Thursday, September 2, 2010

A blast of sunshine.

I'm post-call for the third day in a row. I've been awake for the past 20 hours, and have only slept 9 hours since Monday. I only have 4 hours off today before I have to leave for work again (see also: only 4 hours to sleep/study). But I aaaaaaabsolutely have to write before I attempt. (It's pretty nice to genuinely feel motivation to write again).

Since beginning night float, there's a new character in my life: the morning attendant at the hospital parking lot. I've never been LEAVING the parking garage at 9am before, so I've not previously made his acquaintance during my two years here. He looks about 70 years old, wears a big wicker cowboy hat, and always has a huge smile on his face. But that's not all. He doesn't just take your ticket and parking fare; rather, he chats you up about your day and your life outlook, and tells a select relevant anecdote. Literally, one spends 5 minutes at the parking window - even with traffic backed all the way up. And it's, like, the best 5 minutes of the day. You have to remember how many factors exist that drastically reduce the probability of my enjoying ANYTHING at this moment: I'm exhausted. I'm grumpy. I'm hungry. I miss my bed. I miss my fiance. But after this insanely long, totally context-inappropriate encounter with this character, I am glowing. I smile the whole drive home. I smile the whole way from my car to my apartment, and up the stairs. I'm still smiling now.

And the thing is: in my old life in NYC, this would never fly. In my old life, the old me wouldn't even have wanted this to fly. Five minutes to chat with a stranger about a gift his son bought him 20 years ago in Montana, and where he bought it, and how he sent it to him across the country (today's topic, for example) while I've been up 20 hours and haven't eaten in 12, and know that I only have 4 hours off between now and 24 hours from now?

This guy is SO good at his job. He makes every moment count. I'm sure that I'm not the only one whose entire day is brightened by his presence. I may be exhausted and I may be living according to a completely absurd, largely unreasonable life schedule -- but I'm hereby going to do my very best to be this kind of presence to at least one person every day.

My fiance has talked of how content he'd be to work an oft-underappreciated, underpaid job like this. He says he'd be really happy to work in the service industry as a McDonald's cashier or Starbucks bartender, or a school janitor: he's talked specifically of encounters like I've described -- "moments" of unexpected connection, the opportunity to brighten someone's day like none other. The elitist and realist in me, mindful of both of our massive student loans (and their obstructiveness to our having a comfortable life and starting to have children within a few years of getting married) and the discrepancy between societal (and my) expectations of how he'd use his very expensive, private university-earned Master of Business Administration degree, compels me to be vehemently opposed to these thoughts. I feel guilty about that sometimes, even though he's only half-serious to begin with. I suppose it's a good thing that my realism balanced his enlightenment -- but it's still a good reminder, today, to focus on those "moments" that can literally change the course of a human being's existence. At least for the moment.

No comments: