by Monica Hall

It’s not that I’m a total slacker,

But I suppose I lacked the drive and ambition

to seek a high-powered corporate career.

I certainly had my 15 minutes of guidance,

In the form of a high school career counseling session.

Ms. Linden was quite sincere when she asked,

“Have you decided on your college major?”

“I’m not going to college” I answered matter-of-factly.

Ms. Linden was what I had considered a “cool” teacher.

It helped that she wasn’t a priest or nun.

Plus she had a bitchin macramé wall hanging

and rock artist poster that hung on the wall of her tiny office.

“Well your grades are decent and you’re eligible for financial aid” she added.

“Not interested” I yawned.

“I’ve been in school for 12 years” I said resolutely.

“13 years, if you count Kindergarten, which I of course do”.

Ms. Linden gently sighed as she doodled on a scratch pad.

“So then what are your plans following graduation?” she continued.

“I’m going to live at the beach” I said with utmost sincerity.

“And I expect to work for the phone company or maybe Edison”.

“Their secretaries dress sharp and I already took typing last year.”

“I see” said Ms. Linden, “Then, very well.”

You just can’t save everyone.

Looking ahead, I live five miles from the nearest beach.

Not exactly an ocean view, but I am fortunate to have a roof

that doesn’t leak, and an earthy patch to grow chilies and tomatoes.

True to my word, I have been an office worker for an eternity,

although my manner of “sharp” dressing is questionable.

The best part of having to work is the people you see each day –

those souls that you encounter in the halls and elevators, and lunch rooms.

They are not true friends, but the day-to –day characters that you never notice

until the day they are no longer around.

Folks like the young black guy who faithfully wears an Ohio State jacket,

whether it be rain or shine, dead of winter or a typical California summer day.

I address him appropriately: “What’s up Ohio?”

He smiles and nods, but his nature is shy, so he says nothing.

Our lobby security force in the form of two large Samoan men,

adds luster to an otherwise humdrum work day.

You can find them singing in their native Tongan when the mood strikes,

as beautiful and melodic two-part harmonies fill the atmosphere.

My favorite workplace character is Bob Seger.

I first met Bob Seger in the elevator.

He looked so out of place in slacks, a dress shirt and tie.

We smiled politely at each other then he said “hello”.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look and sound like Bob Seger” I asked.

“All the time man” said Bob then laughed heartily with a smoker’s hack.

Bob Seger and I met in 2008 at the time of the big economic downturn.

He gained employment in my building as part of a “welfare to work” program.

Another statistic, except he has a face and a family and a pony tail and a soul.

I see him eating his lunch from to time:

a peanut butter and jelly sammy, chips in a baggie and soda.

Not much of a lunch for a rock star.

“I like your ride” I said to Bob in our parking garage.

Bob’s car is a 70’s Country Squire station wagon with wood siding.

“It’s clean” I added.

“Take it!” says Bob.  “Try filling up this bad boy at $4.50 a gallon” he jokes.

“It ain’t easy on ten bucks an hour” he continues.

I notice the child’s car seat in the back and I feel a pinch of sadness.

“Shit” says Bob.  “I once worked as an engineer haulin in twice what I get now.”

“Oh well” smiles Bob.  At least I’m working and of course there’s this –

and Bob grabs his tie, then makes a hilarious gesture as if hanging himself.

Last month I saw Bob once again in the elevator.

He wore a very dapper pin striped suit, including dress shoes.

“Who died?” I teased.

“Hopefully my boss” says Bob.  “He thinks he’s doing us a favor,

by calling today a you-can-wear-jeans-day.  This here is my protest!”

We both start laughing and then I become serious.

“You know I have been calling you Bob Seger for years” I said.

“It’s never dawned on me to ask your real name, so WHAT is it?”

He smiles widely and shrugs “My name is Bob”,

and as the elevator door opens Bob struts away, shiny shoes and all.

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