30 Days of Souvenirs: Day 13

How did you end up working here?" I was curious how this woman in her mid-thirties ended up working this small town pizza joint-the owner was slouching over the register and pointing out spots she had missed with her mop. I had just driven 12 hours straight-through a part of the country that was stark and cold, and left me, the driver, with plenty of time for introspection. When I landed in the small Tennessee town I was ready for a beer. What I got was much more. "Well...." She looked around. "I'm an honest person, so I should just tell you. Before I was workin here I did bad stuff. Illegal stuff. I was cookin meth." I wanted to be shocked, but there was something so childlike in her honesty that made everything she said seem like such a natural progression. She took out a stack of napkins, sat at the table adjacent to mine, and reaching into a nondescript plastic bin, pulled out silverware and started to wrap it in the napkin. She talked as she rolled the silverware like pigs in blankets, and then once each one was finished, she grabbed a maroon paper collar and wrapped the napkin, then tossed it into another plastic bin. She made me think of the women scaling fish at the japanese fish market while they hummed out of tune, or the old men shelling peanuts for squirrles at the park-simple, repetitive tasks that are at once cathartic and rhythmically beautiful. She went on to tell me about the abuse she had to face and the trials she underwent, and then, about the three years she was out of work but kept odd jobs and attended church to avoid slipping back into old habits. Then one day she came into the pizza place and got hired. "I'm just so lucky to have this job" she told me, as she handed me the bill, which ammounted to $6.50 for an entire pizza and two beers. Her normal tips were measured in cents not dollars, and as I left the warm interior of the restaurant and walked back out into the icy air, I remembered the importance of being humbled.

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