I'd seen the Skateboard Pup, all scruffy nonchalance, sail past the big picture window of the restaurant a couple of times today. He glances in to take a measure of whether I'm busy or not. He seems to prefer this sort of drop-by system, and has had neither demand nor complaint on the occasions when, at other times, a whole day goes by and the business is such that I never become available. He hasn't called on the phone since that one time, the rest of our exchanges have been this sort of arranged accidental connection. I leave it be. Some of us have had bad experiences which give us good reason to bond with caution. I'm still learning his story, but I get the strong sense the Skateboard Pup's is one such tale.
It had been a typical morning and early afternoon of problems to solve and surprises to address. A clogged pipe. My kitchen manager forgot to order enough avocados. Two Vice Presidents and one Regional Manager "dropped by" for lunch. It was the first day of training for a newly hired manager, and I had all their beginning paperwork to get through, in addition to making their first day of work feel like a real welcome rather than "Your locker is this one. Here's your apron. Do what Pedro says for the afternoon." kind of thing. I hate that as a way to start someone off. (I like to put "Welcome So-and-so!" signs up all around the kitchen and make a big show of walking them around and introducing them to everyone. Believe me, I know how corny and ridiculous this sounds. I got into the practice of it a little while ago, when one morning on my way to work, with a new Manager to train, I was consumed with self-pity and anger as to why I had to have this extra crap on my plate. The ole' Resentment Engine was revving up, and it's deep growl was starting to drown out any other thinking -- as it always, always does, once it gets going. Fortunately, sitting there on the bus, knees jammed into the seatback in front of me, I had a moment of Divine Intervention, mentally speaking, and thought about the 3rd Step Prayer, and the St. Francis Prayer, and how hard a first day at work can be. What if this new hire was almost totally broke? What if they were completely broke? What if they had kids, or were close to eviction, or there were people depending on them? They HAD to make this job work! What a fearsome, high-stakes morning THEY were walking into if any of that was even half-way true! And there I was sitting on the bus in my metaphorical dirty diaper feeling put upon for just doing my job. I am embarrassed to say it, but that is not atypical of me sometimes. So I did the old contrary action thing, and rather than grouse in my head about having to train them I found an action I could do which would help change my thinking: Welcome signs. It had such a big effect -- bigger than I at first even realized -- that I do it with every new hire now. And today this particular new gal was touched by it, too, and even had me take a picture of her on her phone standing in front of one of the signs I'd made. For all of the openness and authenticity I've worked towards in my recovery I always feel a little strange inside when I see people so comfortable with their emotions, so free to be sentimental in front of strangers -- as rife with alcoholic sensitivity as I can be on the Bad Days I still see myself as rather guarded, and am fascinated by those who apparently naturally aren't.) All of which is to say that it wasn't till quite late in the day when I had a chance to sit down, and when I did I saw the Pup outside, leaning against the patio railing. I got up and went to get him.
Mr. SP: Come in. Come in. I'll buy you an iced tea or something.
Pup: No, let's talk out here.
Mr. SP: No, it's too hot out, I can't take it I've been running around all morning. Come on, I wouldn't invite you in if it was a big deal.
My restaurant -- or rather, the restaurant I run, it is most definitely not my restaurant -- is very casual, so it's not like he would be taking up a seat at someone's station or anything. His sitting at a table with me would be noticed by my team, but more because they are now idly curious about my oddities rather than anything else. For example, they just now found out my real age and are scandalized. They had me pegged as far younger than I am. I guarantee you, this has nothing to do with how I look. It is because they are almost all silly children who cannot fathom anyone much past thirty as having any life. You're either "around their age" or you're sort of in your thirties or you're "Old." Since I apparently didn't compute as "old" they lowballed their guesses to a ridiculous degree. And also since they are young and easily bored and I am still relatively new to most of them I am like an exotic creature where the evidence doesn't quite add up. My virtual absence on Social Media of any sort leaves them flummoxed when trying to be nosey. At least, that's what my Kitchen Manager told me recently.
Pup: I didn't want to, you know, be a bother or anything while you were at work. I don't want to cross any lines or anything.
Mr. SP: And I appreciate that. The way you're dropping by is fine -- hasn't been an issue. I am grateful that you're being sensitive to the fact I am at work. You can always call me to maybe pick a time to sit down away from here and we can...
Pup: Naw, this... this is ok if it's ok with you.
Mr. SP: Ok for now. But the way it works is we go through the book together, so eventually we'll need to meet someplace where we are both comfortable doing that.
I still couldn't completely get a read on this kid -- and when I say "kid" I am painting with a broad brush. He could be anywhere from very early twenties to very early thirties. His style was either authentic hipster chic or well put together young homeless guy; the type of homeless who still had enough game to regularly find a shower and get his clothes clean. Good teeth, clear skin, he feigned tough with his speech but the vocabulary and syntax gave away a good start somewhere along the way. Verbal enough to be well read, but only midrange on the vocabulary. Scruffy almost-beard and those stupid ear plugs which stretch the lobes out. Ooops, there's my age showing. His earlobe plugs were not crazy big like I've seen, but big enough to rule out certain kinds of jobs probably. I don't think Bank of America is down with the plugs yet, for example. He had the usual smattering of 21st Century tattoos, too, but not what I think of as "status ink." Not enough ink to say "I spent a whole lot of money to look this counter culture." Wait, are tattoos even counter culture anymore? Damn! Again my age encroaches!
Pup: So I was at a meeting the other night and the topic was being powerless.
Mr. SP: How many meetings a week are you going to?
I gave him what I hoped was a noncommittal look, but I think my noncommittal drifted south into nonplussed.
Pup: What? You think three is not enough? Man, that's like... c'mon! Three is a lot.
Mr. SP: Not really.
Pup: What? Come on!
Mr. SP: I went to a lot of meetings when I was new. I drank and got high every day -- the only days I didn't were the days I couldn't. So for me, going to a meeting every day made sense. I forget, how often did you...
Pup: You didn't forget. So far you remember every single thing I've told you. At least, every time something comes up you remember something I said.
I shrugged again.
Mr. SP: And so far you anticipate pretty well what I'm going to suggest and why I'm going to suggest it, so why exactly are we dancing about this.
His turn to shrug.
Mr. SP: Do as you choose, I'm not...
Pup: ... selling anything. Yeah, you keep saying that.
Mr. SP: Well I'm not. So do as you freaking well choose. But I think three meetings a week, given what you've told me about your history, is a piss poor...
Team Member: Excuse me, Mr. SponsorPants?
One of the kids at work had come up to the table.
Team Member: The plumber is on Line 2.
Mr. SP: Excuse me.
I got up and took the call. When I got done and looked over the Skatepup had taken off. Whatever else I was getting from this sponsee -- and I always get more than they do by the end of it, I assure you -- he was becoming my Master Class in being purely in the process, for however long, and staying completely out of trying to control the result.
Also, this kid was not the standard issue sponsee, so I was making sure I didn't get too attached.
Can you hear me lying to myself there?
Yeah. Me too.