Before You Know It You’ll Be Wrangling Shopping Carts in the Freezing Rain for Ten Dollars an Hour

There have been so many moments in the past two years where I have had to stop and wonder what the hell is happening to my life. The day I left my partner of many many years. The day I moved out of my co-op. The day I got laid off from my dream job. The night I drove west out of Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge and headed for the left coast.

There was my arrival on the doorstep of two friendly strangers who would commence my welcome to Portland and be my roommates for nine months. Standing in the cold on a farm in Corbett, OR watching my sister destroy the existing floor of a trailer I bought in Seattle. Sitting in business plan writing class next to 25 other entrepreneurs attempting to put their ideas into action. My second day at the cart when it was just me hoping someone other than my friends would believe I made a smoothie worth paying for.

Hauling crates of bananas and apples out of Restaurant Depot with a broken back. Writhing in pain unable to fall asleep for months after I fell. Crashing off my bike. The day I tried to ask that guy out but I couldn’t catch him because I was limping, so I went back to my cart and decided to fast for forty days. Hiking in the woods twenty days in, when I kinda went cray cray and hit the deep end.

Recently it’s all been financial woes that have led me to the question of What the hell is going on? Financial woes that led me to close up the cart for the winter and drive around in a torrential downpour for five hours delivering applications and cover letters to every location of a certain national upscale grocery store chain in the Portland area. (There are seven.) I applied on a Thursday. Interviewed on a Friday and a Saturday. Started on a Sunday. Now it’s Tuesday. I’m halfway through my first six days with the company and I’m practically delirious. Be careful what you wish for, says the sage. Life can change in an instant and this job is kicking my ass.

I don’t mean to complain. It is saving me at a critical time. But there’s a lot to take in. How quickly the weather can chase all of my business away, the rain leaving me damp and lonely, not making enough to get by. How quickly I can be tossed into a new job with no time for training during the busy holiday season and everything changing around me. What will happen to my business that I put everything into? What will happen to my cart and my neighbors and the customers I’ve come to know? What happened to being my own boss?

So I’m thinking about it all in the parking lot of my new job as I wrangle shopping carts ten minutes before my shift is over in the dark and freezing rain. Actually I started thinking about it a few minutes ago, out back behind the store as I hauled 24 bags of garbage to the dumpster by myself.

When I woke up this morning I couldn’t stop thinking about this guy I have a crush on. The texter dude from Seattle who actually did write back and then I wrote back but now it’s crickets again. I had it in my head that I should put myself out there so he knows I dig him. My message would be upbeat and quirky:

“Logic tells me if you were interested you’d be trying to get to know me. But I’ve also heard guys can be clueless. Here’s hoping you’re not that bright.”

Or maybe, “WAKE UP! There’s a girl in PDX that likes you!”

Then I thought about it some more. I made the first move, I’ve shown continued interest, I’ve been vulnerable. If he’s not paying attention he’s the idiot. Not me. Like the other online guy said completely out of nowhere: “Stop chasing. He’ll find you.” It’s wise advice. I need to stand tall and proud.

All I can think about in this parking lot is thank goodness I didn’t send that message. The last thing I could take in this moment is another level of rejection or loss even coming from a complete stranger hundreds of miles away. And I’m crying because I cry. That’s how I get it all out. Luckily when I get back in the store I’ll just look flush and rained on. No one will ask if anything is wrong and I’ll slip out the front door with a fake smile plastered across my face and a chipper “Good night!”

I’ll continue crying in the car on the drive home which will not be a good idea because the rain will pour down and I still don’t really know my way through windy Johnson Creek to Tacoma across the Sellwood. What comes next? Taylors Ferry to Terwilliger and I still won’t be on the right side of Barbur.

But I will make it home and the dogs will greet me with an over pouring of love even though I left them cooped up for nine hours. I’ll apologize and they’ll forgive, as we have grown so accustomed to doing. Miraculously the puppy will not have destroyed anything in the house. He seems to have an innate sense of when that would actually send me over the edge of whatever remnant of sanity I have left. I’ll walk him in the rain and he’ll trot along beside me happily unaware of the weather, only glad to have me back home for the night.

Soon I will find five minutes to buy groceries and that new toothbrush I’ve been promising myself. Soon the pups will be set up with daycare and a dog walker. Soon there will be a paycheck to start chipping away at that credit card debt.

It’s possible that this is the first step in a long journey with a fantastic company. It’s possible that tomorrow I’ll sell the cart for more than I put into it and walk away smiling. It’s possible that the dude from Seattle has a secret master plan to slowly but surely text his way into my heart, sweep me off my feet and vow to keep me company for the rest of our lives.

We still don’t know what’s going to happen next, do we? So for tonight, once again, I will consciously dare to dream big.

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5 thoughts on “Before You Know It You’ll Be Wrangling Shopping Carts in the Freezing Rain for Ten Dollars an Hour”

  1. Oh, Jennifer. Lots to process and ponder and process and ponder. I’m proud of you! And BTW, sounds like you ended up at JCB and 82nd TJs, and I’m there often! I will see you soon!

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  2. Girl, we need to talk SOON. There is SO much here that I couldn’t possibly understand and relate to more. Things have been so crazy but let’s make a phone date. I’m away for the weekend in NJ. If you are around Monday night call me!

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  3. It’s winter, isn’t it? But there are buds showing even now, and you will burst into full bloom – soon – I promise. Keep remembering what it is you truly want and head toward that light. All else will either help you get there or fall away. I’m here if you need a listening ear.

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