You guys I am currently working at a temp job in the projects and while there is nothing inherently wrong with the projects, per se, it has really been an eye-opening experience for me this last week. I’m an adult (technically) and know that poverty exists and I’ve certainly had my fair share of exposure to sketchy neighborhoods and whatnot while living in Los Angeles and downtown Albuquerque. And of course, as a raging alcoholic, I’ve also had my share of experiences with various and assorted drugs, and encounters with law enforcement.
None of this, however, prepared me for this assignment as I am, as they say, in the belly of the beast. Now, I don’t really *fear* for my life while on assignment but I’m also keenly aware that I could catch a stray bullet at any time while walking to my car. I have been placed as an office assistant to the leasing manager of a Section 8 HUD housing complex. One that has been somewhat synonymous in the past with drug and gang-related mayhem.
Now, on the more humorous side of things, I am LEARNING SO MUCH STUFF you would not believe it. First off, I’m older than my supervisor by TWENTY-FIVE years. She is African American, and the mother of three, so by default she is definitely the “adultier” adult in this situation. She is unflappable and truly, why wouldn’t she be? She’s seen EVERYTHING in her tenure there and having a new wingman (as more of an unqualified hinderance than anything) has been kind of fun for her, I hope. She told me first off that the residents would no doubt equate ME as the new boss because of my skin color. Sad, but true. Remarkably, she was cool with this in that she doesn’t mind that they are a little timid with what they deduce to be a new “sheriff” in town. Of course this is utterly ridiculous because if I have to actually talk to an actual person I might wet my pants. The exchanges with the residents that I have been part of, however, have been somewhat noteworthy, in my opinion:
Three things I have heard while on assignment this past week:
- “Gurl, she always smell like salmon patties”
- “You straight up in the ghetto and you act like you ain’t never seen a roach”
- “She could open a can of corn with them toenails”
Three things I have NOT heard:
- “I’ll have the Pinot”
- “Would you care for some hummus?”
I’ll be honest though, this assignment doesn’t leave me when I leave it, unfortunately. For the last two weeks I have lost sleep and even shed tears over what I’ve witnessed there. I aim for the funny bone in almost all scenarios but at the end of the day, it’s been difficult to find the humor in this bitter reality. I physically became sick while attempting to “walk through” a unit with some movers, I shit you not. I found myself gagging in a hallway from the stench and the sights and scrambled towards the blurry rectangle of light which was the doorway leading outside, and vomited into the shrubs with such force that my glasses flew from my face. There is a family with children living in these conditions.
It’s the kids that get me. The children came to me first out of curiosity, and now they flock to me because they know they’ll find cookies in my shoulder bag. It all but it rips my heart from my hyper-ventilating chest. There is one in particular they call “Grandpa” that I think will fit snugly INTO my purse because I truly just want to bring him home with me and snuggle him for eternity. Grandpa looks and acts like a tiny old man, hence his nickname. He walks slowly and deliberately and doesn’t speak. His round brown eyes watch everything with an ancient essence I can’t quite explain. Grandpa is just two years old.
I don’t want to spark a socio-economic debate or diatribe on the causes and effects of poverty, the bitter consequences of drug-addiction, inner city stressors, what’s wrong with our schools and/or government assistance programs, or what as a society we can do about it. That’s for another time. Right now I’m trying to focus on my sobriety and what I can do WHERE I’M AT- right here, right now – because if I don’t, my tender sober heart won’t be able to leverage the burden of what I observe day to day. I know that this is a temporary situation for me, but it’s a way of life for them, so I’m doing what I can to be an ambassador of sorts; a person of peace, and kindness.
Now, I am certainly not saying there’s no time or place for shenanigans. There is a golf cart at our disposal and that has been completely ridiculous. We “off road” in that rickety thing throughout the complex and I hit every speed bump sideways, and on purpose. We received a call on Friday regarding some rats outside a unit that “don’t give a damn”. Naturally we had to investigate. When we pulled up outside the building, sure enough, there were about 4-5 black rats standing around, running around in the grass, some on their hind legs, truly not giving a damn. Even the rats are middle finger in this place.
Life’s an adventure and sometimes you just have to roll with it to see what’s next. I’m approaching this temporary situation with that in mind. I truly do not know what each day holds for me, but how many of us really do? We can speculate, but life has a way of doing things on ITS terms.
Thing is, this assignment STILL beats working for the Trump supporters. I’ll gamble my safety over my sanity any time. Stay tuned.
From the heart, Jenny. Thank you for making me think & feel.