathroom in this apartment instead of having to go across the street and use the “McDonalds” bathroom!"
I was about to yell out to them that the apartment wasn't "vacant" and that I was in the bathroom, but before I could build up the courage to yell it I heard footsteps walking towards the bathroom door so I quickly jumped into the bathtub and closed the shower curtains to hide!
The bathroom door then flew open so fast that it struck the wall with a loud thud and one of the workers came inside and started peeing loudly into the toilet bowl while he was still casually talking to the other worker who was outside of the bathroom!
When he finished using the bathroom he started to walk out of the bathroom but then he flipped on the light switch and when it actually worked and the light came on he said, "That's funny, there's still electricity in this unit." He then yelled out to the other worker, "Are you sure that this apartment is vacant?" and the other worker yelled back, "I just looked in the fridge and there are a few bags of frozen vegetables in the freezer but all the "real food" is gone, and there are also some really old and gross looking bananas on the kitchen counter that are rotting and have brown dots all over them and need to be thrown in the fucking trash! So yeah, I'm guessing that whoever lived here must have moved out about a month ago!" (Sometimes it seems as if I am the only person who knows that you are supposed to wait until bananas have brown dots on their skin before you eat them because that is when they are actually ripe, and it is also why those brown dots are actually called "ripe spots".)
Then because he had turned the light on the worker in the bathroom noticed my squirt gun that I had duck taped to the toilet and he started laughing hysterically and yelled, "WHAT THE FUCK??? "DAVE", GET IN HERE, YOU'VE GOTTA SEE THIS!!!" So the other worker came to the bathroom and they both spent several minutes laughing and trying to figure out why in the world I had duck taped a squirt gun to my toilet and why it was pointing straight up so it would shoot anyone in the butt who tried to sit on the toilet!
"I've seen it all now!" one of them said, and then the other one said "Whoever was living here must have been a total psycho!" and all I could do was just lay motionless in the bathtub, and hope and pray that they wouldn't open the shower curtain and find me now that they had seen what I had done to my toilet.
They eventually replaced my air conditioner and left my apartment to work on other air conditioners, but I knew that they could return at any moment, so I didn't dare to get out of the bathtub! I heard them return many times throughout the day and each time they came back they brought an old air conditioner with them to store in my apartment.
The bathroom was completely dark and devoid of natural light so I didn't know what time it was, and even when I imagined that it must be night time I was still too afraid to leave the bathroom or to even fall asleep because I kept hearing things. (I would hear the sound of footsteps and I couldn't tell whether it was coming from one of the neighbors upstairs or from someone who was in my apartment!) Plus I had no food and I could only drink water from the bathtub faucet, so I felt like I was starving to death!
Day # 2
On the second day of my vacation the maintenance workers decided to take their lunch break in my apartment and they were drinking beer and cursing like sailors. (And I was pretty sure that I could smell marijuana smoke as well!) Then all of sudden an unknown person started knocking on the front door of my apartment and I heard one of the workers quietly and nervously say, "Oh shit!" Then the bathroom door suddenly opened and the light came on and I felt something soft fall on my head so I reached up and grabbed it to see what it was and it was a bag of weed! (One of the maintenance workers obviously threw it in the bathtub because he was afraid that it might be the cops knocking on my door.)
I then heard the maintenance workers open the front door and ask, "Can we help you with something?", and then a very polite male voice from outside said, "Hello, we're with "The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints" and we were wanting to know if "Lee" is home." (It was the Mormon missionaries!)
The maintenance workers then asked, "Who?" and the missionaries said, "A gentleman by the name of "Lee" was living here. Does he not live here anymore?" The maintenance workers then started laughing and asked, "A "gentleman"?" in disbelief because all that they really knew about me was that I had a toilet that appeared to be booby trapped to shoot anyone who tried to sit on it, which definitely didn't seem very "gentleman" like!)
Then the missionaries asked, "Does he not live here anymore?" and the maintenance workers just said, "No, this apartment is vacant and nobody lives here right now." then the missionaries asked, "Well do you by any chance know where he moved to?" and one of the maintenance workers said, "Hey man, we're just here to replace the fucking air conditioner." and the missionaries were very intimidated by his use of the "F" word so they started acting very apologetic and said that they would let them get back to their work...
I then started to panic because I knew that once the missionaries left the maintenance workers would come come right back to the bathtub for their weed, and they were going to realize that not only did I have a squirt gun duck taped to my toilet but I had also been just "hanging out in my bathtub" the whole time they were in my apartment!
But luckily the Mormon missionaries insisted on singing a hymn for the workers before they left which was cringeworthy to listen to. (It was so obvious that the workers were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and that they had absolutely no interest whatsoever in listening to gospel music!) But the singing bought me some time, and while they were singing I got out of the bathtub and peeked my head out of the bathroom door. I saw that the maintenance workers were standing by the front door facing the missionaries with their back turned to me, and I also saw that there was a huge stack of old air conditioners that they had piled up on one side of my apartment, so I quietly tip-toed out of the bathroom and hid behind the air conditioners...
When the missionaries finally left the workers immediately went back to the bathroom to retrieve their weed, and as soon as they left my apartment again I returned to the bathtub. I couldn't sleep again that night because my empty stomach was starting to growl so loudly that I honestly believed that I was either going to die from starvation or the maintenance workers were eventually going to hear my stomach growling and find me, and I didn't know which scenario sounded scarier to me!
Day # 3
At some point during the 3rd day of not eating anything my stomach suddenly stopped growling and my hunger completely went away. (I found this lack of a need or desire for food to be such a liberating feeling!)
The bathroom was completely dark and while I was laying in the darkness I kept seeing strange sparks of light in front of me, and there was also a burning sensation in my eyes. If I closed my eyes the burning sensation would go away, but I could still see the mysterious sparks of light, so I just closed my eyes and tried to just relax and enjoy the unusual "light show" that I was experiencing, and as I watched it I ended up falling into a VERY deep sleep...
I was woken up by the sound of the local church bells ringing, but it didn't make sense to me because they only rang on Sundays, and if it was Sunday that would mean that I had been asleep for at least a few days!
I couldn't hear anyone in my apartment so I quietly got out of my bathtub and peeked my head out of the bathroom door and was relieved to see that the maintenance workers and all of the air conditioners that they had been storing in my apartment were gone. I then stepped out of the bathroom and looked at my brand new air conditioner that they had installed, but then I looked around and noticed that it wasn't the only new thing in my apartment. (My carpet looked new, my walls appeared to have been re-painted, and even my ceiling looked totally different to me.)
I was confused at first and didn't know what was going on, but then I realized that the reason that everything looked new to me was because for the past week I hadn't eaten any food and I had also slept for most of that time so my body was able to rest and heal in a way that it never was able to before, and during my "fast" my eye sight had improved and had basically been upgraded to "high definition". (I had never stopped and noticed all of the beautiful and amazing textures in my apartment and not just because my eye sight wasn't as good, but also because I had been so superficial that I could only see my apartment as "small".)
My hunger was starting to return so I went to the store and bought a big watermelon, and when I got home and opened it up I was in awe over how beautiful it was. (It was as if I had just opened up a big rock and discovered an amazing red crystal geode formation inside!) I then got a spoon and because I hadn't eaten anything in a week the first bite that I took of the watermelon tasted so sensational to me that I actually screamed "OH MY GOD!" (And as I continued to eat the watermelon I actually had to restrain myself from continuing to scream out loud with delight because I worried that my neighbors might hear me and be thinking "Hey that virgin living in apartment 14c is actually having sex!" and try to listen to me.)
I ended up eating the whole watermelon and although I was no longer physically hungry after eating it I still had a strong desire to look at and admire fruit, so I went on-line and did an image search for "exotic fruit" and I ended up stumbling onto an interesting website / forum for "fruitarians". (People who eat a diet that is either all fruit or mostly fruit.)
Right away I noticed that when I looked at the profile pictures of these "fruitarians" most of them had what I could only describe as a "Fruit Glow" (They had remarkably clear and glowing skin, as well as a radiance in their eyes, and it was almost as if you could see their auras!) I also noticed that most of them were living in tropical places like "Costa Rica", "Thailand", or "Hawaii". (It got me to start thinking that it would be great to someday live in a beautiful tropical location like that, but it also seemed completely unrealistic to me at the time because one of my co-workers had recently went on a one week vacation to "Hawaii" and he said that it cost him over $10,000!)
I was so happy to have finally found a group of people who wouldn't think that I was weird for eating grapes, or make fun of me for not eating a hot dog on the 4th of July, but even though these people seemed incredibly friendly I was still way too shy and nervous to join the forum. (But I would visit the site every day to read what was being posted, and deep down I dreamed that someday I would have the courage to actually join the site and introduce myself to all of these like-minded people.)
It certainly wasn't my plan to spend my vacation in my bathtub fasting, but I was so grateful that it ended up happening. (My vision improved, I found out that there were actually other people like me in the world, and the Mormon missionaries thought that I had moved away and stopped showing up at my apartment! So I would like to bare my testimony that fasting did miraculous things for me!)
"THE FINAL STRAW"
When my vacation was over I went back to work on Monday and while I was in the middle of working I suddenly heard my manager yell over to me, "Lee!" so I turned around to see what he wanted and he was actually walking towards me with two Mormon missionaries! The missionaries were smiling and waving at me with enthusiasm so I just put on a the most fake smile ever and nervously waved back at them as I looked around and realized that all of my perverted male co-workers were staring and the missionaries and wondering why they were in the factory, and why they apparently knew me.
I did my best to continue to fake a smile as they walked up to me and I nervously asked them, "What are you guys doing here?" and one of them said, "We just wanted to invite you to start coming to church on Sundays." so I said, "Oh, well that's very nice of you." but then the other one actually had the nerve to start laughing and say to me, "And since you work at this factory and it's closed on Sundays you have absolutely no excuse not to be there!"
I couldn't believe the audacity and I felt so much anger in that moment that I actually wanted to start yelling loudly at the missionaries to quit stalking me and to just leave me alone or else I would call the cops and get a restraining order put on them! But because everyone in the factory was staring at us I just pretended to laugh when he said it, and because I wanted to get them out of the factory as quick as possible I just went ahead and just told them that I would be at church on Sunday, and that I was kind of busy at the moment and had to get back to work, but I would see them then...
Of course as soon as the missionaries left all of my co-workers started laughing and teasing me because they thought that I was a Mormon, and then they all started saying that it totally explained why I didn't use vulgar language like everyone else in the factory did, and why I didn't go the bar after work like everyone else did, and why I never showed up to work on Monday wanting to tell everyone about the sexual conquest that I had over the weekend like everyone else did.
As I drove home from work that day I wondered to myself, "How do the Mormon missionaries keep finding me?" The 9/11 terrorist attack had happened just a few weeks earlier so almost all of the houses that I drove by on my way home had American flags in their yard and "Osama Bin Laden" was the most wanted man in the world. No one could seem to find "Osama Bin Laden", but I felt certain that if "Osama Bin Laden" had ever been a Mormon the Mormon missionaries would definitely be able to find him! (It then made me wonder why the Mormon church didn't use their impeccable detective skills to track down dangerous criminals instead of harmless ex-Mormons like myself who were just too embarrassed to be associated with the church anymore!)
There was no way that I was actually going to start going to church again on Sundays, but since the missionaries now knew where I worked I worried that they would keep showing at my job and embarrassing me if I didn't go! So the next day I went to work and announced that I was quitting and that my last day would be on Saturday. (I also lied and told everyone that I was moving to "North Carolina" and that I already had a job there waiting for me at a bowling alley just because I felt certain that the missionaries would continue to stalk me and that they would return to the factory and try to get information about my current whereabouts.)
On my last day at work my co-workers surprised me by having a big "Going Away Party" for me and it felt really good to know that they cared enough about me to do something like that. But instead of simply having the party during our "lunch break" at the factory they decided to have it after work at a restaurant down the street called "Hooters", and because of how uncomfortable I am with "Good Bye's" combined with the fact that they obviously chose to have the party at "Hooters" just because they wanted to see my reaction to all of the large breasted waitresses that the restaurant was notorious for I simply drove home after work instead of meeting everyone else at "Hooters", and I didn't even go to my own "Going Away Party"!
Because of how relentless the Mormon missionaries had been in their search for me I worried that they would end up finding me no matter where I worked, but because my parents had wanted me to become a Mormon missionary and I was actually being groomed for it in my youth I was aware of the fact that Mormon missionaries have to be in bed very early. So I decided that I would look for a job where I would work the "night shift", just so there would be no chance of Mormon missionaries ever showing up at my job.
JOB #5 - "LATE NIGHT GAS STATION ATTENDANT"
"THE PROS AND CONS OF WORKING AT A GAS STATION LATE AT NIGHT"
The best part about working at a gas station late at night was the fact that there weren't a lot of customers, and most of the time I was completely alone. My only major responsibility was running the cash register, so I would bring art supplies with me to work and most nights I would end up spending 7 out of my 8 hours at work just drawing.
There was a small tray that was full of pennies near the cash register that said, "Take A Penny, Leave A Penny" to help out customers who needed a few extra cents to pay for their gas, and as a joke I made a second tray and filled it up with "court room sketches" that I drew of "The Pillsburry Doughboy", and on the side of the tray I wrote, "Take A Pillsburry Doughboy Courtroom Sketch, Leave A Pillsburry Doughboy Courtroom Sketch".
"The Pillsbury Doughboy Take The Oath"
The tray that I made would get a lot of strange looks from customers, and I would always keep a straight face and act like it wasn't meant to be funny. (Sometimes customers would take one of my sketches home with them, and one night a group of college kids came in the gas station laughing and they actually put some of their own courtroom sketches of "The Pillsburry Doughboy" in the tray :)
I felt a lot of guilt while working at a gas station. I felt guilty about the fact that I was selling people cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, junk food, lottery tickets, and even gasoline! (It wasn't until I worked at a gas station and was constantly being exposed to the smell of gasoline that I realized just how toxic it was, and it made me feel guilty about still owning a car.)
But the worst part of all about working at a gas station late at night was the fact that a lot of the customers who would show up late at night looked really shady and dangerous. (Instead of bringing art supplies to work with him like I did the guy who would work the night shift on my nights off would actually bring a gun to work, and he told me that he always kept it under the cash register just in case "Shit hits the fan"!)
Almost every single night I would have to refuse to sell alcohol to people who were either underage or who looked underage and didn't have any I.D. on them, and these people would usually get mad and scream obscenities at me over it. People would also yell at me because the price of gasoline went up even though I merely worked there and I wasn't the one who was deciding what the price of gasoline would be. I would also get yelled at because people would often come into the gas station telling me that they were lost and needed directions, and all I could do was offer to sell them a map since I didn't even know the name of the street that I lived on much less the names of streets that I didn't live on! And one time a really drunk guy came in the gas station and started yelling at me just because "Ohio State" lost the football game that night! (I told him that I didn't even watch the game and then he got even more upset and said, "Oh, so that means that you must be a "Michigan" fan!" and then he went over to the door and started yelling at me to come outside so we could have our own "Ohio State" vs. "Michigan" battle in the parking lot, so I called the cops!)
"THE NIGHT THAT I QUIT"
One night around 1:00AM a large man came in the store and asked me for a pack of "Marlboro" cigarettes, so I turned to get the cigarettes for him, and when I turned back around he was pointing a gun right at me!
I immediately put my hands in the air and started screaming, "Please don't shoot! Please don't shoot!" and he yelled, "Shut the fuck up and give me all the money in fucking cash register!" So I went to open the register but I was so scared that my mind froze up on me and I actually forgot how to open it until he pointed at the button that said "Open Register" and yelled, "It's that fucking button!" so I pushed and and then I nervously smiled at him and said "Thank you" to be polite but it just made him more angry and he yelled, "Hurry the fuck up!!!" So I started to put the money in a bag for him but my hands were shaking so bad that he kept yelling "Calm the fuck down!" and "What the fuck is wrong with you boy?" (It seemed that he couldn't say a sentence without using the "F" word.)
I then handed him the money, but I guess that it wasn't quite as much as he had hoped for because he looked at it disappointingly and then he demanded that I empty my pockets and put everything that I had on the counter. I pulled out my wallet and my keys and set both of them down on the counter in front of him and he immediately grabbed my wallet, but then he got a really disgusted look on his face and actually threw my wallet back at me while screaming obscenities. I didn't understand why he was so upset at me so I innocently asked, "What? What did I do???" and he said, "You pissed your fucking pants!". I then looked down and realized that my pants were soaking wet with urine (and so was my wallet which is why he had gotten so mad when he grabbed it) so I immediately apologized and then I quickly went to grab some napkins for him from the soda machine so he could dry his hand, but I slipped on some urine that was on the floor and fell down!
At that point he was so frustrated with me that he yelled at me to just stay down and not to move or he would shoot me! He then looked at my keys and curiously asked, "Did you drive to work tonight?" so I shook my head "Yes" and then he looked at the parking lot (which only had one car in it) and he asked, "Is that car out there yours?" so I shook my head "Yes" again. He then actually started smiling and said to me in a really friendly voice, "Hey, that's a really nice car you got there buddy." but then his voice and facial expression immediately went right back to being angry as he pointed his gun at me and said, "I hope you don't mind if I take it!" and since I had actually been looking for an excuse to finally get rid of my car and to stop driving I actually got really excited and enthusiastically told him, "That's fine! You can have it! I want you to have it! It's all yours! Thank you!" He then said, "O....K...." in a really confused voice, and then he grabbed my keys and quickly walked out of the gas station, and I didn't dare to get back up until I heard the sound of him starting up my car and speeding away.
The man wasn't wearing a mask or anything to disguise himself and there were cameras in the store that captured the whole incident on video, but because I had peed my pants and had acted so scared and clumsy I was embarrassed about the thought of my manager seeing the video. (Plus I knew that the manager would have to call the police about it and give them the tapes as "evidence", and I worried that if they were able to find and arrest the man I would have to go to court to testify against him, and they might even bring out a big TV and play the embarrassing video as evidence in front of courtroom full of people!)
Because the experience was so intense I remembered every moment of it in vivid detail, and I remembered that when I took the money out of the register I had given the man 3 $20 bills, 5 $10 bills, 6 $5 bills, and 9 $1 bills, which added up to $149, so I simply opened my urine soaked wallet and took out $149 and put it into the register. Then when the manager showed up in the morning and asked me how the night went I told him that it had been a really quiet night so that he wouldn't have any reason to watch the tapes and the footage would just get taped over the following night.
"A LONG WALK HOME"
As I walked the long walk back home from the gas station I felt relieved to no longer own a car. (I honestly never enjoyed being in traffic, and during my time as a gas station employee I had seen so many drivers pull into the gas station looking drunk, high, or mentally deranged that I had no desire to ever drive again!
As I was walking home I was reminded of just how much I enjoyed the exercise of walking, and because I was walking instead of driving several nice people who were driving by pulled over and asked me where I was heading and if I needed a ride. It felt good to know that there were so many good people in the world, but when I would tell these people that I actually wanted to walk they wouldn't understand and would just say, "But I'm going the same way, are you sure that you don't want a ride?" so I would then try to explain to them that I looked at walking as "exercise" and I wanted the "exercise" but they still wouldn't get it and would just say, "Yeah but it would be so much quicker if you took a car." (It would be like if you wanted to be built like a bodybuilder so you started going to the gym to workout with heavy weights, but people kept coming up to you and offering to help you lift the weight so it wouldn't be so heavy and challenging. Sure, it's nice of them to offer their help, but it kind of defeats the purpose.)
Unfortunately not everyone who drove past me that day was a "Good Samaritan" and at one point a guy stuck his head out the window and yelled, "Get a car you loser!" His comment really bothered me, and after he said it I looked around and realized that I was literally the only person who was actually walking down the highway instead of driving. Then I started to think that maybe I should just accept the next ride that was offered to me, and that maybe I should even go ahead and just get another car to avoid having everyone think that I was a "loser".
But then I simply changed my perception by telling myself that instead of being the one loser on the highway who didn't have the car I was the one person on the highway who was fit and athletic enough to walk instead of drive. (I didn't need a 2,000 pound vehicle that ran on fossil fuels just to get to work or to the grocery store like the average person did. I was a really healthy guy and had no reason not to use my legs as my main form of transportation!)
However, it took me over 3 hours to walk home due to how far the gas station was from my home,, so I decided to quit my job and find a new one that was a bit closer to home now that I wouldn't be driving anymore...
JOB #6 - "DAVE'S GROCERY STORE"
"CAN'T SHOP WHERE I WORK"
I got a job working as a produce clerk at "Dave's Grocery Store" (Which was a local grocery store that was owned and managed by a big man named "Dave" who used to be a pro football player and was kind of a local celebrity.) but even though I was working at a grocery store I couldn't do my grocery shopping there due to how socially awkward I was...
If I showed up to work on one of my days off just to shop it was incredibly awkward for me because all of my co-workers were used to just seeing me in my work uniform, so if I suddenly showed up at work in street clothes I knew that everyone was going to be looking at what I was wearing and silently judging me for it! (Plus I knew that if my co-workers say me shopping they would want to make "small talk" with me, and if they were really busy that day they would probably ask me if I'd like to go ahead and work that day since I was already there, and because of how shy and nervous I was it was too uncomfortable for me to just say "No".)
And if I tried to do my grocery shopping right after I got off work and I was still wearing my work uniform I would feel really ashamed while standing in line at the checkout because the lines were usually really long and the customers would often be complaining about the fact that we never had enough cashiers or baggers. (Sometimes if I was standing in line an impatient customer would see me in my work uniform and start asking me questions like, "Why do you guys only have 3 cash registers opened on a Saturday Afternoon?" or "Can you get the manager? I've been standing in line for over half an hour and I want to talk to him about this!" or they would take out their frustrations on me by telling me things like, "This is why I prefer to shop at "Giant Eagle" instead of you guys!" and all I could do is just put my hand over my face in shame and cross my other arm over my chest so that the "Dave's Grocery Store" logo was less noticeable to people.)
"CAN'T SHOP WHERE I DON'T WORK"
Because of how uncomfortable it was for me to shop where I worked I decided to do all of my grocery shopping at a store across the street called "Trader Joes" instead where I could be just another customer. (Although it seemed that every time I shopped at "Trader Joes" at least one customer would come up to me and say, "Excuses me, do you work here?")
I wasn't sure why people kept asking me if I worked there so after a while I curiously started asking people why they asked me that and they would just say, "Oh, I don't know, you just look like you would work here." I wasn't sure what to think about that so I started to observe all of the employees at this "Trader Joes" very closely and I quickly noticed that all of the male employees appeared to be gay. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it made me wonder if the only reason that people kept assuming that I worked there was because they also assumed that I was gay.)
One day while I was shopping at "Trader Joes" I walked into one of the aisles and was shocked to see my boss "Dave" from work. I panicked and quickly turned to walk away but it was too late! He had saw me and he said, "Lee???" so I slowly turned back around and saw him looking at me in disbelief and then he disappointingly asked me, "What are you doing here?" I wasn't sure what to say so I asked him the same question, "What are YOU doing here?" and he responded by saying, "I'm just here to keep track of the prices of our nearest and biggest competitor!"
He then looked down at my shopping cart full of stuff, put his hands on his hips, and said, "Lee, if you would like to keep working for me then I suggest that you stop supporting the competition... IMMEDIATELY!"
I felt ashamed and started taking everything out of my cart and putting them back on the shelves where I got them, and then I left the store. Things were never the same between me and "Dave" after he caught me shopping at "Trader Joes" and it was super awkward any time we saw each other after that. (I could understand him feeling kind of disappointed about catching one of his employees shopping at another store, but he was acting as if I had "betrayed" him and as if it was just as bad as if he had come home from work early one day and caught his wife in bed with another man!)
The produce department was at the front of the store and was therefore the very first thing that customers would see when they walked in, and "Dave" would always tell me and the other produce employees that his goal was for customers to walk into his store and see nothing but perfect looking fruits and vegetables. He would also tell us to throw away any fruits and vegetables that looked anything less than "perfect", and because of this a disturbing amount of food was being thrown away every day!
He wanted all of the apples to be perfectly round, blemish free, and glossy looking, and because of this almost half of the apples that got delivered to the store would go straight to the trash! He would also make us throw away vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and egg plants simply because they were shaped a little odd, and he would even make us throw away entire heads of lettuce because the outer leafs were starting to wilt rather than just spending a few moments to remove the wrinkled leafs!
I felt that throwing away fruits and vegetables just because they didn't meet certain beauty standards or because of the way that they were shaped was "Body Shaming", and it made me wonder what would happen if "Dave" ever reached his goal of having nothing but perfect looking fruits and vegetables. (Would he then want to get rid of any employees who had freckles on their skin like I did, or any employees who were kind of "short" or kind of "fat"? And even if an employee looked perfect and was shaped just right would he then want to get rid of them once they aged and started to develop wrinkles?)
It was also painfully obvious to me that "Dave" didn't eat fruits and vegetables. (Not just because he was overweight and diabetic, but also because he was also so ignorant about them.) For example, he would make us throw away pineapples if they were no longer green and were starting to turn golden because he said that it meant that they were no longer "fresh and tasty", and he would also make us throw away MASSIVE amounts of avocados, mangoes, peaches, pears, plumbs, and other fruits if they were even slightly soft because he thought that all fruits were supposed to be eaten when they are hard like an apple!
To make matters even worse "Dave" would also tell us to lie and write off all of the food that we were throwing away as a loss due to being "damaged upon arrival" or due to "warehouse quality" or due to a "bad growing season", etc. so he wouldn't have to pay for any of these loses himself. (And any time that I tried to talk to "Dave" about how much food we were throwing away he would just carelessly tell me, "It's not my money!")
Because of all this the fruits and vegetables that actually made it to the the produce shelves looked so artificial and so unripe to me that I couldn't help but think to myself that I would actually rather eat the fruits and vegetables that we were throwing away than the ones that "Dave" felt were "perfect".
One day I ended up working a lot of overtime and I didn't get off work until about 3:00 A.M. As I left the store that night and started to walk home I was dreading the fact that even though it was my day off I was out of food at home, and therefore I was going to have to come right back when the store officially opened at 8:00 A.M. just to buy more food (since I knew that I would get fired if I got caught shopping somewhere else.) and I just knew that if one of my co-workers saw me in the store they would ask me to please stick around and work that day...
But as I was walking past the store dumpster I stopped and looked at it for a moment, and then I looked around and I didn't see another person in sight, so I slowly walked over to the dumpster and curiously looked inside...
There was an ABUNDANCE of food and almost all of it appeared to still be good to eat! So I grabbed an empty box that was sitting next to the dumpster, I filled the box up with food, and then I quickly walked home with it, and below is a list of everything that I "rescued" from the dumpster...
1. 8 bags of oranges with 12 oranges in each bag
These bags of oranges were thrown away simply because there were 1 or 2 oranges in each bag that were smashed or going bad. (In total I got 83 good oranges out of it!)
2. 15 large potatoes
These were thrown away because they were deemed to be "too ugly" to sell. I personally didn't think that they looked ugly at all (plus I was going to mash them all up into "mashed potatoes" anyways) but what was ugly to me was the thought that while some people in the world were dying of hunger others were actually throwing food away simply for not being "aesthetically pleasing" enough!
3. 9 bags of walnuts pieces (16 ounces each)
Because I worked there I knew that these were just being thrown away because they were being discontinued and according to their "Expiration Date" they weren't going to expire for over a year!)
4. 3 bottles of cherry juice (32 ounces each and normally $19.99 a bottle!)
These were thrown away because they had just reached their "Best If Used By Date", but luckily I knew that a "Best If Used By Date" isn't the same thing as an "Expiration Date" and that all it really means is that it would be "best" to consume the product before that given date because it will be "fresher" than if you consumed it after the date. (It is really just intended to keep the reputation of the brand safe and not the health of the consumer and they still tasted great!)
5. 12 boxes of granola bars with 5 individually wrapped bars in each box. (60 bars total)
The only thing wrong with these was that each of the 12 boxes weren't closed due to the fact that the factory that they were made in failed to apply enough adhesive to the cardboard flaps. All it would take is an inch of tape or a drop of glue to fix one of these boxes, but I guess that it would be a lot quicker and a lot easier to just throw it all away since it could be written off as a loss that was the warehouse's fault, and the store wouldn't lose any of it's own money.
"OLD MAN COSTUME"
I started "dumpster diving" regularly late at night and I was able to get virtually all of my food this way. I was a bit worried at first that I might get sick from eating food that was in the dumpster, but I never felt any adverse effects from it whatsoever, and I found that I was able to rely on my basic senses of sight, smell, and taste to discern whether or not something was still OK to eat. (Plus I actually felt really good inside just knowing that I was preventing lots of good food from going to the landfill!)
But there was a "cultural shame" around being a "dumpster diver", and I was also worried that I was going to get caught by "Dave" and that he would fire me over it. So to be safe and "anonymous" I went to the "thrift store" and purchased a white wig, a pair of glasses, some suspenders, a flannel shirt, and some slacks and I put together an "old man costume" to wear whenever I did my dumpster diving.
Sometimes when I would get home from "dumpster diving" and be inspecting the fruits to make sure that they were still safe to eat I would look at the "fruit stickers" and notice that many of the fruits that I was eating came from tropical parts of the world. This inspired me to dream even more about living in the tropics someday. (But the fact that I had never traveled more than 10 miles on my own made me feel that this dream was still totally unrealistic.)
Because I was getting so many fruits and vegetables for free (more than I could possibly eat) I bought a "juice machine" from the "thrift store" and after about a month of juicing every day co-workers started complimenting me by telling me that I had a "glow" about me and that I looked really young for my age. Then one day an older looking male customer came up to me at work to ask me something but as soon as we made eye contact I immediately wondered, "Where have I seen this guy before?" and the customer was looking at me with a "Where have I seen this guy before?" look too, and we both just stood there wondering where we had seen each other before until he finally recognized me and said, "Lee"? Is that you?" so I said, "Yeah... Who are you?" and he said, "It's me, "Jeff" from High School." and then the memories all came flooding back to me and I remembered him from school. (I didn't recognized him at first was because he had gained a lot of weight and had also aged a lot since High School.)
We ended up talking to each other for about half an hour in the produce department and although it was kind of neat to reminisce about High School, I never really interacted with him back when I was in school so I didn't really know him that well, and I was actually kind of relieved when he finally told me that he had to leave.
As soon as he walked away a few of my co-workers came up to me and curiously asked "Who was that old guy you were talking too?" and before I could answer them one of them asked, "Was that your dad or something?" (I had to laugh because "Jeff" was actually a year younger than I was, and he was only in his mid-20's, but because he already had a full head of gray hair and was going bald they actually thought that he could be my dad.) So I just laughed and said, "No, that wasn't my dad." and then just to be funny I sarcastically told them, "That was my grandpa." and to my astonishment they actually believed me and didn't realize that I was joking!
"Jeff" became a regular shopper at the store and he would always go out of his way to come over and talk to me for a few minutes, and everyone at work actually believed that he was grandpa! (Sometimes a co-worker would come up to me and say something like, "Hey man, I just saw your grandpa over at the pharmacy section." and I would tell them, "Oh cool, thanks for letting me know that he's here." while struggling not to laugh.) I thought it was hilarious, but sometimes when I would put on my old man costume and look at myself in the mirror I would get this eerie feeling that I was seeing what I would look like if I had never gotten into health and fitness!
"THE FOOD BANK"
One day I got really excited because "Dave's" grocery store started a partnership with the local food bank. As part of the partnership the cashiers at "Dave's" grocery store would ask all of the customers if they would like to donate a dollar to the food bank, and the food bank would show up at the store every Saturday morning to pick up the donations. (The reason that I was so excited about this was because they were also going to be picking up any food donations that our store had as well, and all of the "less than perfect" food that we had been throwing away could now be donated to the local food bank!)
Although this meant that I would no longer be able to "dumpster dive" and have all of the free food that I had been enjoying, I was still very happy about this because I had only been taking about 5% of the food that was being thrown in the dumpster due to the fact that I could only eat so much, combined with the fact that I was also an incredibly "picky eater". So I felt good just knowing that a lot less food was going to be wasted, and that it was actually going to start going to people who were in need!
But unfortunately any time that "Dave" would see me boxing up any of the less than perfect food that was going to be thrown away he would get mad and tell me, "We don't have time for that shit, just throw it all in the fucking trash!" And after catching me doing it a few times he told me that if he caught me "wasting time" rounding up food for the food bank again he was going to punish me by kicking me out of the produce department and making me "The Bread Bitch". (Which was what he would actually call whoever worked the bread aisle in his store.)
What was really messed up about this was the fact that "Dave" publicly presented himself and his store as a highly charitable. (He filmed commercials for his store that would air on local TV stations, and in the commercials he would proudly boast about the partnership that he had with the local food bank, and he would ask the viewers at home to please donate a dollar to the food bank whenever they shopped at his store to help him in his personal mission to end hunger in the local community.) Yet we were still throwing away enough food everyday to feed an army because he refused to spend even a dime of "company time" on having an employees box up donations for the food bank. (Plus one night when I was "dumpster diving"in my old man costume the back door of the store suddenly opened and "Dave" walked outside and saw me going through the dumpster so I took off running, and as I was running away I could hear him yelling, "Hey, get out of here you fucking bum!"
I used to feel bad when I would look at all of the good food that was being thrown away and I would think to myself, "Someone should do something about this." but after a while it finally hit me that I was a "someone" and I made it my personal mission to make sure that food started to be donated instead of thrown away!
On days when "Dave" was off I would stay after my shift was over and box up food that was going to be thrown away so that it could be donated to the food bank instead. (Working "off the clock" was a "fireable offense", and it seemed so backwards to me that I was having to risk losing my job just to do something like that. But whenever I would box up enough food to feed several people for several weeks I would go home knowing that I had done the right thing, and although I had always thought of my job as merely being a "produce clerk" at a local grocery store I now felt that I had a job where I was helping to make a difference in the world!)
But unfortunately due to the fact that I was the only employee who was donating anything (and sometimes the boxes of donations that I would set aside for the food bank would end up being thrown away because people assumed it was "trash") combined with the fact that there apparently weren't a lot of customers who were donating a dollar to the food bank either the partnership between the food bank and "Dave's" grocery store ended after only about a month, because it simply wasn't worth having someone from the food bank drive a big truck all the way to our store just to pick up a meager amount of food and barely enough money to pay for the gas that it took to drive there :(
"USING THE BATHROOM AT WORK"
I never used the bathroom at work at any of my previous jobs due to my phobia of using public bathrooms, and I would always just have to "hold it" until I got home. But once I started "dumpster diving" I was consuming such a large amount of fruits and vegetables that I had no choice but to start using the bathroom while I was at work!
The bathroom at work was kind of big and was equipped with 4 urinals and 6 toilet stalls, but because I had "bladder shyness" I could only use the bathroom if nobody else in the bathroom at the time, and below is a detailed step-by-step instruction on how a guy like me with "bladder shyness" was able to use a public bathroom at work...
1. When I would walk up to the bathroom door I would first put my ear up to the door and if I could hear that anyone was in the bathroom I would simply walk away and come back later.
2. If I put my ear up to the door and I couldn't actually hear anyone I would then quietly open the bathroom door and poke my head in and immediately look towards the urinals. If there was anyone at the urinals I would then quickly retract my head like a frightened turtle and have to leave and come back later. (And if the man at the urinal had seen me poke my head in and look at him it would be really awkward if he saw me later that day!)
3. If nobody was at the urinals I would then quietly tip toe into the bathroom and then duck my head down to look under the stall doors. If I saw any shoes it meant that someone was in one of the stalls, so I would have to tip toe back out of the bathroom and try again later. (I swear that sometimes I could tell just by the way that a person's shoes looked that they were constipated and that they were going to be in the bathroom for a really long time, and that the bathroom was going to stink for a really long time after they left! So sometimes I would look under the stalls and see a pair of really old looking leather boots and tell myself, “I better wait at least an hour before coming back!”)
4. If there was no one at the urinals or in the stalls I would go inside a stall (even if I just had to pee) because I have never used a "urinal" in my life and I don't even know how to turn one on. (Plus I don't think that I even want to know the etiquette on what to do if you are using a urinal and another guy walks in starts using one of the urinals next to you!)
5. If I made it to a stall I would then stand on top of the toilet bowl and "squat" instead of sit because I was nervous that people would look under that stalls and recognize my shoes and know that it was me in the stall. (I didn't want anyone to know that I urinated or had bowel movements, because it's embarrassing, and I basically wanted people to think that I didn't do stuff like that.) And if I was using the stall and someone suddenly walked in the bathroom I would have to stop whatever I was doing and just patiently wait for them to leave so that they wouldn't hear any embarrassing bathroom sounds.
But one day I was in a bathroom stall and "Dave" and a vendor who worked for "Pepsi" both entered the bathroom and started using the urinals. I knew it was them because I was standing on the toilet and I could actually see the tops of their heads.
At one point the vendor say to "Dave" "So I heard that you lost your partnership with the food bank." and "Dave" said, "Fuck the food bank!" Then the vendor laughed and asked, "So how much money did you end up raising for them?" There was then a long silence and I could see the top of "Dave's" head moving around from left to right as if to make sure that there was nobody else in the bathroom, and then his head suddenly disappeared and I could no longer see it until it suddenly reemerged right underneath me as he poked his head under my stall!
I almost screamed, but luckily I kept my composure and because I was standing on the toilet he didn't see me and he retracted his head. He then walked back to the urinal thinking that nobody else was in the bathroom and he told the vendor, "We raised about $10,000 worth of donations" and the vendor said, "Oh wow, that's a lot of money!" but then "Dave" said, "I only gave the food bank about $300 though, because the rest of it had to go to "business expenses"." and because I was standing on the toilet I could actually see "Dave's" hands go up in the air and make sarcastic "air quotes" when he said "business expenses"!
Then "Dave" and the vendor both started laughing in the most evil and villainous laughter that I had ever heard, and while they were standing shoulder to shoulder with each other at the urinals!
I continued to "dumpster dive" and within a few months my apartment was practically overflowing with food! (And a lot of it was things like canned, boxed, or bagged foods that could last for years!) I knew that I could never eat all of this food on my own, and the last thing that I wanted to do was to throw any of it back in the trash, so I decided to think of my apartment as a "food bank" and I tried to find creative ways to distribute it to people...
There was a Mexican family who had just moved into the apartment next door to me, and I felt really sorry for them because it was a man and his wife and their 7 kids and they were all living in a tiny "studio apartment" like I was! They seemed to really be struggling financially, plus their English was so "poor" that they couldn't really talk to any of the neighbors and everyone would just kind of ignore them. So one day when they left their apartment I filled up 6 big boxes with food and I left it all by their door. (And with the help of an on-line translator I also left a note for them in Spanish saying that the food was a gift from the neighborhood and that we just wanted to say "Hello" and welcome them to our community.) When the family got back home I peeked through my window and saw that the man and the woman were literally crying tears of joy when they read my note. (It made me feel so good that I also cried tears of joy, and I knew that I wanted to have more experiences like that in the future!)
Then one night while "dumpster diving" I reached into the dark dumpster with my hand and I felt another hand from inside the dumpster start shaking hands with me! It frightened me so bad that I immediately felt lightning bolts shooting up my spine and through my fingers and toes, and I jerked my hand back out of the dumpster so fast that I fell to the ground!
Then an old man poked his head out of the dumpster and said, "I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean to scare you."
My instinct was to scream and run away as fast as I could, but then the old man smiled at me and he had such a kind and contagious smile that I found myself having no choice but to smile back him and just say, "Oh it's OK, I'm alright." He then told me that his name was "Frank" and that he was just searching for some food to give to some homeless people that he knew who could really use it.”
Although he was a "stranger" and there was something very "strange" about him he also seemed incredibly nice, and because he also looked so old and frail I asked him if he would like me to help him carrying the food back home with him and he happily accepted my offer.
After rounding up 3 big boxes of food we walked to his house and when we got there I was sad to see that his "house" was just an old cardboard box at a park. I felt sorry for him because he was "homeless" but at the same time I couldn't get over how "happy" he seemed. (As a matter of fact, he seemed so happy that my cultural conditioning about "homeless people" made me want to use the word "crazy" instead of "happy" to describe him.) "How could someone living in a box possibly be happy?" I wondered to myself, and it was as if I had asked the question out loud because he then pointed at a bunch of really expensive new houses that were being built across the street and told me, "Those are boxes too you know." and then he added, "Sure, they're bigger and more fancy than my box, but I have lived in those kinds of boxes in the past, and I prefer the box that I'm living in now."
I wasn't quite ready or mature enough yet to hear what was saying so I said to him, "So you're telling me that if you had the choice between living in a big mansion and living in a cardboard box you would actually choose the cardboard box?" and he immediately said "Absolutely!" without flinching an eye. At that point I felt convinced that he was either "crazy" or that he was purposely trying to mess with my head, so I told him, "I'm sorry, but I don't believe you." and he just shrugged his shoulders as if to let me know that it didn't matter to him whether I believed him or not.
He then looked down at all of the food that we had gathered from the dumpster and asked me, "Would you like to take some of this food back home with you?" and I told him, "Oh no, that's not necessary." and then he asked me, "Are you sure that you have enough to eat at home?" and I said, "Oh yes." and then I added, "And as a matter of fact I am actually so blessed right now, that lately I have been feeling that my purpose in life is to help those who are less fortunate than me." and then he looked me in the eyes and told me, "Then try not to live beyond your means."
I then walked home thinking about what he said to me and I realized that he wasn't crazy at all, and that he was simply making choices in life with careful consideration to how his choices were effecting others. My apartment lease was almost up and I had planned on getting a much bigger apartment even though I didn't really need it, but because of what he said to me I ended up deciding to just go ahead and stay in my small apartment and continue to live like a "minimalist". (And because I was saving so much money on food and rent I was able to stop working "full time" at the grocery store and just work on the weekends, and I was able to devote more time to "volunteer work".)
When I wasn't working at the "Super Market" I was working as a "Super Hero" by taking the food that was being thrown away by the rich and greedy and bringing it to my friend "Frank" who helped to distribute it to the homeless people who slept at the park like he did!
"WHEN HOMELESSNESS BECOMES A CRIME"
Sadly "Frank" and the other homeless people who lived at the park eventually had to move out of the park due to tougher laws against "homeless people"...
* New signs were placed around park warning visitors that they would be reported to the police and face a $500 fine if they were caught giving food to a homeless person.
* New "arm rests" were installed in the middle of all of the park benches and it was obvious that they were just put there so that homeless people couldn't lay on the benches at night.
* New sprinklers were installed throughout the park and they were programmed to turn on once every half hour at night so homeless people would get soaking wet if they tried to sleep on the grass.
* New "Anti-Homeless Spikes" were strategically placed around the park (like under the kid's slides so that homeless people couldn't sleep under the slides on rainy nights) and they looked "Medieval" to me!
Not only was "homelessness" becoming a crime, but the homeless were being punished with what I felt was "cruel and unusual punishment". And the most disturbing thing about all of this was the fact that the park was actually called "The Good Shepherd's Park" because it was owned by a Christian church, and it made me wonder to myself, "What would "Jesus" do if homeless people were showing up at his doorstep seeking refuge?" Surely not something like this!
"CASHIER WITH A PROBLEM"
There was a cashier where I worked named "Ramon" who would always be asking customers who went through his checkout line for some of their food. (He was making good money, plus he was overweight and clearly wasn't "starving", but he just had this thing where he would get a really big thrill out of getting something for free.)
If someone was buying a bag of potato chips or a box of donuts he would start telling the customer things like, "Oh man, I love these things!" or "Oh man, I've been craving these so bad lately!" and he would go on and on about how much he liked them until the customer finally offered him some. And if the customer didn't offer him any on their own he would just straight up ask them, "Can I have some?" and although a lot of customers would actually say "Yes" it was painfully obvious by their facial expressions and body language that they were really uncomfortable about it. (Which meant that "Ramon" was either not very good at reading people or he simply had no shame, and he wasn't going to let making people feel awkward stop him in his quest of getting something for free.)
One day a bunch of young baggers who were still in High School all got fired for stealing and the store was so short handed that I ended up having to work up front with "Ramon". "Ramon" was running the cash register and I was bagging the groceries, and at one point an old man came through our line who was buying a really fancy cake from the bakery that had an edible photo on it of a young girl in a graduation gown with the phrase "Congratulations Amy" written across it. When "Ramon" saw the cake he immediately started saying, "Oh wow! This cake looks so delicious!" and the old man said, "Yeah, it's for my granddaughter." then he pointed at the picture on the cake and proudly said, "That's her! She's graduating from High School today, and we're going to have a big party for her at my house!" Then "Ramon" said, "Oh man, can I come to the party so I can have some of this cake?" and the old man laughed because he assumed that "Ramon" was just trying to be funny. Then "Ramon" asked him, "Can I try a piece of the cake? You know, just as a "taste test" to make sure it's as good as it looks?" and the old man laughed again because he was still under the impression that "Ramon" was just joking around, but "Ramon" kept persisting and eventually the old man started to realize that he wasn't kidding and that he really wanted a piece of the cake. So the old man become noticeably nervous and told "Ramon", "Oh... Ugh... I don't know... I mean... I would, but this cake is for my granddaughter's graduation party." and "Ramon" said, "Oh come on man, just a little piece, that's all I'm asking for, just one tiny little piece!" and then the old man put his head down, let out a sigh, and reluctantly said, "Alright.".
"Ramon" reacted with the excitement of a lottery winner and turned to me and said, "Lee, do me a favor and run over to the deli and get me a plastic knife, a plastic fork, and a paper plate!" I then looked over at the old man who looked really depressed and I could tell that he was dreading the fact that he was going to have to go home and explain to his family why a piece of the fancy cake that they had specially ordered was missing, and I imagined that his family might even yell at him over letting some cashier take a piece of it. I felt so bad for him that as I was walking towards the deli I decided that I couldn't go through with it and I simply walked out of the store and never came back. (Other than to "dumpster dive".)
So I had quit my job and as I walked home I thought to myself about what I had learned while working at "Dave's" grocery store. I learned from "Dave" that not all charities could be trusted, and I learned from "Ramon" that not every beggar was truly in need. It then occurred to me that when "Dave" was pretending to want to help end hunger he was only interested in monetary donations, and whenever "Ramon" would beg people to give him some of their food he was only interested in their "junk food" and he would never ask people to give him one of their apples or some of their grapes.
Almost ANYONE would be happy to accept money from you regardless of whether they are rich or poor, and almost ANYONE would be happy to accept addicting foods from you such as pizza, potato chips, and fast food hamburgers regardless of whether they are starving or overweight. But only those who are truly in need will accept a bowl of rice from you with so much gratitude that it will move you to tears, and there are likely people like that in your local community. So if you want to help the needy and you don't want your donations to end up in the wrong hands, give love, give lots of love, and give only love, and those who are seeking something else will leave you alone once they realize that love is all you have to give.
JOB #7 - "SEARS"
"CHAOS" = "PEACE"
I got a job working at "Sears", and although "Sears" used to be the #1 retail store in the United States, it was actually heading for bankruptcy when I started working there, and the writing was on the wall that the company wouldn't be around much longer.
I actually loved working at "Sears" though because it was such a chaotic environment that I discovered how to find peace in the present moment...
- If I put my focus on the past I would think about how much more successful "Sears" used to be, and it would make me worry about getting laid off.
- If I put my focus on future I would think about the fact that everyone who worked at "Sears" (including the C.E.O. himself) didn't seem very optimistic about the future of the company, and it would make me worry about getting laid off.
- If I put my focus on the present moment I felt calm and saw no reason whatsoever to worry about losing my job because everyone else who worked at "Sears" believed that they were on a sinking ship, and because of this the there were so many people quitting and calling off work that there was always a ton of work not getting done. So whenever I would show up to work and the store looked like a tornado had went down all the aisles I felt really good because I just couldn't imagine a manager telling me that they no longer needed my help.
Due to how desperate the company was for help there were some employees who were getting away with outrageous and even "mind-blowing" behavior. For example, there was a really lazy guy named "Stanley" who's job was to round up shopping carts in the parking lot, and one time one of the managers caught him inside a barber shop across the street getting his hair cut when he was supposed to be working! (And because of how short handed we were at the time he didn't get fired over it and was just told not to do it again!)
There was also a cashier named "David" who management believed was stealing money because there would always be cash missing from his register, so one day they performed a surprise search on him right before he left work and they found $200 hidden in his sock (and there was also $200 missing from his register) so he was fired on the spot. He denied stealing it at first and threatened to sue "Sears" for "wrongful termination" and he even claimed that he was going to sue the company for so much money that he would personally put "Sears" out of business! But then the managers were able to find some surveillance footage which clearly showed him taking money a register and putting it into his own pocket, so he realized that he had no longer had a chance of suing them, and then he finally admitted that he had been taking money out of the registers. But then he claimed that the only reason he was taking money was because he wanted to start up his own business and needed the money, and that once his business was successful he planned on paying "Sears" back all of the money that he had been "borrowing". (Everyone laughed hysterically when they heard that he actually said that, but nobody was laughing a couple weeks later when he actually got his job back!)
I noticed that everyone would get really upset whenever someone would keep their job despite their bad behavior, but at the same time everyone was also losing sleep at night because of how paranoid they were of losing their own job for no reason. So whenever I would see someone misbehaving and not losing their job over it I would just look at it as "job security", and think to myself, "If that guy still has a job than why should I be worried about losing mine?"
Deep down I knew that "Sears" would eventually go out of business and that I couldn't keep this job forever, but I intended to enjoy the experience and to ride the waves of chaos until the very end...
There was an old man who I worked with at "Sears" named "John Thompson" who had been working at "Sears" for 49 years and despite his age he appeared to still be in good health and was always interesting to talk to. He had seen the great rise and the great fall of the company and he had literally worked with thousands of co-workers and millions of customers during his long tenure with the company.
He was also the epitome of a "workaholic" and he would ALWAYS accept "overtime" any time that it was offered to him, and even on his days off he would actually show up at the store in street clothes just to hang out and talk to his co-workers.
He planned on working until he reached his 50th anniversary with the company, and he was working really hard to save up enough money to buy a really big house in "West Virginia" so could enjoy a comfortable retirement way out in the country.
Once he finally reached his 50th anniversary he officially retired and on his last day at work they had a really big party for him at work. During the party he announced that he had just purchased his "dream house" in "West Virginia" and that as soon as his shift was over that day he was going to drive to his new house and move into it, but he also kept tearing up and saying how much he was going to miss working with everyone.
A news crew actually showed up to film his retirement party for the local news (which was totally live and because I was so "camera shy" I of course stayed behind the cameras so I wouldn't be filmed) and at one point a news guy with a microphone tried to interview "John" by saying...
"OK, the date was August 19th 1957 and it was your very first day at "Sears". Please take us back to that historic first day and tell us what it was like for you." So "John" thought about it for a moment and said that he honestly didn't even remember his very first day of work since it was 50 years ago. So then one of the managers chimed in and asked him, "Do you remember your very first manager?" and then "John" started to laugh and said, "Oh yeah, yeah, it was a really old manager named "Mr. Simmons". He was OK, but he was kind of jealous of me, because believe it or not 50 years ago I was actually a pretty handsome young man, and he didn't like the fact that all the pretty young cashiers would flirt with me instead of him, so he used to go around and tell all the cashiers, "Hey, what ever you do stay away from that new guy "John" because he's a pedophile!"
Then the news guy who was interviewing him immediately looked at the camera with a paranoid look on his face and said, "Well OK I think that wraps up things here, so let's go back to "Linda" for tonight's weather forecast!" Then the cameras went off and everyone (including the people from the news) started laughing hysterically and trying to explain to "John" why a story like that was totally inappropriate for the situation.
When the party was over we all gave him our emotional "goodbyes" to "John" and then we watched him drive off into the sunset to finally enjoy the retirement that he so rightfully deserved! But the following day I came back to work and everyone was crying because they had just received the terrible news that "John" had a heart attack and died on the very first morning of his retirement!
It seemed so sad and so unfair that he had worked so hard and for so long, and that he didn't even get to enjoy his retirement. But then I thought back to just how much he loved his job, and I realized that just as a person who has been married to someone for 50 years will likely die very soon after their lover passes a way, he probably felt such an unbearable void when he suddenly woke up one morning without the job that he had been faithfully going to for 50 years that it literally killed him!
Co-workers would often tell me that I better start thinking about my "retirement" and be saving up for it now while I was still young, but the death of "John Thompson" got me thinking that I never wanted to "retire" and that I simply wanted to find a meaningful job in the world that I wasn't embarrassed to do and that I would gladly do for the rest of my life. (Even if it was work that I didn't get an actual paycheck for doing it.)
"IN LOVE WITH MY BOSS"
The management team at the "Sears" that I worked at was all men except for one female manager named "Tiffany" who I really liked. Whenever "Tiffany" would come up to me and say "Hey "Lee", can you do me a favor?" I would instantly smile and enthusiastically say, "I'd love to!" and I would always work extra hard whenever she was the one who asked me to do something because of how much I liked her.
But one day I was walking to the office to get a price tag maker (and to hopefully see "Tiffany") and when I got to the office door I put my ear up to the door before opening it. (I always do this before walking into a room full of people that I know, because I worry that they might be talking about me, and I know that if I walked in the room when they are in the middle of saying something bad about me it would forever be awkward any time we see each other.)
When I put my ear up to the door I could hear that all of the managers were in the office talking to each other, and they were all talking about me! At one point I heard one of the male managers named "Daryl" ask "Tiffany", "How come every time you ask "Lee" to do something he does it, but whenever I ask him to do something he forgets to do it, and then I end up having to ask him like 4 or 5 times before he finally does it? and "Tiffany" started laughing and said, "Because I have tits!"
When she said it everyone else in the office burst out laughing, and then they all started saying that it was obvious that I had a big crush on her, and that it was also obvious that I was still a virgin and that I would probably have a heart attack if she even touched my arm!
I of course felt way too embarrassed to just walk into the room when they were all in the middle of making fun of me, so I just turned around and went back to work, and when I saw "Tiffany" later that day I tried to pretend to not be so excited around her, but I found this to be very difficult, and I simply couldn't keep from smiling and feeling nervous excitement whenever I was around her!
The backroom at "Sears" was a complete disaster! There was so much junk and random merchandise pilled up everywhere that as soon as you stepped into the back of the store it could give you an instant feeling of "hopelessness". (Co-workers would even say that there was no point in trying to clean up a mess this big, because by the time you were finished "Sears" would be out of business anyways!)
I was too embarrassed to take my lunch breaks in the break room so I would usually just hide in the backroom when I ate my lunch, and one day I was deep in the backroom and I walked past some really old boxes that were covered in a thick layer of dust and I accidentally brushed up against them and got dust got all over my pants. I felt embarrassed and quickly tried to brush the dust off of my pants so nobody would see me in dirty pants, but then I looked at the dusty boxes and because I had inadvertently removed some of the dust that was covering them up I could see a "Star Wars" logo on one of the boxes. Because I was such a big "Star Wars" fan growing up I was VERY curious to see what was in the box, but it was buried under a ton of other boxes, so I spent my lunch break digging it out.
When I finally got to the big box that said "Star Wars" on it I opened it up and saw that it was a bunch of "Star Wars" action figures, and then I looked more closely and was shocked to see that the dates on all of the figures was "1977". (Which meant that I had just found a big box of unopened vintage "Star Wars" action figures, and they were all still in mint condition!)
All of the main characters were there ("Darth Vader", "Luke Skywalker", "Obi Wan Kenobi", "Han Solo", "Chewbacca", "Princess Leah", "Storm Troopers", and "C3PO" & "R2D2") and the current year was 2007, which meant that these "Star Wars" action figures had literally just been sitting in a "Sears" backroom for 30 years, and they went completely unnoticed due to how cluttered and disorganized everything was!
I knew that these action figures were worth a lot of money, so as soon as I got off work I loaded them up in a shopping cart and tried to buy them. Luckily the cashier was a young teenage girl who looked like she wouldn't know anything about "Star Wars", and luckily the cash registers at "Sears" were notorious for being old and "primitive" so not only did the action figures still scan but they still scanned for their original price back in 1977 which was only $1.00 each!
Once I paid for them I quickly walked out of the store while feeling a mixture of excitement and guilt because it was such an incredible deal that I almost felt like I was "stealing", even though I was technically just buying merchandise that was in the store. When I got home I put the figures on E-bay and I ended up making so much money from them that my dream of someday moving to the tropics suddenly felt realistic to me! (I had enough money to go anywhere in the world, so all I had to do now was just figure out where I wanted to go.)
"THERE IS A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE"
Shortly after gaining my big fortune I saw a video on YouTube of a man named "David Wolfe" who was talking about (and selling) "superfoods", and he was so charismatic and convincing that I decided to go ahead and order some of his "superfoods". Because of the "placebo effect" I felt "Super Human" after trying his products, so not only did I buy more of them but I started buying the more and more expensive ones that he sold, and before you knew it I was making smoothies in my kitchen that literally cost me over $100 to make!
I then got exposed to other people on the internet who claimed to have the secret to health, wealth, and even immortality, (Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that I even purchased "Alex Chiu's" magnetic finger and toe rings that claimed to make you live forever! And I am even more embarrassed to admit that I actually spent over $3,000 to join "Kevin Trudeau's" "Global Insider's Network" because I believed that he could teach me how to become a billionaire, even though he himself was facing jail time due to not being able to afford to pay court fines that he was given for making multiple "false and misleading claims" to his customers!)
Although I still thought of myself as a "minimalist" it got to the point that almost every single day a UPS truck would show up to deliver another box to my door containing another "miracle product" that I wanted to try. (And I was even considering getting a credit card again because my bank account was getting low and I kept finding out about more "miracle products" that I believed would be the key to everything that I wanted in life.)
But then one day a UPS driver knocked at my door needing my signature and as I was signing the form he laughed and said, "Man you sure do buy a lot of stuff!" so I asked him, "What do you mean?" and he said, "You get more packages than anyone else on my route!" and then he added, "It's big time consumers like yourself who help keep the economy strong, so thank you!" His comment really struck me, and it made me realize that I was no longer a "minimalist", and then I went back into my apartment (which was now full of stuff that I had recently purchased) and I realized that I had traded my fortune for things that I didn't need!
My dream of someday moving to the tropics now felt even more unrealistic than ever. (And what was most disappointing of all was the realization that with all of the money that I had spent on expensive "superfoods" I could have just bought plane tickets and traveled to the tropical countries where those foods actually grow instead of paying to have those foods put on planes and flown to me in the U.S.!)
I then gathered up all of the ridiculous products that I had spent my fortune on and I was going to just donate it all to the "thrift store", but I was too embarrassed to let any of the workers at the "thrift store" know that I actually bought all of this stuff, and I was also too embarrassed to call and ask for a refund on any of it because even admitting that I bought this stuff over the phone to a total stranger would still be embarrassing for me, so I ended up just throwing everything away. It was a very expensive but also a very valuable lesson for me, and I don't want to see anyone else be taken advantage of by "snake oil salesmen", so I would like to say the following...
All fruits and vegetables are "superfoods" from "Apples" to "Blueberries" to "Cucumbers", and an entire book could be written about the health benefits and interesting facts of any fruit or vegetable. And even though some foods are given the name "superfood" because they are really high in a certain nutrient, keep in mind that unless you are deficient in that nutrient and you can't seem to get it from anywhere else it makes no sense to spend a fortune on a "superfood" just because it is touted as being a good source of that nutrient. (And also keep in mind that if getting "too little" of a nutrient is bad so is getting "too much" of it, and even if your body is able to eliminate what it doesn't need without any unwanted weight gain or illness you are still quite literally flushing your money down the toilet when you buy and consume a lot more of something than you actually need.)
And when it comes to products that claim that you can become really fit or really wealthy with almost no effort whatsoever, I know that it is very easy to order things discretely over the internet, so if you are thinking about ordering a product that sounds almost too good to be true on-line simply imagine that you had to go inside of an actual store to buy it, and now imagine that the cashier was very attractive. (If you would be too embarrassed to buy it in that situation than you already know that it's a silly product and that you shouldn't buy it.)
There was a guy I worked with at "Sears" named "Robert Burger" who was the clumsiest person that I have ever met in my life! He was constantly breaking merchandise on accident, and one time he fell and broke his arm at work and had to take 10 weeks off, and then when his arm finally healed he went to the hospital and had his cast removed, but as he was leaving the hospital he tripped and fell down the stairs and broke his leg!
Every Friday was "pay-day" at work, and one Friday I got my paycheck and put it in my pants pocket, then I went home and did my laundry, and when the laundry was finished I opened the drier and there were several little balls of paper everywhere. I then examined the little balls of paper closely and realized that it was my paycheck! I felt so foolish for putting my paycheck in the washing machine, and I was almost too embarrassed to call work and explain what happened. But I was completely broke at the time and I didn't want to lose a whole week's worth of pay, so I felt that I had no choice but to call the store. (And I kept thinking to myself that it wouldn't be so embarrassing if I knew that this sort of thing happened to everyone.)
When I called the store "Tiffany" answered the phone so I got even more nervous about it and said, "Hi "Tiffany", it's "Lee" from work." and she said, "Lee???" in astonishment and then she asked, "How are you? Is everything OK?" so I told her, "Oh yeah, I'm fine. How are you?" and she said, "I'm just in shock that you're actually on the phone because you're always so quiet and shy." Then she asked, "So what can I do for you?" and I nervously said, "Oh... Ugh... Well... I know that this is kind of a strange question, but do you by any chance know if anyone has ever accidentally left their paycheck in their pants pocket and then washed it?" and she said, "Oh yes that's happened before." and I immediately felt relieved to know that at least I wasn't the only one who it had happened to, but then she said, "It happened to "Robert Burger"!"
I then thought to myself, "Oh no! The fact that it happened to "Robert Burger" actually makes this even more embarrassing!" Then she started laughing and asked me, "Can you believe how clumsy that guy is?" and because I imagined that she would never date me if she thought of me as a clumsy "Robert Burger" type I just said, "Oh... Ha, ha, yeah, that guy is beyond "accident prone"." and then I said, "Well, OK, that's all I wanted to know, bye!" and then I quickly hung up the phone!
So I ended up losing a weeks worth of pay, but it ended up being a really good thing for me because having to go a week without any money forced me to get back into "dumpster diving" and living more thrifty, and by the end of the week I was fully back to being a "minimalist" again.
"Sears" would get a lot of shoplifters and I was literally the only male employee there who refused to to try to stop them. (Other male employees would get a HUGE thrill out of confronting shoplifters, and I can't even begin to count the number of times that a male co-worker would come up to me looking all excited and whisper "Hey, you see that customer over there? He's stealing! Come on, lets go wait for him outside!" and I would say, "I'm not going to risk my life just to try to stop someone from stealing a wrench from "Sears"!" and then the male co-worker would accuse me of not being a "real man" and of probably still being a virgin too, and then he would go outside and confront the shoplifter without me.)
Sometimes male co-workers would end up chasing shoplifters all the way down the street, and sometimes they would even end up getting into physical fights with shoplifters. The problem with this was that we were all told by management that if we saw a customer stealing we were supposed to call "Loss Prevention". (The security guards who were usually in the back of the store watching the surveillance cameras and who were actually there to stop shoplifters.) And we were also told that we should NEVER get involved physically (or even verbally) with a shoplifter, because if we choose to get involved and we end up getting injured by the shoplifter "Sears" wouldn't pay for our medical bills, and if we choose to get involved and we end up injuring the shoplifter the shoplifter could actually sue us! But all of my male co-workers would completely ignore these rules and insist on taking matters into their own hands whenever they spotted a shoplifter.
Although stealing is wrong, I admit that sometimes when I would see a customer stealing I would actually kind of route for them a little. For example, one time a male customer was in the kitchen aisle and there was a really big kitchen cabinet set that was already assembled for display purposes, and despite the fact that it was humongous and it weighed over 800 pounds, the shoplifter somehow managed to lift it and balance it on top of a shopping cart. He then walked right out the front door without paying for it, and it actually took him a little over 5 minutes just to get through the door because of how big it was, yet nobody (except me) saw what he was doing because of how understaffed we were that day. He then made it to the parking lot, and he even got it loaded up into the back of his pickup truck, but then just as he was about to get in his truck and drive away with it a bunch of testosterone crazed male co-workers came running out of the store and tackled him in the parking lot! (I kind of wanted to see him get away with it just because it would mean that any time he had company over at his house and someone complimented him on his lovely new kitchen cabinets he could tell them, "Yeah, I stole it from "Sears"." and then he could tell them the story of he he just walked into the store, put the whole thing in a shopping cart and walked right out the store without paying for it and nobody even noticed!)
"SCARY NEW BOSS"
The "Sears" that I worked at was in an almost all black neighborhood and on my first day working there I looked at the employee schedule and immediately noticed a lot of names that I as a white guy who grew up in the country had never heard of before such as...
Business had really started to decline at work, and the store was quickly becoming a "Ghost Town". (As a matter of fact, one day I was literally the only employee who showed up to work, and luckily almost no customers showed up that day either, because if someone had wanted to they could have come to the store that day and just walked out with whatever they wanted to since I was too afraid to try to stop shoplifters.)
On the day that I was the only employee who showed up to work a bunch of really important people from corporate showed up for a surprise visit and they were furious when they found out that I was the only one there and that the store looked as bad as it did. The people from corporate were all wearing expensive suits, but they ended up helping me do the menial tasks that the employees who didn't show up to work the day would normally do such as stocking shelves and sweeping the floors. It was also raining that day and there were several leaks in the ceiling, so I mentioned to them how the leaks had been there since I started working there over a year ago. (And because they were all men I also had to inform them that the "MEN'S" bathroom had been "Out Of Order" for over a month, but that it was OK to use the women's bathroom since there was usually no female customers in the store anyways.)
The people from corporate were so upset about everything that they decided to fire one of the managers named "Brian" who was in charge of the "Home & Garden" section of the store and was supposed to be there that day, and bring in a very controversial new manager named "Trampon" to replace him and to help put a stop to all of the nonsense...
"Trampon" was a big black man who was about 3 times my size, and as legend had it, he used to be a professional bodybuilder, but one day he was attempting to squat 1,000 pounds and he blew out both of his knees so he was forced to retire from professional bodybuilding. Then he became a "bouncer" at a strip club, but one night he got shot 5 times by a guy who he had thrown out of the club so he was forced to retire from "bouncing"... And now he was the manager of the "Home & Garden" section at "Sears".
"Trampon" was a very intimidating man, and he seemed to have something personal against me. One day he came up to me and accusingly asked me, "How come every time a black customer comes down your aisle you leave?" I asked him what he meant, and he said that he had been watching me since he started working there and that every single time a black person came down my aisle I would look really scared and walk away. (I admit that I would get scared and walk away anytime I saw a black customer, but it had nothing to do with the fact that the customer was black. I was just really shy and nervous around people in general, but because most of the customers where I worked were black and I was white it just "appeared" that I was scared of black people.)
After a while I really started to despise "Trampon", because not only was he mean to me but liked to publicly humiliate me by yelling at me in front of customers and even in front of "Tiffany"! I wished that he didn't work there and because all he ever did was yell and I never once saw him do any actual physical labor I would often think to myself that he had the easiest job in the world and that I would actually be a much better manager than him.
Then one day I came to work and heard the news that "Trampon" got fired for chasing down a shoplifter and beating them up in the parking lot. I felt so happy and relieved to know that I would never have to work with him again, and then the people from corporate returned to the store with even more good news for me...
They told me that they needed to find a replacement for "Trampon" and since I seemed to be the only dependable employee that the store had I could have his job if I wanted it!
I was so excited that I instantly said, "Yes, I'll take it!" not just because it meant that I would be making a lot more money, ($24.00 per hour instead of $7.50 per hour.) but also because it meant that for the first time in my life I would have a job that I wouldn't be embarrassed to tell people about...
I could actually tell people that I was a "manager". (Sure, I would still be embarrassed to say that I was a manager at "Sears" since everyone knew that "Sears" was losing millions of dollars a year and was about to go out of business, but I could still proudly tell people that I was a "manager" and just hope that nobody asked, "Where at?".)
Taking on a managerial position would mean that I could no longer work "part-time" like I had been doing and that I would have to start working "full-time" again (plus I would have to be willing to work lots of "overtime" as well) but the title "manager" sounded so prestigious that I felt that it would be worth sacrificing my free time just to have that job title. (And I also imagined that "Tiffany" might actually be willing to date me now that I was no longer a "clerk" and was now a "manager" like she was.)
The people from corporate told me that due to time restraints they wouldn't have much time to train me and that I would kind of have to learn as I was going by working closely with "Tiffany". (Which I of course was thrilled about.) They then asked me to take a walk with them around the "Home & Garden" section, and they would let me know what I should do on my first day in charge.
As we were walking the department we walked past an employee named "Manny" and the people from corporate pulled me aside and whispered, "We've had numerous complaints from customers about "Manny" over there because he has really strong body odor! Plus his hair is always messy and his clothes usually have stains on them, so we're going to need you to have a little talk with him today about his "personal hygiene"."
Then they handed me a piece of paper that I had to get "Manny" to sign saying that he had been talked to about his hygiene and that he promised to start showing up to work in a more presentable fashion, and then they told me to meet them upstairs with the signed paperwork as soon as I finished having the talk with "Manny".
I never felt more uncomfortable in my life as I very nervously walked over to "Manny". (I knew that if I told him that he smelled bad it would be awkward every single time that we ever saw each other in the future.) And as I got closer to him I thought to myself, "Oh man, he really did smell bad!".
When he saw me approaching him he got a big smile on his face and shouted "Boss Man!" and then he asked me, "So how does it feel to be the big man in charge?" I just put on a fake smile and told him, "Oh, It's going pretty well so far." and then I said, "Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?" and he said, "Sure what's up?" so I said...
"I just wanted to tell you that you..................................." and then there was a long awkward silence because I just couldn't bring myself to say "Stink" or "Smell bad", or even "Need to take a bath", so I instead just said, "You..............................are doing a very good job, and I just wanted to ask you to please keep up the good work!" Then I turned and walked away from him, and I just kept on walking right out of the store and never came back because I was too uncomfortable to tell him that he stunk, and I was also too uncomfortable to go upstairs and tell the people from corporate that I couldn't do what they asked me to when they had just given me this huge promotion less than 10 minutes earlier!
As I was walking home I actually started to feel bad for judging my old boss "Trampon" without ever being in his position. (I probably would have seemed "mean" too if I had actually told "Manny" that he stunk, and I definitely didn't want to have to tell people what to do and threaten to punish them if they didn't listen to me.) So my 8 minutes or so of being a "manager" helped teach me that if I wanted to inspire positive change in the world I should focus on managing my own life rather than the lives of others, and that my main responsibility as a "leader" was to be the change that I wanted to see in the world.
JOB #8 - "FAST FOOD"
I actually worked at some fast food restaurants in my early youth. (Sometimes they were the only places I could find that would actually hire me, and I would try to justify working there by telling myself that I was going to find ways to influence the people who still ate fast food to order a salad instead of a hamburger or to realize just how unhealthy fast food was and stop eating it!)
I got a job working the morning shift at a "McDonald's" as a cashier, and it was super embarrassing because someone with a really perverted sense of humor kept showing up at the restaurant late at night when we were closed and tampering with our big sign that was in front of the restaurant. (The sign would say something like, "COME INSIDE AND TRY OUR 2 BEEF PATTY BIG MAC" and someone would rearrange the letters so that it said something really childish and inappropriate like "BIG MC PENIS".)
My shift started at 5:00AM and I would usually fix the sign myself as soon as I got there, but one day the manager (who didn't come in until 9:00AM) actually told me, "As long as the word "Fuck" isn't on the sign then don't waste time fixing it, because I need you to be at the register and I need everyone else to be in the kitchen so we don't get behind." I then asked him, "But what if the "F" word isn't on the sign but it still says something that is really embarrassing?" and he just got mad and told me, "I'll fix the sign myself when I get here at 9:00, so just do your job like I told you to and don't worry about it!"
Because of this there were days when the sign would say something perverted for the first 4 hours of my shift, and since I was the person at the counter taking people's orders I would have to deal with a lot of angry customers (usually females who had brought their young kids with them) who were offended by the sign and who wanted to take their frustrations about it out on me. And I would also have to deal with a lot of amused customers (usually males who were still in High School) who thought that the sign was hilarious, and sometimes a teenage boy would walk up to my counter while struggling to keep a straight face and say something to me like, "Ugh, can I get a large Mc Penis?" and then his table full of teenage buddies who had dared him to come up to the counter and ask me that would all burst out laughing and be saying things to each other like, "Oh my God, did you see the look on that worker's face when he got asked for a Mc Penis?"
"The Sensitive Car Alarm"
Although I worked at "McDonald's" I was into health and fitness so I never ate any of the food there. But sometimes the smell of french fries would drive me crazy, and one day I felt so tempted by them that when the manager had me throw away a bunch of left over french fries that didn't get sold I secretly put a pack of fries in my pocket and took them home with me...
As soon as I got home and was about to eat the french fries a car with a super sensitive alarm started going off in the parking lot. (The car was owned by an old man who lived in one of the apartments below mine, and his car alarm was so sensitive that it would frequently go off for petty reasons like loud thunder or a stray cat or dog walking too close to it.)
I was on the 3rd floor of the apartment complex, and when I looked out my window and down at the car with a super sensitive alarm I wondered to myself if a "McDonald's" french fry would be enough to set of the alarm. I was so curious that I threw a french fry out the window at the car but I missed, so I tried several more times and after about 8 tries I was finally able to hit his car with a french fry and it actually made the alarm go off!
I thought that it was so funny that I kept throwing french fries at the car until the french fries were all gone, and all that was left was a bunch of oil on my fingers. I then went to wash my hands and I remembered that when I first moved into my apartment my landlords had warned me to never pour oil down the drain because it can clog up the piping, and then I remembered way back when I was in school and I was told by my biology teacher that if you were to put all of your veins, arteries, and capillaries in a straight line it would wrap around the Earth twice!
My dad had recently had another heart attack due to saturated fat and cholesterol building up in his arteries and restricting the flow of blood to his heart, and my grandpa had recently had another stroke due to saturated fat and cholesterol building up in his arteries and restricting the flow of blood to his brain. I then had an epiphany that my body was full of "pipes" and since pipes were made to carry water, I should drink water and eat foods that were mostly made of water in order to keep my internal piping flowing properly. (And I should definitely avoid oily foods like french fries and other greasy fast food items if I don't want to end up with the same health problems that my father and grandfather had!)
"They Don't Pay Me Enough For This"
During my many years of working at jobs that paid "minimum wage" I had heard many insubordinate co-workers use the expression "They don't pay me enough for this!" (In most cases I felt that the people who would say this were actually getting paid too much considering just how little effort they put into doing their work, and just how much effort they would put into trying to bring down the morale of their fellow co-workers.)
But one morning as I was walking to work at "McDonalds" I saw that the pervert had struck again and the big sign in front of the restaurant said, "ASK ABOUT OUR HARRY BALLS". I then stopped walking and started imagining all of the teasing and tormenting that I would have to endure that morning because of the sign and I thought to myself, "They don't pay me enough for this!" and I simply turned around and walked back home, and got a job across the street at a competing fast food restaurant...
Disclaimer: I am afraid to even say the full name of this fast food restaurant that I worked at because I don't want to get sued by them for what I am about to say...
The day that I showed up for my interview at "Burger -------" there was another person being interviewed for the job named "Will". (Who was a teenager and was still in High School.) Me and"Will" were both in the waiting room and it was obvious by the way that "Will" looked (and smelled) that he was high on marijuana.
Showing up for a job interview high would be bad enough, but to make matters worse when the manager walked in the room and told "Will" that he was ready to interview him in his office "Will" immediately told him, "Hey, I know that it's only October, but I have to let you know now that I'm going to need April 20th off!" (April 20th or "4/20" as it is commonly referred to is a holiday for "pot smokers", so it made it even more obvious that he had showed up to his interview stoned.)
"Will" went into the office for his interview and 5 minutes later I was shocked to see him walking out of his interview smiling and saying that he got the job. (They didn't even do any drug testing at this restaurant, and I found out later that they had to stop giving drug tests due to how difficult it was to find anyone who wanted to work there who wasn't on drugs!)
The manager hired me too though, so I wasn't complaining and me and "Will" ended up working together a lot and we would usually work the closing shift together at night...
"Doing Terrible Things To People's Food"
As employees we were actually allowed to have all the soda and all the free food that we wanted and I was very tempted by this early on because the french fries would sometimes smell really good to me (especially if I didn't eat anything right before coming to work that day) but luckily for me working with "Will" caused me to lose my desire to eat fast food completely...
"Will" wasn't very hygienic, so I was uncomfortable with the thought of eating anything that he had personally handled, and he was the one who would always cook the french fries. To make matters worse fast food customers could be very rude to fast food employees, and whenever a customer was rude to "Will" he would purposely do terrible things to their food. (Like spit in their drink or purposely drop their food on the floor before serving it to them.)
Because of how short handed the restaurant was the manager asked me and "Will" if we knew ANYONE who was looking for a job and "Will" said that he had a buddy named "Brice" in High School, so the manager hired his friend "Brice" without even interviewing him or anything.
"Will" and "Brice"were best friends and once they started working together "Will" started to do far worse things to customer's food just to make his friend "Brice" laugh. Then "Brice" started doing horrible things to people's food too just to make "Will" laugh, and it quickly became a contest to see who could come up with the most outrageous thing to do to a customer's food...
Instead of dishing out a serving of "karma" to customers who were being rude to them "Will" and "Brice" were now doing terrible things to random people's food just to keep from feeling bored at work!
The restaurant would close at 11:00 PM, but if a customer came in even a minute before 11:00 PM and they wanted to eat their food inside the restaurant instead of ordering it "to go" we would have to wait around until they were finished eating before we could close the restaurant and go home for the night. "Will" and "Brice" would always get really upset whenever they had to stay late, and they would find creative ways to get revenge on late night customers. (One time a big Mexican family came in right before closing and wanted to eat in the restaurant so "Will" and "Brice" put laxatives in their food, which made the night a lot more amusing for "Will" and "Brice".)
"Will" and "Brice" actually starting a YouTube channel where they posted videos from work of them having "food fights" in the kitchen and doing gross things to people's food. The videos went viral and because "Will" and "Brice" were wearing their uniforms AND their name badges in the videos the people from corporate headquarters were quickly able to figure out who they were and fire them for it. (The manager of the restaurant also got fired for not keeping a closer eye on his employees, and for hiring employees like that in the first place!)
I want to mention though that during my time working in the fast food industry I saw lots of other workers doing inappropriate things with people's food, and it wasn't always because they had bad intentions. (For example, sometimes I would see employees show up to work sick and coughing really bad while they were in the kitchen preparing food. They shouldn't have been there, but because of the low pay that they were receiving they would show up to work sick because of how desperate they were for money, and the managers would allow employees to work sick because of how desperate they were for help.)
And even I was guilty of mishandling people's food from time to time. (For example, one time a customer was yelling and screaming at me because he had been waiting so long for his food that he was going to be late for work because of it, so I ran back to the kitchen to get his food as fast as I could, but I was so nervous that I accidentally dropped his his food on the floor. Because he was already so angry at me I was way too afraid to tell him what happened and inform him that he was now going to have to wait even longer for me to make more food, so I just bent down and used my hands to sweep up the french fries that had scattered all over the floor, and I did my best to reassemble his 2 double cheeseburgers and then I went out and gave them to him like nothing happened.)
One night a woman ordered a chicken sandwich and freaked out because she found a small piece of a feather in her chicken. I apologized and offered to give her another sandwich, but she just kept yelling at me and saying that the feather came from a chicken and that she would never eat there again because of it!
The incident reminded me of back when I was a kid growing up in the country and all of my family members who lived in the city would actually beg my parents not to bring any food with meat in it to the family reunions, because they knew that it came from animals that my dad killed while hunting. (They could only eat meat if it came from the supermarket and was highly processed and wrapped in cellophane packages, because it made it seem like meat was something that was made in a factory, and not something that was once a living animal.)
It got me thinking that a lot of people who eat fast food would probably not be able to eat it anymore if they actually knew what they were eating. There was a regular customer named "Marvin" who would come to the restaurant every day and who was really overweight and diabetic, so one day I let him borrow a copy of the film "Super-Size Me". (Which was a documentary about a man who ate nothing but "McDonald's" food for 30 days and became overweight and unhealthy because of it.) The next time I saw "Marvin" at the restaurant he told me that he watched "Super-Size Me" and thought that it was a really great documentary. I was so happy to hear that he liked it, but when I asked him how he felt while watching it he told me that it made him really hungry for "McDonald's" food, and that as soon as the documentary was over he immediately went to "McDonald's" and bought 2 "Big Macs" and had forgotten how good they were :(
Sometimes people would accuse me of being "Un-American" just because I didn't watch football, or because I didn't drink beer, or even because I didn't eat hamburgers, and when the manager of the restaurant got fired over the embarrassing videos from "Will" and "Brice" we got a new manager named "Mr. Biggs" who was extremely patriotic.
On his very first day working there "Mr. Biggs" walked up to me and asked me where I saw myself in the company in 5 years, so I told him that in 5 years I hoped to not even be in the country anymore, and that I hoped to be living on a beautiful tropical island somewhere by then. He then frowned and told me, "I don't want any employees working for me who aren't proud to an American and who aren't willing to die for their country!" I didn't mean to offend him, but it was obvious that I did, and it was obvious that there was nothing that I could do to earn his respect now that he viewed me as a "traitor" to his country.
One night at work a drunk man who was standing in line to order food was screaming like a maniac because he had been in line for almost an hour. The manager tried to calm him down but it didn't do any good and we eventually had to just call the police. Once the police came and got the man out of the restaurant the manager started yelling at me in front of everyone and saying that it was all my fault for not being fast enough. Then he told me that he was going to punish me by making me be the "drive-thru window operator" starting the following week since he knew that I was scared of talking over the drive-thru speaker.
He also made me stay late that night and clean the bathrooms since he knew that it would embarrass me, and right before he left that night he literally told me that he wanted me to quit and that if I didn't want to quit yet he was going to make my job hell until I finally wanted to!
I was the last one to leave that night and as I was locking the door behind me I heard footsteps approaching me in the dark so I quickly turned around and was frightened to see the angry drunk man who had been kicked out of the restaurant earlier that night walking towards me. He then shouted at me in a commanding voice, "Stand back!" as he reached into his coat pocket. I quickly jumped out of his way fearing that he was about to pull out a gun, but instead of pulling out a gun he pulled out a can of spray paint that he had bought from the hardware store across the street, and he spray painted the word "CLOSED" on the front door of the restaurant!
I made no attempt to stop him and I actually thought it was pretty funny. Then when he finished doing it I suggestively asked him, "Are you going to write it on all of the windows too?" and he said, "Good idea!" and he then proceeded to write "CLOSED" on all of the windows too!
I had wanted to quit that night and this drunk guy was helping me quit in epic fashion. (I not only quit but I left the building looking like it was "closed", so any customers who showed up the next morning would assume that we were closed and not eat there.)
JOB #9 - "BEST BUY" ("THE GEEK SQUAD")
"THE ODD ONE IN THE FAMILY"
I grew up in the country and had wonderful parents who I loved dearly, but I was such a shy and introverted kid that I spent almost all my free time alone in the woods or alone in my room drawling. I also loved my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins too, but they all lived kind of far from us in the city, so I usually only got to see them once a year on "Christmas" when me and my parents would make the big drive to my grandma's house.
One year when I was a teenager I was sitting in the backseat of my parents car as we were driving to my grandma's house on "Christmas" day, and when we entered the city there was a big bridge that we had to drive under, and someone had climbed the bridge and taken a can of spray paint and wrote the phrase "ASS OF 89" on the bridge! (I'm still not quite sure what that phrase even meant, but all I know is that it was really embarrassing to see the word "ASS" when I was with my super religious parents, and it was clearly awkward for them as well because for the rest of the car trip nobody said a word, and the car was filled with an awkward silence that was so excruciating that it felt like it took a few years off of my life!)
Then the following "Christmas" we drove to my grandparent's house again and the "ASS OF 89" graffiti was still on the bridge!!! (I did my own independent calculations and estimated that no less than 23 million people would have driven under that bridge during the course of a year, so it seemed almost impossible to me that there wouldn't have been enough complaints about it that the city would have have at least had a worker go up there with some paint and paint over the word "ASS".)
The year after that I was scared that the word "ASS" would still be on the bridge (or that there would be new graffiti that would say something even more vulgar and inappropriate) and then my worrisome mind went into overdrive as I started to worry about all of the other embarrassing possibilities that could happen if I was riding in a car with my parents in the big city...
- What if we are waiting at a red light and the car next to us is blasting vulgar rap music?
- What if the driver behind us is late for something and the fact that my parents are "Mormons" and are the only ones the road who actually obey the speed limit causes the person behind us to go into "Road Rage" and start honking their horn and sticking their middle finger up at us?
- What if the we get stuck behind a car that has a vulgar vanity plate or a truck that has metal "truck testicles"hanging off the bumper?
- What if we drive past a big billboard that uses sex to sell (like a picture of women in bikinis drinking a particular brand of beer) or what if on the way back home at night the road that we normally take is closed and we have to take a detour and we end up having to drive past a drive-in movie theater during a sex scene?
So even though I loved my extended family I stopped going to the big annual family reunions just because I was afraid that something so embarrassing would end up happening on the long drive there that I would have to run away from home due to being too uncomfortable to ever even be in the same room as my parents again, and because of this I became the one (and the only) person in my family who didn't go to the big family reunions.
When I was in my mid 20's I finally moved out of my parent's place and got my own apartment, and not only was my apartment in the city but it was actually only about a 10 minute walk from my grandma's house. (Which meant that I could easily start going to the family reunions again.) But unfortunately I couldn't bring myself to go to the reunions just because I knew that if I went I would inevitably get asked the 3 big personal questions that I dreaded the most...
- Personal Question #1- "Where do you work?" The one thing that all of the places that I ever worked at in my youth had in common was that I was too embarrassed to tell anyone that I worked there!
- Personal Question #2- "So do you have a girlfriend yet?" This intimate question can be asked in many different ways ( Like when my grandma would ask me, "When are you finally going to give me some grandchildren?") and because I was still a virgin and I was constantly getting teased about it whenever people found out I simply didn't feel comfortable discussing my "love life" or "lack thereof" with people!
- Personal Question # 3- "How has church been lately?" Everyone in my family was a member of the "Mormon" church except me, because back when I was a teenager I started to think that the "Mormon" religion was embarrassing so I stopped going to church. My parents told me that they still loved me, but they also made me promise that I wouldn't let anyone else in the family know that I left the church because of how much it would upset everyone, and any time an aunt or uncle asked my parents about me they would lie and tell them that I was still going to church on Sundays. (It was a lie that couldn't go on forever, but I guess that my parents just hoped and prayed that they could at least keep my leaving the church a secret until my grandparents passed away, because it might have literally given them a heart attack to know that I wouldn't be producing a new generation of "Mormon" kids to help keep the family tradition going after they passed away.)
So I refused to go to the reunions even though I practically lived right across the street from them, and my family probably viewed this as strong evidence that I didn't love them. (Which wasn't true, I loved them very much, but I was just really uncomfortable about getting asked personal questions.)
I had an uncle named "Tim" who was a professional camera man and he would always be the one in charge of taking the big "family photo" at family reunions. He would also e-mail everyone (including me) a copy of the photo and because I was the only family member not in the picture he would actually use "photoshop" to insert a picture of me into the photo to make it look like I was there. Not only was this incredibly creepy to me but the only photos that he (or anyone else for that matter) had of me were photos from back when I was just a little kid and that were taken long before the age of high definition cameras like the ones he would use. So it just looked weird and I would get so uncomfortable seeing myself edited into these photos that I actually sent him an e-mail one year asking him to please not put me in the family photos anymore. (And looking back I imagine that it was just viewed as more evidence that I didn't love my family, even though I actually did love them!)
"CAN YOU FIX MY COMPUTER?"
When I worked at "Best Buy" I worked for the "Geek Squad" which specialized in fixing people's personal computers. (Back then nobody had internet on their phones and the only way to get on-line was through an actual computer, so a lot of people owned a computer at the time but almost nobody knew how to actually fix one, so there were a lot of people coming to the store to get their computer fixed.)
When my parents found out that I got a job fixing computers they ended up telling everyone else in the family about it, and because of how expensive it was to get a computer fixed at a shop like "Best Buy" I started getting phone calls from random family members wanting to know if I could fix their computer for them. The problem with this was that they were family and therefore it was totally different than fixing a computer for a total stranger. (When I was at work and repairing computers for total strangers the people would simply bring in their computers and tell me what was wrong with them, then I would fix it for them and that was that. But when a family member wanted me to fix their computer they couldn't just show up at my apartment with their computer and tell me to fix it for them because I was a relative and therefore it would be considered "rude" to do it that way.)
So what a family members who wanted me to fix their computer would do is they would call me on the phone and when I would answer they would spend the first 5 to 10 minutes of the conversation pretending that the only reason they called was just to see how I was doing. Then once the awkward "small talk" had run it's course and they could no longer think of anything else to talk to me about they would finally ask me if I could fix their computer for them, and the conversations would usually go something like the following...
Aunt Rose: Hi! Is this "Lee"?
Me: Yeah, who's this?
Aunt Rose: This is your "Aunt Rose".
Me: Oh hi "Aunt Rose"! How are you?
Aunt Rose: Oh I'm good. How are you?
Me: Oh I'm good.
Aunt Rose: That's good.
Me: Wow, I haven't seen you in almost 10 years.
Aunt Rose: Well, that's why you should go to the family reunions.
Me: Oh yeah, I've been meaning to go. So what's new with you?
Aunt Rose: Oh I've just been thinking about you lately and wondering how you are doing.
Me: Oh, well that's nice.
Aunt Rose: Are you still into baseball?
Aunt Rose: Oh that's right, I'm sorry, I was thinking of your cousin "Aaron".
*Awkward Silence for 1 minute*
Me: Ugh... I got my own place recently and am no longer living with my parents.
Aunt Rose: Oh wow, I'm so proud of you, and I'm sure that you parents are proud of you as well... And hey, just curious, do you by any chance know what it means when you turn on a computer and you try to get on-line but a message just keeps popping up that says, "Unable to connect to internet. Error code 4142. Reboot C drive." ?"
*I would then ask the relative to turn on their computer and I would coach them through the process of fixing the problem, and I could usually do it over the phone. But then once their computer was fixed I would have to endure another awkward 5 to 10 minute conversation with them because I was family and therefore it would be considered "rude" to just end the conversation with me as soon as their computer was fixed, so the conversation would usually go something like the following...
Aunt Rose: Oh thank you so much for getting my computer to work again Lee!
Me: Oh no problem. Just let me know if it acts up again.
Aunt Rose: OK, I will.
*Awkward Silence for 1 minute*
Aunt Rose: So do you think that you'll be at the next reunion?
Me: I would really like to, and it would be nice to see everyone again.
*Awkward Silence for 2 minutes*
Aunt Rose: It's been really hot outside lately hasn't it?
Me: Yeah it has.
*Awkward Silence for 3 minutes*
Aunt Rose: Hey Lee, I'm sorry, but I've really got to go because I have to do some grocery shopping later, but I want to thank you again for your help today.
Aunt Rose: It was nice talking to you.
Me: It was nice talking to you too.
Aunt Rose:I love you.
Me: I love you too.
Aunt Rose: Goodbye.
HANG UP PHONE:
Not only were these phone calls really uncomfortable for me, but I was terrified that if I couldn't get their computer to start working again over the phone they might ask me to actually come to their house and look at it in person. (I worried that if that happened they might insist on sitting right next to me and watching me while I fixed their computer, and if I had to open up their browser history or a suspicious folder that was taking up a large amount of hard drive space I might end up finding some really embarrassing pornographic stuff that my "religious" relative didn't want anyone to know about, and then I would have yet another "dark family secret" that I had to keep from the rest of the family in order to keep people from having a heart attack!)
So I decided to just get rid of my phone and live without one even though phones were becoming more and more a part of people's lives. (And even when it got to the point that anytime I was in a public place I would look around and see everyone looking down at their cellphones I was still too uncomfortable to own a phone, and I became the only person I knew who never had a cellphone.)
"GEEK SQUAD CAR"
When I worked at "Best Buy" I usually worked inside the store, but sometimes I had to make "house calls" where I would actually drive to people's houses to diagnose and fix their computers. I felt really uncomfortable about going inside the house of strangers, and to make matters worse I had to drive there in the most embarrassing car ever! (It was a really goofy looking beetle car that actually said "Geek Squad" on it.)
One day I drove to someone's house to fix their computer and when I knocked on the door a man (who judging by his appearance and his voice was almost certainly gay) opened the door and invited me in. He told me that his computer kept turning off on it's own for no reason, so he turned his computer on for me and as it was booting up I was paranoid that I was going to end up stumbling onto images of naked men while trying to fix it. (I also worried that it might cause him to feel "outed" since a lot of gay people at the time were still "in the closet" about their sexuality due to all of the homophobia in society.)
He told me that he worked from home and was afraid of losing important files that he had spent a lot of time working on, so to be nice I offered him some free back up disks, but because of how paranoid I was of finding pictures of naked men on his computer I accidentally said "dicks" instead of "disks". (I felt so embarrassed about my miss-wording, and I thought to myself, "Now I knew how "Richard Dawkins" must have felt when he was writing his book "The God Delusion" and his proof reader noticed that at one point in the book he accidentally referred to "The Large Hydron Collider" as "The Large Hard-On Collider".") But luckily the man thought it was funny and started laughing about it, and then he opened up about his sexuality by jokingly saying, "I could always use some of those!" and then he started laughing really hard at his own joke and all I could do was just nervously laugh along with him out of solidarity while I worried that his house was literally going to burst due to not being able to contain that much awkwardness!
After I fixed his computer I started driving back to "Best Buy", but it was snowing really hard and I hit some ice on the road which caused the "Geek Squad" car to start spinning around in circles out of control, and I slammed right into a guardrail!
Luckily I wasn't injured but the car was really banged up and when the police showed up they deemed the car to be "unsafe to drive" so they called a "Toe Truck" for me. When the "Toe Truck" got there the driver told me that I could ride with him in his truck, but because I didn't know him and I imagined there would be a lot of "awkward silence" on our trip back to "Best Buy" I asked him if I could just ride in the crashed "Geek Squad" car instead and he told me I could, but because the front bumper had gotten so bent up in the wreck he said that it would be too dangerous to attach his chains to the front bumper and that he would have to attach them to the back bumper instead. (Which meant that the car was going to be facing backwards as it was being toed.)
I got in the car and he started toeing me back to "Best Buy", and at first it was actually kind of neat to be riding in a car that was going backwards. It offered a really unique perspective and there wasn't very much traffic on the road due to the storm, but then we had to stop at a stop light and as we were waiting for the light to turn green a car pulled up right behind me and because my car was facing backwards me and the other driver were looking right at each other. It was really awkward so to avoid eye contact I turned to my right but a few moment later a car pulled up to my right and that driver started staring at too, so I turned to my left but there was already a car there with a driver staring at me as well!
I was surrounded by cars with drivers who were all staring at me funny because I was inside of a backwards banged up "Geek Squad" car, so I tried to duck down but because of the angle that the car was being raised people would still be able to see me no matter how far I slumped into the seat.
It seemed like an eternity as I sat there waiting for the light to finally turn green, and when I glanced in the rear-view mirror I realized that the reason we weren't moving was because there was another wreck on the road ahead of us and we were stuck in a huge "traffic jam"!
I couldn't take everyone staring at me anymore, so I finally just got out of the car and walked back home (abandoning the company car and my job along with it) and I got fired over it.
Because my job at "Best Buy" had paid a lot more money than any of my previous jobs and because of the fact that I had become even more of a "minimalist" I was able to spend some time reflecting on what to do with my life before seeking out another job, and during my time off from working I worked on creating a website that I had been dreaming of making for years where I shared health and fitness tips that I had learned over the years.
I had completely lost contact with my family for a few years due to not having a phone and not wanting anyone in my family to know where I lived since I was afraid that they would give my address to the Mormon church. But then one day my parents actually got the internet and they did an on-line search for me and found my website and my contact e-mail so they sent me an e-mail.
In the e-mail they informed me that both of my grandparents were now living in a nursing home, and that they were going to have to sell their home and most of their possessions in order to help pay for their medical bills. (As well as their funeral bills since they weren't expected to live much longer.)
They also asked me if I could please come over to my grandma's house some time to help them clean the house and get it ready to be put on the market, and to also help them go through my grandparent's belongings and get it all ready for a big yard sale.
Because I missed my parents and I felt bad for my grandparents I agreed to meet my parents at my grandparent's house the following weekend...
I hadn't seen my parents in years so I was happy to finally see them again. (I also hadn't been to my grandparent's house since I was a kid so when I walked in the house I was shocked at just how tiny the house looked now that I was a full grown adult.)
It felt "wrong" to be going through my grandparent's personal belongings, and I was worried that we were going to find embarrassing things that they didn't want anyone to know about, but luckily we didn't find anything embarrassing and we ended up finding lots of things that brought back good memories.
But while we were going through my grandparent's stuff I couldn't believe just how much stuff they actually owned! (They were definitely "hoarders" and it seemed as if they had held onto every single thing that they ever owned!) But the most shocking thing of all to me was what we found in their garage...
When we opened my grandparent's garage we discovered that it was completely filled with tools and almost all of them were brand new and still in the packages that they were sold in...
"Alzheimer's" my mom said.
I wasn't sure what she meant so I asked her and she said, "Your grandpa would spend the whole day going to a dozen different hardware stores just to find the best deal on a hammer or a light bulb, and then he would buy it and take it home with him, but then the next day he would completely forget that he had bought it, so he would go out and do it all over again, and the tools just kept piling up in the garage until it was so full of tools that your grandparent's couldn't even park their car in it anymore!"
Even though most of the tools were never even been used they couldn't be returned to the hardware stores because several leaks had developed in the garage ceiling which caused many of the metal tools to start to rust, and the garage would also get extremely hot in the summer and then extremely cold in the winter, and these huge fluctuations in temperatures caused the cardboard and plastic packaging that the tools were in to warp and get bent out of shape. (Plus there were also rats, roaches, and even raccoons living in the garage who had chewed up and pooped all over a lot of the tools as well!)
I left my grandparent's house feeling more grateful than ever to be a "minimalist", but right before I left my parents asked me if I would consider going to the big family reunion on "Christmas". (Which was only about a month away.) I told them, "I'll think about it." (which I have found to be the most gentle way of not accepting an invitation) but my parents knew me well enough to know that I was basically saying "No" to them so they begged and pleaded with me to please go so I finally gave in promised them that I would go...
"THE BIG FAMILY REUNION"
When I showed up at the big family reunion everyone was happy to see me and I was happy to see them too. I was especially happy to see my cousins again since they were my best friends during my childhood. (Even though I only got to see them one a year on "Christmas".)
My cousins looked kind of different to me now that they were all "grown ups" (the males now had facial hair and the females now had breasts) but after about 10 minutes of talking to them it was as if the facial hair and breasts disappeared and we were all kids again.
I ended up feeling really grateful that I came to the reunion and I didn't want it to end, but then all of a sudden my cousin "Emily" showed up and she brought her new boyfriend named "Max" to the reunion. Once "Max" was there things got extremely awkward for me. (I mean, how was I supposed to reminisce about about the past with my family when there was a total stranger in the room who wasn't there for any of those experiences, and who wouldn't understand any of the "inside jokes" that only a family member would understand?) It was so awkward with "Max" there there that I lost my ability to speak, and when nobody was looking I snuck out of the house and just went back home. (And I knew that I could never go to another family reunion again now that a total stranger had joined the family!)
Several years later when "FaceBook" became really popular I was too afraid to actually join it but I curiously lurked around on it to see if I could find any family members who had joined, and I was able to find my "Uncle Tim". I clicked on his profile and saw that he had just posted a picture from a recent family reunion and when I looked at it I saw that there were now several total strangers in the family who I didn't recognize. (New boyfriends, new girlfriends, new husbands, new wives, and new kids.) Plus the family members who weren't total strangers were starting to look like total strangers to me because some of them had gained weight and gotten older looking, and some of them even had lots of tattoos and piercings now!
"Who are all these people?" I wondered to myself as I looked at the current family photo in confusion. It then occurred to me that I should start being extra nice to everyone that I meet because for all I know the next "total stranger" that I run into could actually be a family member of mine, and I just don't realize it because I love my family but I can't go to family reunions anymore due to all the "Stranger Danger".
"A NEW FAMILY"
I ended up completely losing contact with my real family, but one day I finally got the courage to join the "fruitarian" forum that I had discovered and had been lurking around on for years, and I finally started connecting with like-minded people who "adopted" me as one of their own.
After about a year interacting with these people I had become very close with a lot of them and they were constantly asking me what I looked like, so one day I finally got really brave and I posted a picture of myself, and I was happily surprised to find out that not only did my picture got a lot of "likes" but a beautiful girl on the forum actually left a comment under my photo that said "cute". I was super exciting about her comment (no girl had ever called me "cute" before) and it made me realize just how powerful and even "life-changing" a kind compliment can be for someone!
"LIVING TO 100 YEARS OLD"
Because I was so into health people would often tell me that I was probably going to live to be over 100 years old, and one day it occurred to me that if my grandparents were still alive they would both be at least 100 years old.
"Surely they must be dead by now." I thought to myself, but I was curious to know how old they ended up living to, so one day I went to the nursing home that they had been put into a long time ago to see if the people who worked there had any info that they could give me on when my grandparents died, but when I got there I was in for a surprise...
It turned out that not only were they both still alive but they were both still living in the building, and the lady at the front desk said that my grandma was 100 and my grandpa just turned a few days earlier 101! I couldn't believe it, and when the woman at the front desk asked me if I wanted to visit them I said, "YES" without hesitation, so she gave me their room number and told me to go ahead and knock on their door...
I walked over to their room and gently knocked on the door, and then I heard the voice of a man who sounded like he was from India say, "Come in." I thought that I might have the wrong room so I opened the door very slowly and peeked inside...
It turned out that I had the right room and the Indian accent that I heard was coming from a dark skinned Indian man who worked there, and he was helping my grandfather get out of his wheelchair so he could go to the bathroom. I then looked around the room and saw that there was also a very beautiful young nurse in the room who was helping my grandma take her medication.
Then my grandfather looked at me (for the first time in well over a decade) and I enthusiastically said "Hi grandpa!" and instead of saying "Hi" back to me he just started complaining about the dark skinned Indian man who was trying to help him out of the wheelchair by telling me, "I'll tell you what, almost all of the new workers here in the past 5 years have either been "blacks" or "foreigners", and now they even have "black foreigners" like this guy!" I cringed was about to just leave because of how embarrassed I was to admit that I was his grandson, but then he continued his rant by telling me, "They're going to take over this country and put all us white people straight in the toilet!"
I felt really bad for the Indian man (who ironically was trying to help my white grandpa to the toilet) and when he looked at me I sympathetically and apologetically whispered to him, "I'm so sorry." but he just laughed and said, "It's part of the job." and then he jokingly added, "And believe me, he has said far worse things about me than that!" so I felt a little bit less "guilty" about it and decided not to leave.
Once the old man helped my grandpa into the bathroom it was just me, my grandma, and the pretty nurse in the room so I looked at my grandmother who was looking at me strange and she asked me, "Who are you???" I felt really guilty that she didn't even recognizing me so I said, "It's me!" while smiling and pointing at my face, and after staring at me for a while she asked "Terri???" (Which was the name of one of her daughters.) I then realized that my grandmother's eye sight had gotten so bad that she couldn't see very well, and although her hearing still seemed to be "OK" she thought that I was a woman due to my shy and soft spoken voice..
I was about to tell her, "No grandma, I'm your grandson "Lee", but I was afraid that she might have found out that I stopped going to church and start yelling at me for it in front of the beautiful nurse. (And I also didn't want the nurse to know that my grandmother thought that I was a woman, because then the nurse would probably never want to date me, so I just said, "Ugh, yeah, it's me "Terri"." because although the name "Terri" is a female name it is pronounced exactly like "Terry" which is a male name, and therefore the nurse would just assume that I was a man named "Terry".)
Then my grandmother asked me in a really disappointed voice, "Why didn't you come to visit me last week like you said you would?" I didn't want to get my aunt "Terri" in trouble so I just kind of casually said, "Oh... Well... I've been having to work a lot lately... And you know how that is."
She then got a really sad look on her face and asked the nurse to please leave the room so we could talk in private. So the nurse left the room and left me and my grandmother alone, and then my grandmother took my hand and said the following...
"MY GRANDMOTHER'S LAST WORDS TO ME"
"Terri", before me and your father die I want you to know that if we could go back in time we would definitely do a lot of things differently." (She then started to tear up and I felt that I had better just tell her who I really was before she ended up telling me something that I had no real business hearing, but I was too nervous to interrupt her, so I said nothing and just let her continue talking.)
"We didn't even get to see you kids grow up because we were always at work! And believe me, if I could go back and do it all over again I would proudly tell my boss "No" every single time that he ever offered me "over time", and I would spend every minute of that time with you kids instead!
I know that you have been working a lot lately "Terri" and I want to tell you that no amount of money is worth the price of losing your family!
When we first got married your father decided to start working late at night just because he would get an extra 15 cents an hour if he worked the night shift. (Which back then seemed like a lot of money, but now-a-days it makes me so mad just to think about it!) And because he worked at night and slept during the day, and I worked during the day and slept at night (combined with the fact that we both worked a lot of overtime) we rarely saw each other, and we eventually had to start sleeping in separate bedrooms just so we wouldn't wake each other up, and we ended up becoming "strangers" even though we were living in the same house, and even though were husband and wife!. (And now your father's "Alzheimer's" is so bad that most days he doesn't even know that he has a wife, or that he has children, and virtually every loved one who comes to visit him is a "total stranger" to him now!)
We were "workaholics" and it was mostly because we wanted to impress people. (We always had to have the most expensive house and the most expensive car on the block, and now I'm left wondering why we worked so hard to impress the neighbors when we never even talked to most them, and when we were always worried that the "jealous neighbors" were going to try to steal from us!
When we finally retired from work we tried to make up for the way that we raised you kids by "spoiling" the grandkids, and although they loved to come over and spend time with us it was mainly because we were rich and they knew that we would buy them things, and now that we are on our death beds I worry that they are all anxiously waiting to find out how much we will leave them in our will.
Unfortunately me and your father didn't stop working until we were forced into retirement due to our failing health, and within 3 months of retiring your father was in this nursing home and I was already on over a dozen different medications, and I was finding it difficult just walk to the bathroom, so my life long dream of someday walking the streets of "Paris" became completely unrealistic to me.
And looking back neither of us even liked our jobs, but because they were really high paying jobs we stuck with them for the long haul and we sacrificed everything that really mattered in life just to hold on to them, and I want to beg you to please not make the same mistake that we did! You are still young and you can still travel and see the world like me and your father had always dreamed of doing back when we were young."
Although her message wasn't intended for me it was a message that I needed to hear, and as soon as I got back home I went on the "fruitarian" website that I was a member of and I made a big post expressing that I desperately wanted to move to somewhere tropical that had year long warm weather and sunshine, and that if anyone had any tips or advice for me I would really appreciate it. Sadly though nobody replied to my post, so I continued to feel like I was stuck living in "Ohio" and having to endure it's brutally cold winters for the time being :(
JOB #10 - "RECYCLING FOR MONEY"
Because I had accumulated such a long and embarrassing resume, and it clearly showed that I couldn't keep a job for very long, I had basically become "unhireable". (And because I had become so "environmentally conscious" virtually every job out there that actually paid money and that wasn't "volunteer work" seemed really bad for the environment to me, and therefore was "un-work-for-able".)
I was able to survive through long periods of unemployment by "dumpster diving" for food and by recycling empty cans and bottles for money. I had become a "vulture" who was living off of the wastefulness of others, and because there was so much "cultural shame" in being a living this way, and because a lot of people would be too embarrassed to even work as a "janitor" somewhere I was really embarrassed to be seen going through the trash.
But the more I went through the trash the more I started to realize just how wasteful people were being, and the more I stated to think to myself that it was the people who were littering and being wasteful who should feel embarrassed and not the people who were cleaning up the litter and reducing waste!
I knew that anyone who was "environmentally conscious" would know that the way that modern society was living was completely unsustainable, and I also knew that anyone who was intelligent would respect people like myself who wanted to be a "minimalist" rather than looking down on us and calling us "Un-American" for not contributing enough to the economy.
Vultures may not be the most beautiful animals in the world, but the world itself is far more beautiful because vultures exist. (The "job" of a vulture is to help clean up all of the death and decay that would otherwise accumulate and result in plague, so fortunately for all of us there are species like vultures who aren't too embarrassed to be the "janitors" of planet Earth.)
I did the math and found out that I would basically get 1 penny for every can or bottle that I recycled. (Which may not sound like much, but because of how incredibly wasteful society was I actually made really good money when my only source of income was recycling.)
Recycling was also a great form of physical exercise too because it required a lot of outdoor walking and lifting. (One of my favorite workouts was when I would walk from my house to the recycling center with 2 big empty trash bags and on the way there I would collect empty cans and bottles along the side of road and put the cans in one bag and the bottles in the other bag. The weight of the bags would slowly build up until I finally got to the recycling center with 2 bags that were so heavy that I could barely lift them.
The apartment complex that I lived at didn't recycle so I begged and pleaded with the landlords to start a recycling program, and they finally agreed to let me buy 3 trash cans and set them up by the dumpster for recycling. The first trash can said "Aluminum", the second one said "Plastic", and the third one said "Glass" so people could easily recycle certain things instead of simply throwing everything in the dumpster. (Plus I could recycle them for some extra money.) Sadly though, every time I opened up the trash cans to see how full they were getting I would find that not only were people putting things in the wrong bins but they where also filling the bins up with random garbage like left over pizza crusts and used baby diapers :(
Then one day on "trash day" I was out "patrolling" the neighborhood and looking for recyclables, and I saw that someone's trash can was literally overflowing with beer cans, so I walked up to the trash can and started collecting all the cans. But as I was doing it a police car that was driving by pulled over beside me and then a police officer got out of the car and told me that I couldn't take anything from people's trash cans because once the trash is placed on the curb it is officially "government property" and only the city garbage trucks are allowed to take it. "That's kind of silly." I thought to myself but didn't dare say out-loud. The cop was very big and intimidating looking so I just apologized to him and walked back home.
Then a few days later I was picking up cans and bottles along the side of the road and the same police officer pulled over beside me and this time he told me that I couldn't pick up trash that was littered along the street because it was taking away jobs from city workers who get paid to clean the streets. "Oh come on!" I said out-loud because of how ridiculous it was, and unfortunately I offended him and he started yelling at me and saying that if he caught me doing it again he would give me a $500 fine.
So I was basically "fired" from my job of recycling cans and bottles for money, and because recycling had been my only source of income for a while I realized that without it I would eventually have to get a job somewhere in order to keep my apartment. (But who in the world would want to hire someone like me, and who in the world would I actually feel morally OK about working for???)
I had recently gotten a new neighbor in the apartment right next to me who was from "Texas" and who insisted that everyone called him "Cowboy". He also dressed like a cowboy and wore a big cowboy hat and had cowboy boots that actually had spurs on them. (And I swear to God that he wore a belt buckle that was so big that it looked like he was wearing a pro wrestling championship belt!)
He also smoked about 2 packs of cigarettes a day and would always smoke right outside of his apartment, so if I wanted to leave my apartment I would first have to peek out my window to make sure that he wasn't outside smoking so I wouldn't get stuck having to talk to him. (Don't get me wrong, he was a really nice and loveable guy, but once he started talking to you it was very difficult to get away from him, and he was so loud when he talked that I wished he had a "volume button" that I could turn way down so that the whole neighborhood wouldn't hear him talking and become audience members to our conversation!)
My apartment lease was about to expire and although I didn't have a job I knew that if I didn't resign my lease I would lose my apartment and become homeless, so I was actually about to go to the rental office and sign a new 1 year lease, but as soon as I walked outside of my apartment "Cowboy's" apartment door opened and he came outside tugging on his belt and yelled loudly, "Howdy there neighbor!" and I quietly said, "Howdy" back to him as I nervously glanced around to see if any other neighbors were outside and looking at us. (Luckily I didn't see anyone else outside.) He then yelled, "Why don't you come on in and let me show you my place." (I didn't want to go inside his apartment, but I imagined that if we kept the conversation outside all of the neighbors were going to be secretly watching us through their blinds, so I accepted his invitation and went inside.)
His apartment was basically a shrine to "Wild West". He had several posters of the actor "John Wayne" on the wall, and at least a dozen real cactus plants growing in his apartment in flower pots which I thought were really cool. He also had an impressive (and intimidating) collection of weapons such as old fashioned pistols and Indian arrow heads, and next to his TV he had a HUGE collection of pro-wrestling video tapes so I asked him about it and he told me that he was the world's biggest wrestling fan. (But when he said the word "wrestling" he pronounced it like "rasslin".) He then asked me if I watched pro-wrestling and even though I didn't I said, "sometimes" just to be a polite guest and because I was kind of nervous about how he would react if I said "No".
He then asked me who my favorite wrestler was and I froze up because the only time that I had ever seen pro-wrestling was about 20 years earlier when I was a kid and I would visit my Grandparents. (My grandparents had cable television and my grandpa was a big wrestling fan.) I remember watching wrestling with my grandpa a few times as a kid and being amazed at the size of wrestlers like "Hulk Hogan" and "Andre The Giant", but I also remember thinking that it would be super embarrassing to admit that you were a pro wrestling fan because then the people who didn't watch wrestling would think that you believed that wrestling was real, and would therefore think that you were a really gullible person.
I also remembered that whenever I watched wrestling with my Grandpa it was on free TV and the shows would mostly just be hype to get the viewers to call in and order the big upcoming "Pay-Per-View" event. (The announcers would say things like, "Call your local cable company and tell them that you're a "Hulkamaniac" and that you want to watch "Hulk Hogan" team up with his friend "Brutus The Barber Beefcake" to battle "The Macho Man" and "Ravishing Rick Rude" live in your living room!" and I would be thinking to myself, "Oh my God, it would be so embarrassing to call the local cable company and tell them that!"
So I just told "Cowboy" that I preferred wrestling from back when I was a kid and that I hadn't watched any current wrestling in years. He told me that I didn't know what I was missing, and then he invited me to come over and watch "Smack Down" with him on the following night. I didn't want to do that so I lied again and told him that I was going to be out of town and visiting my parents the following day. He then offered to tape the show and then we could watch it the following night, so I lied yet again and told him that my dad was a big wrestling fan that I would probably watching it with him when I went to visit him.
Then after a few more hours of listening to him talk (mostly about pro-wrestling) it was getting dark outside so I told him that I had to wake up really early the next morning since I was going to my parents house, and I was finally able to get out of his apartment. (I have to admit that it was pretty interesting to see what his apartment looked like and to get to know him better, and while we were talking he told me that he was unemployed and searching for a job too.)
Because it was so late the rental office was already closed for the day, and I couldn't go to the rental office the following day because I had lied to "Cowboy" and told him that I was going to be out of town all day, and therefore I would have to stay inside my apartment all day and be totally quiet so he wouldn't find out that I lied to him. (And wouldn't try to "force" me to watch "Smack Down" with him.) So I figured that I would just go to the rental office and sign a new lease the morning after next once I got back from my appointment at the unemployment agency...
"THE UNEMPLOYMENT LINE"
Since I needed help finding a job I went to the "unemployment agency" on Friday morning, and after almost 2 hours of waiting in line it was finally my turn, but as soon as I walked up to the desk to be interviewed I suddenly heard a very loud and very familiar voice enter the building, so I turned around and saw that "Cowboy" had just walked in the building and he was standing at the end of the line and talking to everyone as if he had known them for years.
I quickly turned my head back around and started silently praying that he wouldn't see me because of how loudly he talked and how loudly he dressed! But then after a few minutes he spotted me and loudly shouted my name across the building, "LEE!" and then the whole building became totally silent and started looking at me. I then slowly turned around and gave him a forced a smile and a nervous wave, and then in front of everyone he enthusiastically asked me "DID YOU WATCH "SMACK DOWN" LAST NIGHT???"
I cringed with embarrassment over the fact that not only was everyone in the building staring at me but they all thought that I was a pro-wrestling fan too! I was so embarrassed that I got up and quickly walked out of the building while using one hand to lift my shirt up so that nobody could see my face, and while using my other hand to try to pull and stretch my shirt back down enough so that nobody could see my stomach!
As I was walking home I knew that I could never return to the "unemployment agency" now that everyone who worked there thought that I was a wrestling fan, and I also felt that I could never face my neighbor "Cowboy" again so I wanted to just move away. (But without any recent paychecks that could prove that I had a job and that I was earning a steady income I knew that no apartment complex would just let me move in, so I felt "stuck" where I was at, and I wasn't sure what to do next.)
When I got home I felt so desperate that I actually I went on-line and searched my "Spam" inbox to see if there was any truth to those e-mails that I would always get that claimed that you could make up to $10,000 a week simply by filling out on-line surveys, and I found an e-mail that had somehow ended up in my "Spam" folder that was entitled, "Do you still want to move to the tropics?" so I clicked on it out of curiosity and it said the following...
"Hello "Lee", my name is "Yves". I am a woman living in "Costa Rica". I found you on "fruitarian" website and found that you now looking for tropical land toa live. you can live with me in beautiful "Costa Rica" for trade work if you like want for help me with my garden 4 hours a day, after that we share the harvest."
I immediately wrote back to her and although her English was a bit hard to understand she was basically telling me that I could stay with her for free in "Costa Rica" if I agreed to do 4 hours of gardening work every day, and that we would share all of the food that we grew together. (Not only did I want to move to the tropics but I also really wanted to get into growing my own food, so this seemed like a total dream come true to me!)
She didn't have a profile picture so I had no idea what she looked like, but after writing back to her a few times I could tell that not only was she highly intelligent but she was also very "environmentally conscious", and deep down I got the feeling that not only were we going to become good friends, but I started to feel that maybe the reason that I had been single my whole like and the reason that I couldn't stop dreaming about moving to the tropics was because my "soulmate" was patiently waiting for me in Costa Rica, and it was my was destiny to go there and be with her...
My pessimistic mind then went into over-drive and started telling me all of the reasons that I couldn't just move to another country, but then I realized that there was absolutely no reason that I couldn't go...
- I didn't have any children.
- I didn't own a house or a car, and I could fit everything that I owned in a backpack.
- I was "independently healthy" and wasn't on any pharmaceutical drugs.
- I was completely debt free and didn't have any expensive habits like smoking, drinking, or gambling.
- I loved my family, but I never visited them, so it wouldn't be hard for me to live far away from them.
I was a "minimalist" with literally nothing to lose and this invitation was my chance to finally escape the "material world" and to live the life that I was destined for! It was all very sudden and I didn't know a lot about this woman, but I decided to be brave and to listen to my heart, so I used what little money I had left in the bank to book a flight to "Costa Rica".