When I left Yosemite I was down. It was a dark time for me. A lonely time. I felt broken. And like a small bird forced to fly before it was ready. But I took my broken wings and learned to fly. I’d like to say I learned to live so free. But I learned to live in fear.
I hated the way the job ended in Yosemite. And being pushed out with no net. In a way I have been running from this moment ever since. I have focused hard on always having a job. On working hard. I hate looking for work. And the idea of being out of work again scares me. There have been a couple times I have been unemployed since. And I’ve took the first thing I could find. Actually working at Walmart was not the first thing I could find. I worked at Labor Ready for months. Walmart was a calculated choice.
I remember while moving listening to news of the tsunami in Asia. In a way it helped me to see my life wasn’t so bad. I had packed all my things. I rented a van and drove it to Stockton. I had the van for the weekend and thought I would need to find a storage unit. But I didn’t.
I looked up ads. While in a gas station I asked if they were hiring. The woman told me to come back the next day. I called about an apartment. And I called on a second job. Then I applied for school. It was something you could do online.
On Sunday I interviewed for the job, and was hired. Then I got the second job as well. I recall talking to the woman about the apartment. She said it was impressive I was able to find work so fast, and enroll in school. I think it helped me to get the apartment. It was one of the best places I have lived. It wasn’t all too expensive either. Though I don’t recall the rent.
So much to cover and where to start. Well the apartment was a studio. But it had a decent sized kitchen and bathroom. The bedroom was a fair size, for me. I had much less then. It was in a small two-story complex. All the doors opened into a courtyard in the middle. Two locked gates controlled access to the courtyard.
One of the funnier things which happened at this apartment involved my rug. It was old and dirty and I kept it just outside my door. But this was inside the courtyard, behind the locked gates. One day I went outside and it was gone. There wasn’t really any place to look. And I was short on time. So I rushed on my way to class. While riding my bike to school though I saw a figure sleeping on a bench wrapped in my rug. I figured someone must be pretty desperate to sleep in a rolled up rug. On my way back from class I found it on the bench and took it home.
The community college in town was one of the best times of my life. When I had been in school before I failed. Well, I passed, but just barely. And I had never enjoyed school. Even during my time at Bethany it wasn’t a joy. But this time it was a joy. And I was doing great. The teachers were great. The students were great. And it was sad for me to have to leave when I graduated. I always felt like I wanted to complete my education at San Joaquin Delta Community College. But I couldn’t. I was there three semesters. The first was the best in many ways.
It was at Delta I had the first math class I really enjoyed. The teacher just explained it all in a way my mind understood. For the first time in my life I liked math. And he gave me advice I didn’t take and still regret. He told me the next class I should take was Calculus. But I was scared and took Statistics. A bad choice. Another teacher at the school I enjoyed taught Health. She also taught some other life classes. I took as many as I could from her. It wasn’t the subject. She was just a great teacher. The kind of teacher I would like to be someday.
My day always started early with class. I had to rush out the door. After class the first year I worked with a tax preparation company. My job was simple. Dress as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty and dance around for a couple hours with a sign. I would listen to music and dance and wave the sign. It wasn’t a great job. But it was a job and the people running it were good people. I rode my bike, and at first didn’t lock it up. But towards the end of my time there it got stolen. I had to buy another bike. I had saved money from Yosemite, but it was a lot of money wasted.
The second bike was also stolen actually. I had it parked in front of my sister’s house. It was on the porch, away from the street. I don’t know you could even see it from the street. But it was stolen. I still think it was one of her ex-husband’s friend’s who stole the bike. Then I was riding an older bike I got from a friend. It lasted for a while, but wasn’t great. Once while rushing to work I managed to wreck it and flip over the handle bars.
I went home and tried to get ready for work. But my wrist started to hurt. Being a guy about the pain, I tried it ignore it. But it was throbbing worse and worse. Finally I called my sister and asked her to take my to the hospital. It felt like it was broken. At the hospital I couldn’t sign papers. I couldn’t do much. But my sister was helping me. “It makes me feel like a diva,” I told her.
My wrist was put in a wrap. Riding a bike was out of the question for a while. Then when I could ride I still didn’t. I was a bit scared. At some point my bike disappeared again. But I didn’t care.
The job at the tax company was a good job. It was part-time of course. The ride from home to school was 1.5 miles. From school to the first job was about three miles. From home to school was north, and from school to work was north. But between the jobs I turned around and went over five miles south. I worked at a gas station in Downtown Stockton.
The gas station job was paying me well enough. But the owner could be a real ass sometimes. There are so many stories I could tell. Once he was yelling at me and a co-worker about something. A man walked out with a fountain drink. “Did he pay for that,” the owner yelled. We looked at each other and both said, “yes.” Later I asked my co-worker if the man had bought the drink. He didn’t know and neither did I. But we agreed if we had admitted it, the owner would just yell more. The owner used to pump his gas for free. Now, I understand this could be illegal. But he may have adjusted the costs in the backroom in a way to make it legal. One day he was on his way to the bank. Pulling out of the driveway he ran out of gas.
Maybe the biggest episode was a guy who paid for his gas and forgot to pump it. He came back and the gas had been pumped. It was $20. I called the owner, who was upstairs. His first response was to make sure I didn’t tell them he was upstairs. Then said don’t give him anything. The man was upset and wanted to talk to the owner. But I told him he wasn’t available. This went on for some time and I called the owner again. He could hear everything. He knew the scene going on, and again he told me not to let the man know he was upstairs. Eventually the man left the store. After the man left me and my co-worker were talking about it and mentioned the owner was upstairs. Then when he walked out of the store I heard someone say, “he really was upstairs.” The whole thing bugged my not because he was right or wrong. But because he was such a coward. First of all I would have come down and dealt with the problem myself. But I also would have been inclined to give him the gas. It could have been a scam, but it didn’t feel like one. And sometimes you have to take a loss to keep up appearances.
The job was simple really. Turn pumps on and off from a board inside. We made coffee drinks, some iced drinks and some sandwiches. Then of course there was the cleaning. When I started I had to mop the whole store. It was a real chore to get it all done. And I never really got done on time. But I worked hard. Later he hired another man to do the cleaning.
But I did prove the owner wrong once. It was a drink we made. For some reason the size of the cup had changed. We had been shown to fill the cup to a line. But when the size changed this wasn’t the right amount. One day he came down and told me I was doing it wrong. So I measured out the amount I was supposed to add. He agreed it was the right amount. And I put it in the cup and I was right.
It was just a gas station job but it was stressful. We didn’t sell alcohol, which made me happy. People would come in, scan the coolers, look confused, and scan again. Then I’d just tell them, “we don’t sell alcohol.” The owner had a business before, and it made him sad to see people lining up to buy alcohol at 6 a.m. He could also be a good man.
The woman I talked to when I got hired was strange. She had a second job and didn’t need the money from the gas station job. So she never cashed her pay checks. She told me she was doing it to screw over the owner. I bet your confused to how this hurts the owner. But I was confused to how someone could be so petty and vindictive. When she left the job after several months she took all the checks and cashed them at once. This of course emptied the owners account.
I stayed at the gas station job until I left for university. After I left someone broke into the store. The owner watched the video obsessively and finally saw a way to catch the man. But in the end the owner went out of business and I hear he got a divorce. I never liked the man, but it still made me sad. He was trying his best like we all are, and he did give me a good paying job. When I was leaving he told me when I was a success I could look back on working at the gas station. He was a part of the success. I think it gave him some pride and he was right.
Most of the time I was in Stockton I was moving. In fact there weren’t many moments I had free. But after my first semester there was some time. During the summer I didn’t take classes, so there were more. The last day I was in Stockton was odd. School was done, and I had quit my job to move. I had nothing to do, no pressing obligations. And then I moved. The move itself turned into an adventure for another story.