I have experienced the worst summer job in the history of hot weather. I was a street canvasser.
Let me amend that statement, I was a street canvasser for a grand total of 8 hours, 3 of which were spent preparing me for the humiliation that is street canvassing. In my 5 hours of supreme vulnerability, I managed to convince 2 people to each donate 20 dollars to the ACLU. Again, I need to amend that statement (I sense a trend here). I convinced one person to donate 20 dollars, the other 20 came from a friendly Jamaican woman who worked in the Chase bank that I was standing in front of who, when I informed her as to why I was standing on the street with a clipboard, offered to give me 20 dollars if I started an account with Chase. I gladly accepted. Simply the stat that I managed to stop only 13 people in 5 hours, 2 of whom actually felt compelled to donate money should send anyone a message about the nature of this job. And I have a winning smile.
For 5 hours I became that high pitched whining on the streets of New York that you ignore on your way to more important things. You would think that I would have some compassion for the sad souls who struggle to wince out a smile with every "Hi, do you have a minute for the environment?" Yet all I can say when they flag me down and cast aside my fairly blatant attempt at avoiding eye contact is "Sorry, I'm late for work".
I think it's an innate human desire to preserve our own privacy that allows us to completely ignore and sometimes demean these perfectly nice people attempting to instill a desire to give money to a cause. Although, I have come to realize, long after my short yet validatingly miserable experience, that it isn't the people that are being ignored, but the concept of canvassing. They are, and I was, simply a tool for carrying out the idea of free advertising for causes. While, yes, they are just doing their jobs, their jobs happen to infringe upon the integrity of my personal space bubble. Canvassers have just as much right to petition on the street as I do to ignore them. It's nothing personal.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Maturation has a funny way of springing up on you, reminding you that your adolescence, your innocence, is over. As I sit here, slowly sipping on my roommate's coffee and looking out the window onto the tundra that is upstate New York in the winter, I can't help but wish that I could be in some other point in my life. I am stuck in what people refer to as "the best years of your life" and all I can think is that I'm tired of being too old to be considered a child but not quite old enough to be considered an adult. Don't get me wrong, I love that I can eat basically what ever I want and not have to worry about things like mortgages and car payments, but I need to know into which category I fall: man or boy. I'm tired of trying to figure out consequential issues like what I want to do with my life and at the same time enjoying a good fart joke. I always thought that there was a turning point, some catalyst where the beaming glow of childhood met the stingy gloom of adulthood and all of a sudden, things would be completely different. I want to hit that point, yet "Dude, Where's My Car?" remains to be one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.
Perhaps it is a commentary on the turn that maturation has taken with my generation. What if being mature has begun to mean keeping a portion of the "inner child" alive and well, and not just letting it slip out with every mid-life crisis? What if my generation fully appreciates embracing the twelve year-old in all of us? Not sunning immature behavior, but viewing it as a healthy release from the everyday mature life. I can't help but view myself as an adult with an overly active "inner child" and, as I watch my friends and colleagues and how they interact with each other, think and hope that they feel the same. I've seen the same people who make silly in a mirror for fun console a friend in times of tragedy and I've seen people write heart-wrenchingly beautiful songs for their acquaintances with whom they shared their childhood.
All I can hope for is that my adolescence, my innocence is not over. Not over, but sharing its mind with a levelheaded adult. I pine for the day that not only do the important adults in my life see me as an accomplished adult, but also I can view myself as someone young at heart. I don't want to be one of those adults whom people cannot imagine having a childhood. I want my adolescence to be a significant part of my personality forever and always. I just hope that this "in-between" stage that I seem to be stuck in can last a little while longer, at least until I'm old enough to buy a beer.
As I sit in the Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris, France, I can't help but think that some of these people seem familiar in some way. As if I have been sitting across from these same people in an airport terminal before.
The way I see it is that when people are at home, sitting in the tailored comfort of their duvet covers and stocked refrigerators, they are their own person. They are individuals living in their own environment. When they are abroad on vacation, even, there is a sense of ownership and territory. However, when people sit in the waiting area of an airport terminal, it is a no-man's land. No one has claim anywhere. No one has authority. Most importantly, no one is home.
It is an awkward place, the airport terminals. It seems as though everyone wants to seem content with his or her position and, thus, no one talks to one another. People try to seal themselves in an imaginary isolated world smack in the middle of a melting pot of comers and goers with no consistent inhabitants. It is, to make an awful joke, a foreign world for everyone.
What is it about airports that make people so uncomfortable? Is it the seats that always have just enough room for you to feel secluded but nowhere near enough to make you feel alone? Is it the routine announcements that blast through the unseen overhead speakers, notifying you for the umpteenth time that you shouldn't say, "Yeah, sure. I'll take your bag with me on my plane that you aren't even on. Hey, are those Federal Marshals? I bet you don't even have a social security number."
Airports are the limbo of this always on-the-go world. You aren't at home but you aren't quite where you're going. We, the travelers, are lumped into one faceless herd of idle beings; confined by the bad coffee, fake sleep, and ambiguous odor of the abyss that is an airport.
Maybe it's an innate desire to claim things for our own or a selfish inkling to always think we have an upper hand somehow that makes us sit in silence, watching others to see if anyone's watching us. But the fact of the matter is, everyone in this terminal is going to the same place and we all just want to call somewhere home.