Why certainly one can be
A beautiful soul
If in her days
She is not required
To kill game
Or slash throats
Carrie in her sleek business suit looks out the window of our 18th floor offices this afternoon.
"It's such a beautiful day," she says. "It's sad that people in the world are killing each other."
On a Friday like this, we wander away from software-speak and into the thought of surviving after a nuclear holocaust. I suddenly realize that people like my twin sister, Naomi, who is very strong at heart though unable to get a full-time job, would fare well.
"She has good instincts," I say, pondering on her fierceness. Naomi used to be a home health aid, and once when she was assigned to care for a rich, lonely woman named Mrs. Pace.
Mrs. Pace lives near Colony Surf Hotel and Michel's Restaurant. She was the president of a travel agency and had a reputation for being ruthless with her employees.
So on the day my sister arrived at Mrs. Pace's condo, Mrs. Pace yells, "Where the hell were you?" to which my sister begins to explain that her company told her to arrive at 8 a.m., which was an hour later than the time Mrs. Pace had expected. But Mrs. Pace cuts into her explanation and sees a muffin in Naomi's hand, "Put that away! I don't want any of my girls eating when they are with me!" So Naomi obliges and continues to endure a string of condescending remarks from this woman.
Mrs. Pace instructs Naomi to get her car so they can go shopping. When Naomi arrives with her car, Mrs. Pace settles in the passenger seat then again yells, "Where the hell were you?"
Now Naomi is indignant. And her quiet demeanor is tranformed into a tsunami, with her voice showering the place with great force.
"You know Mrs. Pace? Get out of my car, get back in your house and find somebody else to do this for you! I don't appreciate how you treat me, and I don't need your money!"
Mrs. Pace gets out of the car then sneers, "You act like you have a brain in your head."
"You know," Naomi replies, "you'd be a lot happier if you started treating people like human beings."
"Oh, shut up!"
"Oh, you shut up!"
Naomi reported Mrs. Pace to her employer. "If you allow your employees to be treated this way," she says, "the morale of your company is going to go down." Mrs. Pace was dropped as a client.
Naomi doesn't have a whole lot of marketable skills. There are gems here and there that can't seem to patch together and make her desirable enough for any one company to give her a salary, health insurance and a 401K plan. But, come a nuclear holocaust, I do want her around.
Carrie tells me that in a holocaust situation, people who know how to make a turbine will have the most power in the new social structure. We sort of joked about a "Survivor Pact," where we'd have a plan of who would be in the group and where to meet if our world suddenly turned upside down.
Then I began to think about my value in such a setting. Interestingly enough, I don't think my role would be very different than what it is now.
The interns are coming! The interns are coming!
I remember what it was like to be an intern back at the Honolulu Advertiser a good nine years ago(!). So, today at work, with every apologetic laugh and for every moment the interns seemed disarmed by our irreverent sparring, I felt a need to protect them and say "hang in there."
The interns they hire here are hyperachievers, scholastically speaking. They've scored near-perfect on the SATs and go to schools like MIT and Harvey-Mudd and Stanford.
But I realize that no matter how much fearlessness is required to achieve such academic greatness, you can still carry innocence and fear when you are young and surrounded by people who've been there longer than you have.
I remember people of the likes of Esme Infante being so kind as to ask me questions simply because she was curious. And I remember being so alarmed that such an adult would engage me. I always wanted to say interesting or provocative things, but never managed to do so. My naivete would gloriously shine through, though I fiercely believed I was not naive.
It helps to have an empathetic soul to guide you in an adult work environment. That's what Esme was to me and many others. Still, all the Esme Infantes in the world could not teach me what only time and experience did so well.
Time and experience taught me that there are some really lame-ass editors out there. I remember how starry-eyed I was and the questions I'd ask, only to receive some wise-ass useless two-word phrase in return. To this day, I cringe at how much I worshiped them.
Time and experience taught me that there are some really virtuous editors out there. Some took great pains to work with me side-by-side, and only in retrospect can I remember the way their eyes looked when they saw that I was still very young. To this day, I value them.
Work environments didn't teach me about work environments. I suspect they never really do. It is only after I learned about the human condition that I understood my work environment. And learning about the human condition required many things of me outside the office. It required that I spill my soul for someone I loved, to have him disregard me in the end. It required that I break a promise to someone I respected, then watch her move through her days with disappointment. It required embracing short-lived moments of glory, then failing or succeeding among a cloud of disbelief. Along the way, the questions piled up in my gut. So I had to answer them along the way, lest they immobilize me. I answered questions one at a painful time. I still answer them.
But I no longer feel disarmed like I used to.
Not certain what anyone could tell me to make the butterflies in my stomach stop.
What do you do when your chosen livelihood requires you to beautifully render for others what you suddenly don't believe in yourself?
My eyes are tired.