“What’s your field of study?” she asked from across the metal desk with a gray plastic top, she ran her clear Bic pen through her fingers while she read from the computer screen in front of her. I wasn’t aware of having a “field of study” so I just waited. She took a couple of pecks at her key board and seemed to have forgotten about me for a few seconds until she put her pen down and stared at me with both eyes through her oversized, bi-focal, glasses. “What have you studied?” she asked, adding a level or two of sternness to her voice.
“Girls,” I gave her a big grin and knew instantly it was the wrong answer. She took a deep breath and sighed like I was the reason for all that was amiss in her life. She took another deep breath before she continued.
“What are your marketable skills?” she asked with obvious considerable doubt as to whether I would have any.
“I’m willing to work hard,” it really is my only true skill.
“Manual labor,” she said as she typed the words on her keyboard.
“Will you accept day labor?”
“I was hanging out in the parking lot of the Home Depot when they picked me up and brought me here,” I answered.
“Will you accept day labor?” she asked again without giving my answer any thought at all.
“Yes, that would be nice,” I gave her another of my grins, still trying to win her over. She just gave me another of her sighs and turned her attention to her screen and keyboard. The copy machine behind her came alive with a self-cleaning and then spit out a single sheet of paper.
She handed the paper to me before she asked, “Would you be willing to clean-up after a sheet rock crew?” I took the paper and shook my head in the affirmative. I was a little more excited than I felt was appropriate. She watched me for a moment and made a decision, “I’m not supposed to tell you this,” she waited for me to give her permission.
“Yes?” I said.
“They need full time help. This job is just a test to see what kind of person you are and how hard you are willing to work.” She still showed no sign of any kind of care but I felt a flood of pure goodness come across the table. A smile covered my face as I folded up the priceless page and stuffed it into my back pocket.
“Thank-you,” I wanted to hug her but I was pretty sure that would involve the police so I just said, “thank-you,” once more and made my way back out the glass door and onto the street outside.