I have a day job in an office where I sit at a desk in front of a computer. I’m a graphic designer. The computer is my business. I’ve heard tell that there was a time when things were designed without computers, but I can’t imagine how that would have been accomplished. Glue sticks and scissors are not tools of my trade.
When lunch time rolls around, I like to get up and leave my desk, never to return (yet I always do), just to break the day up and not make it seem quite so monotonous (as it actually is). I don’t get paid for lunch. I am at work for nine hours a day, but I get paid for eight. That means lunch is on my own time. I take my time every day.
If I don’t leave the building, inevitably, right when I’ve just put food into my mouth and I’m currently engaged in the act of chewing said food, a co-worker will sidle up to my desk and ask me something work related. I’ll glare at them until I’m able to swallow, whereupon I will inform them that it’s my lunch hour. They will answer with something like, “Oh, you don’t have to do it right now, but when you’re done eating can you do yadda yadda blah blah…”, followed by a five-minute tirade during lunch as to what I am required to do after lunch. Those five minutes of my lunch hour will never be seen again. A moment of silence, please.
During these wayward lunchtime hours, five of them per week, I roam around the vicinity to see what’s the what. Unfortunately, I work in an industrial complex and “the what” consists of nothing but industrial type buildings housing industrial type companies much like the one that employs me. In the city in which I work, apparently, there isn’t all that much industry since the whole complex is roughly three blocks situated in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Anything resembling a store is in “town”, about a mile or two away. This means that I have to drive around to see the sights. I usually never wander more than a five-mile radius of my place of employment.
A friend of mine says that civilization can be measured by how much concrete and how many 7-11’s are in a given area. There are two within spitting distance of my house. In the five-mile radius of my place of employment, there is much concrete, but only five 7-11’s. Five in five miles may seem like a lot of 7-11’s if you live in Bangladesh, but here in Los Angeles, that’s very uncivilized indeed. It might as well be the Wild West.
I visit these 7-11’s several times a week to get an ice-cold beverage in the summer or a piping hot one in the winter, and maybe a snack. In my midday travels, I rarely go to the same 7-11 twice in one week. I don’t plan it that way, that’s just the way it works out. But I visit each with enough frequency that all the employees recognize me. I’m usually greeted with a hello and a smile.
I’d like to think that it’s my sparkling wit is that draws their attention, but it’s probably my appearance. The area in which I work is densely populated by Latinos. By densely populated, I mean that Latinos make up probably 98% of the zip code. Non-Latinos are an anomaly. I am not Latino.
In fact, I am taller than most of the other patrons, I’m blonde, I have visible tattoos, I wear whatever I feel like wearing to work (no dress code), I have a partially shaved head, but most conspicuous of all, my Nordic skin is ridiculously white. I don’t tan; I just burn instead. I have a friend who is an albino and my skin is only a shade or two darker than his. I went to the beach a week ago and was aghast to discover that the sand was actually darker than my legs. Anyway, when I walk into a 7-11, I tend to stand out like a glowing, blonde snow fairy without the wings and glitter.
For the most part, I don’t even notice the looks that I seem to draw, but sometimes I just don’t feel like being the object of stares. Sometimes, I’d like to blend in, but because fate is a twisted bitch, those are the days when I seem to draw the most attention.
One day, I was at one of the five 7-11’s, the one where the woman works. While I was waiting for the man in front of me to finish his transaction, a guy in line behind me said, “Fuck! A white girl!? First time I’ve seen a guera around here!” to which I replied nothing as if I was a deaf, glowing, blonde, snow fairy. It was my turn to pay. I pulled out my ATM card and ran it through the little machine. The guy behind me said, “Damn, she got money, too!” Why? Because I have a bank card? Because I am white and paid for my $5 transaction with a bank card, all of a sudden, I have money? I wanted to respond “Where?!” but I let it go. The kindly 7-11 lady gave me a look, which was half apologetic and half fearful. I flashed my best impression of a genuine smile at both of them and walked out.
One of the other 7-11’s usually has a guy camped out in front of it. This guy always wears a white dress shirt, a cheap black tie and black pants, and he carries a clipboard. I figured him for a pollster, a vacuum salesman or a religious salesman. He never approaches me. Occasionally, he will say “good afternoon” and open the door for me, but most of the time we just ignore each other’s existence. I’ve often been curious as to what he’s peddling and why he would be allowed to bother the customers outside on a regular basis, but not curious enough to ask.
One day, I pulled up and clipboard guy was talking to a taller, younger man decked out in much the same apparel. I didn’t think much of it. I went inside, got my beverage and left. As I was walking to my car, clipboard guy approached me. He said, “Good afternoon. Would you care for some reading material?” and tried to hand me a copy of The Watchtower. Aaaaaaaah, mystery solved. As I said, “No, thanks” and got in my car, I had a twinge of pity for Mr. Clipboard. I assume that the other man was his boss and was probably upbraiding him for not giving away his quota of religious propaganda or whatever it is he’s required to do, but that abated quickly as I thought that Mr. Clipboard should really just get proper a job.