Years ago, I was working as a leasing agent in a large apartment complex earning $7 per hour. While busy at work, I had the good fortune to entertain the maintenance department who stood over the counter blowing cigarette smoke in my face and, in a display of machismo on my first day of work, a Baptist preacher, the manager’s husband, asked if I had made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. When he whipped out his 357 Magnum to shine it up, I said, why, yes, of course I had.
I couldn’t understand many of the potential renters because of the colloquial language, abridged sentences and three syllable words narrowed down to one. But Samurai Leasing Agent was agreeable to a fault and often able to convince the prospect that the 25 year old apartments featuring gold shag carpeting came equipped with such modern conveniences as stove, fridge, garbage disposal and even a dishwasher. It was 50s television at its best.
That was 1997. Today I sit in my own office temping for a few days and editing and proofreading copy for the marketing department of a credit union in palm-drenched Boca Raton. Easy jazz is the only noise. No one within a 100-mile radius is allowed to smoke. And everyone acts like a grown-up. The kitchen offers food, sodas, tea and coffee and I earn double what I earned up in Georgia.
Last night, my friend, Linda, called to tell me how sad she was because it was Valentine’s day and it was over a year since she broke up with her soul-mate. I told her that two years ago while still living in Georgia, I broke up with a man I loved dearly. It had been a five-year relationship. I said, “You know, he was never great at gift giving, but he’d always call and wish me a Happy Valentine’s day; then he’d say, “Why don’t you come down to see me at the jail?” Or sometimes he’d ask me to drive to Columbus to celebrate Valentine’s day with him at the state mental institution.
“Oh,” she said, “that’s so sad.”
“Not at all. All my exes were cons.”
Now I’m lapping up the luscious words – no one standing over me blowing smoke in my face or ordering me to make Jesus my Lord and Savior. Here an elegant preppie is asking me to read documents for clarity, style and typos. Here, I am no man’s chattel, making me eager to do more. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed this morning. I felt like the young girl I was in 1965 walking along Leopoldstrasse in Munich, all dressed up with a wide smile. When you do what you love and get to be who you are, you own yourself. You own your life.