Looking Out for One Another
Weathering the storm
Below was a Facebook post by my friend, Grant Chastain. It is heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time. I’ve reprinted it here for those who can’t see Facebook or choose not to visit the site.
It’s 6:57am on a Tuesday, and I’m just arriving at work, to do a job I’ve loved more than most of the ones I’ve had.
There are days when I’m reminded of past jobs. My last job, in particular. A soul-crushing grind of a place with bad management and worse prospects. I remember that the happiest moments I would have were at 4:01 on Friday afternoons, when I was the furthest away from returning to it. The nagging sorrow of Saturday afternoons, when I realized that time was inexorably marching like Death towards going back. The anxiety filled Sundays when the clock taunted my every effort to make the day last a little longer.
This job isn’t like that. This employer values me and my ideas. This place’s employees are happy, and genuinely want to help our customers. Help each other. I like them.
It’s 2:59pm on a Tuesday. I’m being informed I will need to work from home for the foreseeable future. I say goodbye to my coworkers with a joke about seeing them again in a few weeks when “we’re all dressed like Mad Max and using bottle caps as currency.” Mild laughs. This sucks. These are good people making the best of a bad situation. Hard workers. Good friends.
It’s 3:35pm on a Tuesday, and I’m replying to my wife via text. She is concerned because businesses are closing their doors to outlast this, and the Cafe is among them. We discuss ideas, but small businesses are difficult to maintain in the most ideal conditions. I want to help, but I feel helpless, like so many others must.
It’s 4:15pm on a Tuesday and I’m stopping at a local church to vote. The man inside helps me correct my address because I’ve moved since the last election cycle. I pull up my last bank statement to corroborate the address that’s now on my driver’s license, and he marvels at the young man in the picture. “Been awhile, eh? Eeehhh, you’re still looking like a million bucks!” He laughs. I chuckle. He asks if I’d be interested in volunteering for a future election, but I decline, saying I’m not as heroic as he is. He laughs again. “Definitely don’t need any heroes. But if you change your mind, we could use good people.” I’m not sure if I’m one of them either. I cast my preference for a Blue candidate in a very Red state, insert my ballot into a machine, and pick up a silly little sticker on the way outside the door.
It’s 4:45pm on a Tuesday, and I’m walking into my neighborhood Wal-Mart to pick up groceries. I am doing this because I know how bad it will be, and I don’t want Missy to have to do it. To see how bad it has become.
It’s 4:56pm on a Tuesday, and a voice carries through the aisles that they are selling six packs of toilet paper and double rolls of paper towels, one per family. I stand in a line to get them that takes me the better part of 15 minutes. By the time I get to the end, the paper towels are gone. I grab a sixer of Cottonelle and think to myself that this is what passes for lucky.
It’s 5:11pm on a Tuesday, and I take stock of what I’ve managed to find. A gallon of milk and cereal. Chicken strips. Bagels. Cheese. Sugar snap peas. Ice cream. I missed on more items than I hit, but I’m nonetheless grateful. As I make my way to checkout, I gaze across aisles at disappointed faces, all looking furtively for the necessities that will feed, clothe, wash, and disinfect a family. There’s a sense of quiet desperation there. This place that is so symbolic of The American Fucking Dream. It’s a mausoleum for the very idea of achievement.
It’s 5:45pm on a Tuesday, and I’m checking out. My ice cream has some melted chocolate on top, so I ask the cashier for a wipe so I can make it less sticky. She apologizes that all she has is a paper towel, ad if that would be a dealbreaker. I tell her that that’s not only fine… It’s ideal. She says I have a good outlook on things. It’s not an easy compliment to take, considering I know how sad I feel inside about it all.
It’s 5:51 on a Tuesday, and I’m crying in the car. Wal-Mart isn’t Disneyland — for one thing, it’s still open — but the sorrow I’ve seen in that store will not leave me. The faces of people who are simply trying to soldier onward. Put food on their tables. Buy medicine for their children. Care for their babies and elderly. This country — this sick, and sickened, country — trying to deal with conditions that could have been prepared for by the people we trusted to lead us. Less than two hours ago, I put the name of an individual into a machine because I trust that this candidate won’t put reelection ahead of humanity. I trust that they will have strong words, and swift responses. I trust that they will defer to those with more knowledge on topics they know little about. I trust that this individual wouldn’t make secret deals to secure a vaccine to a terrible virus so it could be solely used by — and profited on — by he and his family. I trust these things because I must. I have to believe that there are better men and women to lead us. And in the meantime, I will weather this storm, like so many others are. And I will cry when I must, like now. But it breaks my heart sometimes.
It’s 6:23pm on a Tuesday, and I’m driving down Alma School blaring Rise Against’s “Satellite” at much louder volumes than is necessary, tears stinging my cheeks. I pull into a Boston Market to get dinner for us on the way back. When it comes time to get drinks, my favorite lemonade is gone. I catch the attention of the manager, and ask if she has more. She returns three minutes later and replaces the cartridge. While she’s replacing the nozzle, we share this exchange:
“I can’t tell you what this means to me. I had kind of a crappy day today. I don’t always know what I’m gonna get when I come here, but I always know what I want to drink. You made my day just now.”
“Well I’m glad! It’s the least we can do. Look out for one another. And that lemonade IS good!”
It’s 6:52pm on a Tuesday. I’m going home now to deliver my bounty and see my wife.
Look out for one another tomorrow. And hopefully, the next day. And the day after that.
That’s how we’ll all get through this.