When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
~ Jimi Hendrix
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IN THE TRENCHES
1 July 2004
You know how there are people who cross your path in your life, with whom you may have very brief, very intense relationships and then never see again for a long time? Then you may have a chance encounter when you least expect it. Instantly youre mentally back in the moment, at the time of that original intense encounter.
I remember several years ago--oh 15 or 20 years ago, maybe--when I had such an encounter in the produce section at Luckys Supermarket. Over the grapefruit display, I saw a woman with whom I had worked for a year or two, a very intense experience.
It was The Argus, a left-wing free newspaper published by a guy named Bill Dripps.
I dont know how long I worked for Bill, but the newspaper ran on a rapidly unraveling shoestring and there were some very "creative" measures used to keep us going. I worked nights and learned about laying out a newspaper, how to do paste-up, how to develop stuff, and all sorts of skills I havent used since, but at the time it was a great learning experience.
But Bill was...an experience.
He finally ran out of money and myself and his other employee were out of jobs overnight. I got possession of the IBM Selectric typwriter to help pay off my bounced paycheck.
It was several years later when I ran into the other woman who worked for Bill during those tumultuous months. It was instantly as if the years fell away and we were standing there again in the upstairs office of The Argus, wondering where our next paycheck was coming from. We stood there exchanging inane "how are you?" "what are you doing now?" comments. We never really had anything in common and yet we had been in the trenches together. We were comrades in a war, meeting years later after living in peacetime and intellectually we were bonded in our foxhole memories.
I had another such encounter recently in the meat department of Safeway (why is it always supermarkets?).
I was standing there trying to decide whether I wanted to try out a new package of Italian meatballs (I didnt) when suddenly there she was.
She looked just the same as the last day Id seen her. Short. Petite. Long brown hair and flashing eyes. She was talking on a cell phone. Our eyes met.
I desperately wanted her to say "Hi, Bev--remember me?"
Id say: Of course I remember you. Have you humiliated anybody lately? Have you brought anybody to tears lately?
How are things going in my old office? That office I wasnt "qualified" to manage, even though Id been doing it for two years. That office that couldnt wait to get rid of me now, even though it took six months to find the first of the several managers who have succeeded me, none of whom has stayed as long as I did. (How about that guy who didn't even last through orientation? Did he have all the credentials I didn't?)
Did you know that I went on to manage another office? And that I did it all, including acting as medical assistant, another job I wasnt qualified for?
So how are things, Bitch?
(Bitter? Who me?)
I hadnt thought about her in years. But there she was.
I really wanted her to say something, but I also didnt want her to say anything. She looked in my direction. I looked through her.
My brain raced as I walked around the supermarket. I was back in that office again, crying, as she and her cohort told me repeatedly how unskilled I was. How I couldnt do the job. How "nobody wants you in this job." Remembering, I could feel my stomach churning as I got up and promised them they'd have my resignation in the morning. They had completely destroyed my self esteem in 30 intense minutes.
Oh yes, I remember you very well. Bitch.
I wonder if she remembered me. She must have. We passed each other three other times as we both wandered around the aisles, filling our shopping carts with dairy products and veggies and cereal and toilet paper.
Each time she turned the corner and found me standing there, she quickly averted her eyes, turned around and headed in the other direction.
Like my co-worker from The Argus, my former supervisor and I were both in the trenches together too. Only we were in opposing foxholes, firing at each other. Im the one who walked away with the war wounds.
This is the fenced-in dog park where I walked Sheila yesterday