Paul Geromini

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Thursday 16 October 2014

An Example of Things Working Out

Have you ever had plans to meet someone and got there really early. Not like 10 or 30 minutes early, but an hour or two. Does not matter why, maybe you got the time wrong, or vastly over estimated how long it would take to get there. What would you do while you waited? Would you get a snack, try and find something to read, sit around aimlessly? Me, I like to walk around wherever I am. Maybe it is a big building with a lot of corridors. Perhaps it is a school ground with some forest paths. Regardless, it is time for an unplanned constitutional. Maybe I go left, maybe I go right. Perhaps I take this path, perhaps I take the other. I will not quote Frost at you, but you get the idea. Sometimes I see people, sometimes I do not, depends where I am. Not the point of the exercise. I am just burning time waiting. And yet, something else is at play here. The walk is time limited. You have an end time at which your wanderings must stop. What if that were not true, what if you just kept walking and saw everything you could? What would change? Maybe you would see something unexpected or maybe, low odds that it might be, you would change? This is a little story of how little things changed me.

Back in University (sometimes it is fun to be pretentious) a few days before my first undergraduate class there was a club fair. A kind of menagerie where people convince you to join their clique. The school had a pretty clever play of only serving lunch that day next to the club fair. So I found myself eating some Aramark 'food' and poking around the tables. Nothing much of interest to me. I got hit up to join the Society of Black Engineers. Which got the academic intent right, but maybe missed some other clues. We live in a color blind society though so I cannot fault them. Things were pretty much a dud so I started to work my way back to my dorm. Oddly though, while I was making my exit, I spotted a friend from high school poking around a club table. This was surprising for two reasons:

1. This friend was a year older than I, yet remembered me.

2. I had no idea he went to this school.

It was a pleasant surprise, serendipitous for those of you studying for University Challenge. There was some minor talking had. It was a hot day. He was actually there to promote a club, The Society of Physics Students (presumably all college clubs are societies). Not that he was a major player in the organization. I suspect, like me, he was there for lunch and wanted to eat near some people he knew. Regardless, it was fun, speaking of things past and present. The club was running some simple experiments, playing with a spinning wheel to show angular momentum, physic things. They gave me the first meeting date, whatever, I did not really care.

A week goes by, turns out I do care. New school, new Paul. One of those points turned out to be true. So I am looking for the room, a little before the meeting time, and the thing about Umass Lowell is they named these two building next to each other Olsen and Olney. Incredibly easy to get missed up. So, expectedly, I go to the wrong room first. The tip off was it was an office, and the second clue was it was empty. I go to the other building and try the same room number over there. I give the door a tentative push, it is locked, key card reader outside. How could it be this room? Why would it be locked? At least the other one was open. So that was an anticlimax, but I know know the building names a little better. I am walking away with my back to the door when it opens which I was not expecting to happen.

"You looking for SPS?"

"Yes"

"Cool"

That is not the exact conversation, but it is the intent. I became an SPS member a handful of minutes later even though I was not studying physics nor taking a physics class. Then I made some new friends who would be one of the few constants for my next four years. The name of the club was SPS, but it was more of a social than academic organization. Very useful to know people who were more experienced than I in many fields. They kept me in the loop for things to do and kept me sane. I remember the dinners we would have. Hour long affairs, people coming and going. Leaving far after closing time. I never ate and talked so much in a cafeteria before. Six years on the contact has lessened with distance, but we still drop notes on occasion.

Now consider one point in this story. The locked door. What if I had not pushed it? No one would have know I was there, I would not have been in SPS, and my life would be lesser for it. Now how often does that 'what if' happen? I got lucky this time, but I am sure I missed the connection more often than not.

Just got to keep walking I guess.

Thursday 29 May 2014

I Miss Market Basket (Sometimes)

Couple years ago (six or so to be more exact) I was dirt broke. Never was much of a spender. The less charitable might have used the term miser. Still when you make zero dollars you can only ever go down. It was this point in time where I realized I would need a job. I shot high with my first few attempts. Gamestop seemed like a good fit. I had a friend who worked there, could always use a discount on games, I am knowledgeable about the subject. I had an interview (which is farther than some other people I knew got), but no call back. I moved on. I know some other people who worked at the local CVS and BJs. Got nothing back from my online CVS application so that was bust. Got an interview at BJs, but I seem to recall saying I preferred to work alone. Many people have called this a 'poor move' which seemed to be accurate as I never got a return call. I tried some local independent bookstores, but go no bites from them. It was this desperate state of affairs that forced me to consider the grocery store business. I had thought about this before, but I was admittedly unexcited about the idea. Here is a quick rundown of how I would have rated part time jobs back then:

1. Paid to do nothing

2. Gamestop

3. Bookstore

....

567. Test subject for radiation experiments

568. Live fire missile target

569. Grocery store

560. A life of destitution and poverty

Granted it is not at the bottom of the list, but it comes in pretty close. That said, bank account was trending toward zero and Anime Boston was coming up. Man has got to make ends meet yo. Why Market Basket? Why not the closer Shaws or Stop and Shop? No real particular reason, a person I knew who worked there suggested it to me. The thing to know about Market Basket is they are mad cheap. As in we do not run a website we are so cheap. As in we print half sized job applications because the full size application would cost to much. That is the kind of place they are. The kind of place I worked at for four years. The kind of place I wore a tire, a button up white shirt, fancy pants, and dress shoes. I remember cleaning up an oil spill once in my nice white shirt once. Half the difficulty is in staying clean for a day. So why do I miss it? What could there even be to miss? Long tedious hours, a pay slightly above the minimum, constant interaction with people. This is the place I got yelled at because a man wanted a few extra dollars off on a cooked chicken, a place where one day I cut my hand to pieces picking up shattered glass, a place where I spent all day sweating it out pushing carriages in that hot Bellingham summer. My job now is luxurious, a quiet uninterrupted climate controlled environment to play with digital legos. And to think they pay me to do it too. How could I even think to compare what I have now with what I had before? Yet it is true, my job now lacks what I had before: joyful communal torture.

I miss the struggle of trying to last through a day. The pure stress of not being sure if you can stand one more hour, but pulling through anyways. It is not just that however, I miss struggling together with everyone else like me. Market Basket was stratified into two classes of employees: long term lifers and short term teenagers. The split of about 200 employees was about 40% lifers and 60% teenagers. That is not the split where I work now. It is more of an even breakdown of ages. Back then it was thrilling to work with so many people like me. All at near about the same place in life, similar hopes and dreams. There is an inexpressible joy in struggling together with everyone. We were challenged together and did it together everyday. It sounds incredibly sappy to write that, but since leaving I have not found that feeling again. It is probably for the better too, I can only endure so many stressful days. But you cannot replace those frighteningly strong burst of comradery. It is what motivated me to fill in other people's shifts, what kept me sane, what kept me still working.

I work for myself now, but back then I worked for others.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Came and Went

Too much navel gazing and poorly thought out arguments on this blog recently. The writer is not changing anytime soon, so let us try and lighten the mood.

This happened a couple years ago. Not sure what year exactly, probably 2011. I was at Anime Boston just coming out of the AMV viewing with my sister and the rest of the group. The viewing is in a big warehouse shaped room. Specifically 'Exhibit Hall D' at the Hynes Convention Center. The room has a max capacity of 2837 and was pretty full. As happens in these places when everything is done the exits became clogged as everyone filters out. So I am with the group slowly making progress towards the door. Not much space to be had, a real elbow to elbow situation. We are jostling forward when some guy reaches out from in front of us and hands me business card. I took it on impulse. It looked and said something close to this:

I am usually not one for pithy statements like this, but the act struck me as incredibly nice. Probably why it has stuck with me for so long. It seems odd to give a stranger such a personal compliment. Especially with a face like mine. Wonder if he was just passing them out to everyone or if there was some particular reason why he gave it to me. Maybe I looked gloomy. Maybe he just wanted to get rid of it. I stared at that card for a while walking slowly toward the entrance. Card said to pass it own so I obeyed. Right behind me was a tall striking women. Long dark hair, straight clear face, neutral expression. I remember holding the card in my left held and angling it back behind me to give to her. She took it and looked down never breaking her expression. I turned back up and into the crowd. There was a bit of a break so I moved up and no doubt lost her behind me. I never saw her again, wonder what she thought? Never would have been able to get away with that outside of a convention. Especially since I usually look homeless. Probably why I keep going back, keep hoping for one brief interaction like that.