I was hired for my current job the way almost everyone there is: you are told it is a favor. They’ve never said so, but I’m almost positive that the last three people to hold my job were told that it would be a temporary favor to a friend, in my case for a few scant weeks in the summer. I didn’t blink an eye when asked to begin work a few months earlier, to get familiar with the office and its goings-on, but after about two weeks it was pretty clear that I was here for summer and beyond, probably for life. I suspect that is how it is for everyone who started working in this office as a favor – by the time you feel the walls closing in, it is already too late.
When I took the job, I anticipated many things – helping out people I’d known for years, doing something in the afternoon, and getting paid, just to name a few. I did not anticipate, however, the semi-constant barrage of disturbing, disgusting, and bizarre stories, sayings, and offhand comments from the people waiting in the lobby.
Anything said in the lobby in a normal tone of voice can be overheard as clearly as a bell from my office, and sometimes these people seem almost to be bellowing. I can’t help but listen, when it’s late afternoon on a slow day, shuffling papers provides only so much distraction from the endless litany of psychosis sitting what must be a mere four feet away.
This test of my endurance, not included in my job description, rapidly came to be known amongst my nearest and dearest as “The Parade of Deranged Hillbillies”. Insensitive? Perhaps. But nonetheless accurate. One pre-teenage girl sat for ten minutes telling my mother of a late-night trip to the emergency room after one of her seemingly innumerable siblings almost severed his thumb with a large knife at a sleepover.
“What I want to know,” my mother ranted later in our kitchen, “Is what that child was doing in the middle of the night to almost cut his finger off!” My mother often rants in italics, except, interestingly, when she writes. Her written pieces seem almost completely free of italics, but she speaks in them a great deal.
I turned from the pot of water I was helping to boil with my stares, and looked her directly in the eye. “You know what it probably was,” I said seriously. “A terrible moonshining accident.” (more…)