The guy in the booth


For years and years I’d pass this little booth every morning as I walked down from my campsite towards civilization (so-called). For nearly 10 years. And every morning I’d pass this little old guy who worked in the booth. He was probably in his 60s. Gray hair. But in pretty good shape. Road his bike to work every day. A chipper fellow. His job was pretty simple. He’d check to make sure that the people who parked in the parking lot had appointments at the eye clinic next door. But you could tell he was diligent at doing his job. When a car pulled up he wouldn’t just walk over to the car, he’d trot over there really quickly, with his ever-ready clipboard in his hand.

And I’d pass this guy every morning as I was staggering down the hill, hungover, my clothes disheveled, my hair strewn all over the place. And I’d pass this clean-cut, blandly normal guy, working away at his job. And it was like a study in contrasts. You could tell the guy had been on the straight and narrow path his whole life. Probably sat in the front row of every classroom as a kid and regularly raised his hand when the teacher asked a question and had a perfect attendance record. And he never deviated from the normal, acceptable route. Course you never know.  For all you know he’s got women chained up in his basement. But he certainly gave every appearance of having lived a pretty straight and conventional life.  Whereas my life went hopelessly off course at age 17 and I’ve been bouncing around following my own weird ever since.

I admired the guy in my own way. He had found a way to smoothly slot into society and have a productive life and not cause any problems (seemingly). Which is more than I could say for myself a lot of the time. And maybe his gig was a little dull, but it was a cushy deal in a way, working outside on the beautiful green campus, surrounded by vital young college students, and he probably got a good salary with benefits and retirement package.

Then one day when I passed the booth there was a big, blown-up photo of the guy posted on the side of the booth. With a caption that said; “In appreciation of 30 years of loyal service to the University of California. . .” and etc, etc. And then a week later he was gone. And I never saw him again. I guess he retired.

Its weird all the different paths our lives take in this world.


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