“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Wednesday, March 26, 1997. I used to look at posts from my old blog that were twenty years old. Now… I’m looking at posts I wrote a quarter-century ago.
May I check your oil, ma’am?
I’ve been issued a new lab coat at work. We have to wear flame resistant clothing in the plant, the chemists wear these blue coats instead of uniforms. When mine came it had my name on it. White stitching on a little blue label, “Bill.” The guy who brought it told me that I could cut the label off, but I thought I’d let it be. It’ll help keep the darn thing from getting “borrowed” during the night shift.
I went out to buy lunch, I’m too busy, so I was going to bring it back to eat at my desk. I went out to the little sandwich shop for a “Californian” – avocado, lettuce, cheese, in a pita. It was a nice day, but cool, so I kept my lab coat on. The girl took my order and then said, “The name, it’s Bill isn’t it?” I had a moment of confusion over how she knew my name, suddenly I realized that she read it off my coat. I was yanked back twenty three years, I was a teenager again, working at a gas station, with my first name on my uniform. I looked at the girl behind the counter, she was looking at me with that look, the look you give someone that’s making minimum wage, and will always be making minimum wage.
People used to look at me like that all the time when I was pumping gas. I was in college at the time, only working over the summer or on holidays, but they didn’t know that. I’d usually have school books with me, I’d study between cars, trying to get a jump on the next year. There was a blackboard inside the station, It was usually covered with equations, formulae, but nobody noticed that (or recognized what it was). Occasionally a customer would give me a little lecture, “Son, you need to be thinkin’ about what you’re going to do with your life.” I’d nod my head, ring up their gas (I could gas six cars, remember all six amounts- dollars and gallons, their license tag numbers, and what person went with what car, I’d worked out a mnemonic system, I could gas and charge everyone without asking any questions, only a few people noticed that). Of course I had plans, I was getting an education, this gas station job and its three bucks an hour was a part of it, but only a part.
Of course, after all these efforts, after all my sound and fury, here I am, middle aged, still wearing my name over my breast.
I think I’ll cut that label off.
And now, a piece of flash fiction for today: