Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No condescension. please.

This is an essay I wrote a few years ago while I was still working as a cable splicer. During that time, I often wrote about "things that got to me today" whether they made me angry, happy, moved, whatever. I'll be posting them every so often, to get some old essays out of the drawer and up on the screen. Enjoy, and may us all try and remember we are in this world together.


I work for a utility company. I drive a big, white, dirty truck and get dirty every day. I don’t like my job, but appreciate that I have one. I attend college so I can someday, leave my job to do something I enjoy. For now though, it is a job that pays half of the bills my husband and I have to provide for our family.

Today, while working out of my big, white, dirty truck, getting my jeans and work boots equally dirty, I encountered a woman on the sidewalk. She, this woman, got to me enough that I am writing this essay about her.

I was working at a location at the entrance of a very nice, elite if you will, single family home community. In order to perform my job most efficiently and out of the way, I had to temporarily park my truck in a way that blocked the sidewalk. The city will not allow me to take up a lane on the main road. If I park in the narrow, one-way entry to the fancy subdivision, I would block large vehicles, delivery trucks and school buses. I don’t want to park on the subdivision’s landscape at it’s entrance, for it’s maintenance manager would surely run me off. So, block the sidewalk it is, only temporarily. I’d be sure to hurry.

There was quite a bit of foot traffic, all very friendly. Some smiling, saying “hello.” I would apologize for blocking the walk. “No problem, you’re just fine” they would say, and then quickly walk around my big, white, work truck.

If they stepped to the right around the truck, they would walk on dry grass. To the left were wood chips framing the entrance sign to the neighborhood. There was no mud, not a ditch, not a rock cliff or a bowl of quick sand, just grass and wood chips.

So this brings me to the woman who inspired me to write down the events of the day. She was blonde, casually but expensively dressed, kind of the $300 version of a sweat suit, with white tennis shoes. She wore her hair in a conservative bob and was about my age, mid thirties. I don’t know another thing about her other than she had walked out of this high end housing community where I was working.

She quickly looked me over in my dirty jeans and boots, and as snootily as anyone I have ever heard, she loudly whined “Do you have to block the sidewalk?”

She was visibly irritated. I quickly, and in my very professional utility voice, apologized and started to briefly explain my parking options when she interrupted–really fuming- “well, it makes it so difficult! I shouldn’t have to walk around you!”

It was as if to say, you are just a dirty utility company worker and I am a stay -at- home- whatever on my nine o’clock power walk and because of you, my $200 tennies are going to have to step off of the pavement. (Dry grass or wood chips, not certain death).

I am not sure why she was so unfriendly, so condescending. Maybe her well- to -do life on the inside of her upper scale home isn’t as pretty as it is on the outside. Maybe her dog died, or she’s got a cold, or her marriage sucks, or maybe her Lexus is in the shop. Truthfully though, I’ll feel better not to judge her, make assumptions.

It is true, I am a blue collar utility worker with a big truck and dirty work clothes. But I am a stay at home mom and wife too, it’s just that that part of the day doesn’t start for me until 3:30 pm. I too, pick up my kids from school, spend quality time with them, help with homework, give baths, cook dinner, clean house, do laundry, play in the sand box, trek the kids to wrestling, football, family reading night, music concerts and book fairs.

Speaking of my kids, my boys are well adjusted, well rounded, affectionate, funny and in the tops of their classes. They have many friends, all of which I know.

Oh, and after the kids are in bed, I do MY homework so I can complete my degree, because unbeknown to the lady on the sidewalk, I have a brain. And of course, I am extremely fortunate to have a helpful, understanding husband who wants me to succeed, who wants to relieve any stress I have in any way that he can. And that, my elite friend, is just Monday through Friday.

So I guess my point is this: What really got to me today? A woman who judged me solely on my appearance, my occupation and the fact that my truck was going to move her twelve inches off of her daily power walk route. She was rude and inconsiderate to my situation. In her world, she was the only one that mattered and screw anyone else and what they might need.

It comes down to this. I don’t like or respect rude, mean people. The world would be a lot better if people were nice and considerate to one another, no matter their differences, whether it be race, gender, or like today, social class. I do believe I am a happier woman than the one I met on the sidewalk I am thankful to have such a good life, and hope one day she can find a good life too. Maybe then she, too, will be happy, and not feel obligated to look down, let alone speak down, on others.