Besides Garrison Keillor, the other personal favorite who wore red socks was the late writer/interviewer/radio host/actor/raconteur Studs Terkel. He did the coolest thing: he interviewed people - from kid to old timer, rich to poor, smart to dumb - on the radio and then edited the interviews into book form, usually all on one topic, such as World War II or the racial issues in our country, so the reader could learn a lot from a lot of people.
I guess his best-known book is "Working," and I find myself picking that volume up from time to time, reading again certain favorite parts. Reading the book, in which people just talk about their jobs, reminds us that there are good part and bad parts about every job, and that you might not want to spend too much time envying the other guy, whose job looks to be situated on a much greener lawn than yours does. There are drawbacks to every job, with the possible exception of being Little Richard.
I was thinking about this on the way to work because I had to stop for gas , and I always feel a nice thought toward those who sit in booths all day long taking gas money, making change, selling loose cigars for blunts, surrounded by auto de-stink-alizers that either look like pine trees or skunks (the selling point there being irony), condoms, cigarettes and Slim Jims. One place where I like to gas up is over by the Parkville fire house and police station. It's convenient because it's on the right side of the road for me heading to work, the prices are reasonable, and there is a car wash, although my truck prefers Mother Nature's rainy days to the hi-pressure Suds-O-Matic.
The young woman who sits in the booth at this station is unfailingly polite and pleasant, and frankly, I don't know what the worst part of her job would be. Is the men who attempt to make time with her by hollering through the little voicebox in her bulletproof Plexiglass window? How many times, really, do you think she has to deal with someone commenting on the weather ("Hot one today, huh?") or the price of gasoline ("It's highway robbery - get it???") or how pretty they find her ("Looking gooooooooood today!") while the rest of us shuffle about in line behind them, eyes rolling, wondering why they just don't get it that they aren't going to get anywhere.
Or maybe the worst part is that at this time of the year, right around sunrise, the sun beams directly into her eyes, forcing her to wear sunglasses while she doles out change and fends off 1/2-ass Harry and his frustrated flirtation. I mean, really; you could perform an appendectomy in that booth at ten til seven this month, and still have plenty of light left over. It's that bright.
They don't offer squeegees there any more to clean off the windows; I guess they were tired of having them ripped off, right there in the shadow of the police precinct. Middle-aged guys riding mopeds and scooters - always a sign that they no longer have a license to drive a vehicle that requires one - stop in, people on their way to work who need ten gallons of hi-test and a pack of Kools run in, and I'm there a couple of times a week too, just because I like to see people in action.
Here's to you, nice gas-station lady, and I hope you have all nice days. I bet you have some stories to tell!