Tuesday, June 5, 2012

organizing. an introduction.


We convene in the hotel parking lot, loosely filing outside after the morning meeting, which probably should have been held out here if they wanted anyone to pay attention. Cooped in a room together like that, it's a competitive stand-up show among those of us supposed to be listening.  The morning mountain air hits my face and I amble toward the group. It's a chain reaction of flame to cigarette tip, and we form a broken circle of sorts, holding one arm lazily outside the ring and then up to our mouths, again and again, like a white trash version of the hokey pokey. The Holiday Inn Express sign looms above, more unimpressive than usual against the brilliant greens of the hills that envelope us. Still, they've put me in far worse hotels in less desirable places, and this is the only hotel for miles and miles.

I mostly listen as the true believers bitch about the rental place trying to give them foreign pieces of shit and the lack of smoking rooms in our current domicile. Somehow, the hierarchy of time put in is done due justice and the most deserving are actually the ones that snatched up both of the rooms in the hotel that accommodate our bad habit. I don't mind, I don't smoke indoors, but I keep that to myself. We all smoke. If nothing else than as a way to harness time, keep track of it, race it to our death, or at the very least urge it along. It gets lonely.

I feel out of place sometimes, holding my ground in this circle of mostly men, corrections officers and old steel mill workers. Some women too, sure, but not many close to my 22 years and not many with my yuppie upbringing or a freshly minted college degree. Sometimes it makes me feel lucky to have found a place among them, other times it makes me feel like a piece of meat, an offering, enticement. Not many young ladies doing this, I'm often reminded. Sometimes I can hear the anger in their voices, resentment that the union is hiring these ignorant kids based on a stupid piece of paper.  I get a lot of attention from my co-workers, not all of it welcome. I shake my head at the thought and it rattles and settles down. I focus on something else and make myself forget it was there in the first place. These are my brothers. I am part novelty, part wing man, part sister. We are family by union discourse and some other bond I can feel strengthening within me. 

We're dawdling and though I'm shifting from one foot to another, I'm used to it now, the standing around. I never used to amble anywhere under any circumstances. I used to talk fast and walk fast, a likely byproduct of a childhood spent trying to keep up with my mother as she wove through the supermarket aisles as if running a race. But I'm learning patience, slowly. The folks I'm after don't trust fast talkers. They don't like to be rushed. Learning the script and talking points isn't enough, and it stalls many young organizers out before they ever really get off the ground. You can't ramble it all out in a single string of jumbled words and be proud because you remembered them all. It's a dance, the nuance sometimes more important than the words. Not an easy lesson to learn, and not all can abide. Luckily fast learning is encouraged, and I don't like to disappoint.

We're on a blitz. That's what they call it when a bunch of us are brought together for a weekend or more, working in frenzies, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, putting in twelve hours or more in a day. It's extra work, sure, but it's a change to talk to someone other than Stella and to drink with someone other than myself in somewhere other than another unfamiliar bathtub. I'm flushed with excitement this morning at the faces, some new and some familiar now, that surround me.

Stella is my GPS and she's kind of a bitch. Sometimes she's the only thing that talks to me for entire days. We're all equipped with GPS's, they're our lifelines as we make our way over every type of terrain. They're our companions, too. But today we're working in pairs and I could jump for joy. I've been so lonely.


I hadn't felt right since last week. On the day in question, I was in the middle of nowhere, the hills covered in plush greenery further than I'd ever seen them go, and I lost satellite and cell service for most of the day. Still, I drove on. Some dull sense of duty to do my job prodded me forward, I guess. When I finally reached the house I was looking for, after a two and a half hour drive, I graciously eased my unused legs onto earth and wobbily strode to the front door of the trailer, emitting an air of grim accomplishment at finding the damn thing at all.  I repeated the name of the person I was looking for a few times in my head to be sure, and knocked then dropped my arms to my side, praising myself for remembering to relax my body language. I was still relatively new to the game at this point, after all.

My calm smile was greeted by the barrel of a shotgun. I never knew until that exact moment that the first thing to fall out of my mouth when it happened would be a joke. And fall it did. Right onto the mucky ground, leaving only white noise prickling in the air that floated between me and the gun. Something about being armed with nothing but good news and a name badge. I've never felt more thankful to have a door slammed in my face. I ran back to my car that day. Looking back, it probably wouldn't have helped, but I ran anyway.

Still shaking, I steered over to the side a few miles down the road and pulled out the sheet of paper brandishing the address that housed that long metal barrel and marked the man on that sheet a three. Three means don't bother and don't come back, they're not having any of it. I certainly wasn't going back.
I didn't even know if that was the person I'd been looking for. What a waste of half a day. And then I realized that I was more angry about wasting half a day than having my life threatened at gunpoint in the middle of nowhere, where no one would have found me.

I started laughing hysterically then, in disbelief that this was my life.  I laughed and laughed while tears traced shallow streams haphazardly down my face and I beat my steering wheel to dickens as I screamed along to the radio.  The rest of the week seemed relatively uneventful after that, though even after my hangover wore off I still hadn't felt quite right since then.


But today, today was a new day. Today was the blitz and everything was going to be fine because I was paired with Jeff Abbe, and that man had never met a stranger in his life.

No comments:

Post a Comment