Believing in Modern Life

Bored men at a table

Thinking about literature, maybe

Random thoughts on the working life:

[1] I was talking a few days ago with one of the other cashiers, and we agreed that working at Lowes is better than (a) being in prison, (b) being a waitress, (c) being beaten with a 2X4, (d) being hit by a bus. Actually, though, other than the waitress experience, we were only guessing.

[2] The stupid people who make up so much of the earth’s population occasionally shop at Lowes. A couple of times people have expected me to read their minds, saying mysterious things instead of giving me the information I needed to complete the sale, so that I just stood there flummoxed, not sure what to say. One man came up and immediately said, “I want to put in my phone number” (which would make sense if I knew he was paying with cash, but he didn’t bother to mention that). Another man had a tax exempt sale, which I knew how to do, but when I told him what he owed, with no taxes on it, he just stared at me like I was crazy.

[3] Without a doctor’s note, cashiers at Lowes are not allowed to sit, even when working an 8 or 10 hour shift. We have pads to stand on at the cash register, but when there are no customers, we’re supposed to stand out on the concrete floor in front of the registers. Apparently, someone sitting down in a carpeted office at company headquarters in North Carolina figured out that the company could make even more money if the people getting paid barely above minimum wage were standing on concrete, rather than sitting. It is further proof (if several thousand years have not provided enough proof), that if left alone and allowed to do so, many businesses will fuck their workers.

But all of that is just part of the trivia of our daily crawl across the earth, making our way from birth to oblivion. I want to talk of something more conducive to the human spirit. My human spirit, anyway. In writing the novel about Benedict and Miramar, which still has no name, I’m on page 295, and I believe the book will be done within 30 more pages. Whenever I’m so close to the end of writing a book, it pulls me, and I begin to work on it more diligently. I feel such a drive now to finish this book, a desire that comes, ironically (irony, you know, is like a consistent pestilent stream flowing through our lives), just as it becomes much more difficult to find time, now that I work outside the house, and with the weirdly shifting schedule that is apparently assumed to be necessary for a cashier.

For the most part I still write just in the evenings. Given how hard it is to find time, if I have only thirty minutes, I will sit down and focus and do what I can. I’m able to write like that, though it may not be my best work. On one occasion I really had no time to write that day, and it was already bedtime, but I said to myself that I would not go to bed without doing something, so I took ten minutes, wrote perhaps three or four sentences, and then went to bed feeling that I had at least made an effort. And in fact, I moved Benedict from outside a building to inside the building, so something did happen.

I’m now in a chapter in which my heroes finally reach their destination, moving toward both the east and west coasts with the use of the magical time doors. Miramar has had her huge adventure just down the road from where I sit, in the town of Altoona. Soon, tonight I hope, I will send her and her father along the railroad that lies south of here, to arrive in Philadelphia. Maybe it will happen tonight. Then again, I’m working on a blog, ain’t I? And that takes time. One way I’ve been working on the novel is to use the periods of stupefying boredom at Lowes to think about the book, and then while on break I make notes.

I’m going to end this entry with two brief excerpts from the novel (these have not been revised, so read gently). In the first, my protagonists have stopped briefly in Pittsburgh, in 1876, and they go out of the station to have a look:

With some unexpected time in the city, Benedict and Miramar decided to walk briefly out of the station to see the city for a moment. Pittsburgh was the largest city they had seen in this century. The immediate vicinity outside the station was as they expected, mad with traffic and train travelers going, coming, standing, blocking the way, and pushing past people who blocked the way.

“Except for the horses, it almost seems like our century,” Benedict said. Given this lovely break, he also took the opportunity to roll up a cigarette and have a lovely smoke.

“The buildings are taller than I thought they would be,” Miramar said. “I’ve noticed that there’s things about people in this time that are not as old-fashioned as I thought they would be.”

“Like what?” he asked, blowing out a stream of smoke.

“It seems silly, but I thought people in this time would be more like grandma. I thought they’d be more polite than in our time.”

“Well, this is a big city. People are always more rude in a city.”

That very moment, in front of them a workman carrying a heavy bag bumped heavily into another who had just set a box down. The second man whirled around and with a British accent snarled, “You shite-brained oaf. Magyar son of a bitch.”

In the second excerpt, in the town of Winnemucca, Nevada, Benedict and Miramar have spent part of the day, in 2011, visiting his old girlfriend, Ellen. Now they’ve returned to the house of Beau and Ruby Fortune, where they are spending the night.

Ruby offered Benedict a beer when he walked in the door, a beneficence that felt a hundred years overdue. “Even if you didn’t work today,” she said, “you still need a beer. Anybody still here at the end of the day needs a beer.” She looked at Miramar. “Unless they’re 15 years old,” she added.

“Did you show Miramar the excitement of Winnemucca today?” Beau asked. “At least you had a visit with Ellen. How was that?”

“It was great seeing her,” Benedict said. “I shouldn’t have been so stupid as to lose contact. And I haven’t kept up with you guys enough.”

“No, but nobody keeps up enough,” Ruby said. “It’s one of the flaws of modern life.”

“I don’t believe in modern life,” Beau said. “I bet people never did keep up enough.”


Filed under Giving Birth to a Book (That's Why I'm Screaming), Writing While Living

4 responses to “Believing in Modern Life

  1. declansynott

    Keep screaming and sit down @ lowes–if the concrete gets to you. Those cameras are not watched.

  2. Martha Sue Binner

    Amazing how things are when you are working in a job that is far below your potential. For whatever reason, though, if you believe that no matter what your circumstances you are in the place you are suppose to be at any given moment, then you know there is something you are supposed to gain in life from the experience. That is what makes whatever you are doing mysterious and somewhat bearable. Waiting for the ah ha moment when it all becomes clear.

  3. declansynott

    There is something in Martha’s advice that I find true and karmic (karma-like). This is what I beleve to be the survivor phenomena, which might be luck but feels like dues or the whole “be here now” notion. I don’t know but everytime I fuck up, I get toss a lifeline that feels like a third chance, I’m not implying or inferring that you’ve fucked up. Rather, it’s like a re-birth, a second, third, or fourth adventure that goes way beyond the mondanity of where we, you, I am now. And, at least, from my humble experience leads to better, much better situations and opportunities, I hope we may be able to talk soon.
    Is modanity a word or did I make that up just now?

  4. declansynott

    I believe mundanity is the word I was stretching for…blame it on the Guiness, i guess.

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