I learned something when I went to the bad side of town.
I'm not saying I live in a horrible place and that the bad side of town is worse than a sewer, but I will say it's not fun.
You can tell it's yucky for several reasons. An overwhelming gloom sucks at the air. If you close your eyes and guess where you're at, you'll think it's the inner belly of some ugly rat-animal. Then there are peculiar people hanging around everywhere. They don't have anything better to do than stare at people. Those strangers are usually smoking up a storm with their bummed cigarettes. They also look pale as if they just met a vamp and donated half their blood.
There are other ways--even better ways--to tell you're in the armpit of this city, but if you really want to know, you need to go into a gas station. The chimes are all off-key, like the gloomy batteries are dying and no one cares enough to fix them. If you hear that sound, "Bee--boowewem," go running. Grab your little self and get to higher ground where depression doesn't sap the streets.
I don't mix well with the crap part of town. I'm a cheerful, happy person and when darkness surrounds me, I only laugh louder. I drive those "smoking strangers" nuts when they see me coming. There's a reason they're doing nothing; they like being dreary.
I ran my errand and while there, went into a gas station; maybe I wanted to hear that stupid chime; maybe I wanted to laugh loud. Whatever it was, I went in and discovered that "Death" has a day job working as a cashier. He had big circles weighing at his eyes and other than his tired, grimacing face we probably looked like siblings.
I was extra nice to him, gave him a double scoop of sunshine while I paid for my drink, but that guy hated me. Have you ever met someone that hates you, for no reason? It sucks. He said something in an accent I've never heard.
"Do you like your job?" I asked because that's my back-up plan when other small talk doesn't work. My family always asks that question and we really do wonder if they like their job. After all it would be crap working someplace you hate as bad as that guy dislikes me.
When I asked him, he put his oil-stained hand on the counter and stared at me. "Do I look like I like my job?"
I still had to finishing paying for my drink, but his eyes were lasers that could earn good money in the hair removal business. He glared at me and I acted tough--I had on my boots. "What about this weather. Isn't it something?"
"Yes." His voice died like the chime. "It's something. I don't like people." What a lovely thing to add. I wonder why he works at a gas station where customer service is a must. But then again, I remembered he was "Death" looking for his next victim.
"That's an interesting view. Well, I hope you'll have an amazing day!"
He turned quickly, and before entering the back room, mumbled something about "a stupid, happy American." I left after that and the whole way home thought about humanity and how we can dislike each other for such stupid reasons. I don't understand it, never have, never will.
Ten years ago, Cade and I were homeless street musicians. It was fun, but really hard too. The cops made all the homeless people sleep in a park at the end of the main tourist strip of shops in Hawaii. The people who lived in that park were: vagabonds, gypsies, merchants, Vietnam Vets. We were all different races, creeds and ages, yet we watched out for each other. Even though Cade and I were homeless, enjoying the experience for what it was worth, we knew that each of those people were the same as us. And living in their world opened my eyes to things I'll never forget.
No matter who we are, if our chimes are off-key or if we hate our jobs, God loves us.
He'll always love us. As I think about the Grim Reaper working on the bad side of town, I'll go ahead and say a prayer--the prayer of a stupid, happy American--that God will bless that man. Maybe someday he'll like his job and get up the nerve to be the first person in sad-ville to fix their chime.