Back in 2009, when I first started working in an office setting, I had a hard time adjusting. I went from working as a ski instructor and make-up artist to sitting behind two screens for eight hours a day processing checks. It’s not sexy, it’s solid – was a mantra I continuously repeated to myself. Quite literally, at about 3:30 – 4:00 every day, I’d throw my head back in my chair and send up epic airplane crashing noises to the high walls surrounding me. On good days, I’d get a creative response back from the woman in the cubicle next to mine. But on most days, these calls were met with silence.
It was in this space and place that I met Joe*– the pizza truck guy – who parked right on the corner of my work. A quirky, twenty-something-year-old who slung life anecdotes right alongside slices of pizza. His blue eyes (normally peering over a book) looked out at me like a crazed, caged animal. He had an uncanny way about him – a space cadet quality. With one flash of a stare he’d read my mood and say things like “Ah c’mon….it can’t possibly be that bad…I mean, you could be working in this sweat box serving pizzas for a living.” His self-deprecating stories made light of whatever I thought was bad or impossible by offering up something far worse. And whenever he made me smile or laugh in authentic ways he’d proudly nod as if he’d done his job – lifting up my spirits. The selfless quality of Joe is something I not only treasured but fed off of. Our five to fifteen minute exchanges provided a lifeline for me to endure the monotony and isolation of my cubicle work.
Joe also gave me free slices, and, in kind, I gave him poems or short stories. We both knew we were stuck and working in positions that weren’t necessarily desirable while pursuing degrees from separate institutions. Although I knew Joe had a crush on me, I never saw him outside of the truck. After all, I didn’t want to sabotage my lifeline with foolish romance. Plus, who wants to date the pizza truck guy – the guy going through more shit than you? After a while Joe’s truck stopped coming to my corner and I lost touch with him. You can only imagine my surprise when I saw Joe standing in my graduation line last year. I almost tackled him, overjoyed to have a buddy to walk beside. Apparently, he had always planned to transfer to my school, and just the other day, I bumped into him on my way into work. I did a double take, as he was wearing a tweed blazer and crisply ironed khakis.
“Joe…is that really you?” I asked, brushing imaginary lint off his shoulder. “Where are you going? What are you doing these days?”
“Work.” He said shaking his head in a spastic way.
“Oh yeah, where at?”
“Wharton, I got a job at Wharton and if we keep talking I’m going to be late.” He said, flashing those crazed eyes at me.
“Oh, okay. No worries. Congratulations, Joe. That’s amazing.”
I watched him walk away thinking not too many people I know can make that type of life transition, from pizza truck guy to Wharton. Bravo, Joe. And the timing couldn’t have been better because yet again I needed his story for my own hope.
Pizza Slices and Lifelines,
A Warrior Princess
*Real name not used for security purposes.