Everyday jobs, everyday people

Coming home from work this evening, I passed a woman dressed up most unusually for 5:30 in the afternoon.

Her hair was done up in the form of a lampshade. Her makeup was brilliant and seductive, like a sexy waitress who just turned into a zombie last week.

She was wearing a spaghetti-strap top and  shorts and sneakers. But in one arm she toted a pair of shiny, thigh-high leather boots, and in the other, she carried a black piano chair.

It did seem strange to me at first. What an odd way to present oneself to the world on one’s evening stroll through Parnell. There is no accounting for taste in New Zealand, after all.

She almost seemed part of a prank. I expected to spot obscured cameras in van windows. Most women in New Zealand would have at least left the chair home.

But what if this wasn’t strange? What if this woman were some kind of sex-industry worker, and she was commuting to or from a job? Just like the characters in my all-time favorite book.

People do shit in this book. They stand around, watch other people work. The front cover alone makes you feel like doing something like that. Something adult, like spitting or drinking vodka from a thermos while lighting an oxyacetylene torch.

One day, when I was three (or 11 or 12, I can’t remember) I stopped putting the book in my mouth and started to take interest in the pages. Each was a call to adulthood. It was an urging to action that I felt and answered. But having no prior construction work experience, I instead drew on my bedroom wall a picture of a kitten playing with a ball of yarn, with my own feces. That was all I knew at the time. And I enjoyed doing that kind of work, following the example of the people in my book.

Then one day, you’re walking home from work and you see this woman bouncing past you, with her shoes and her chair. This epiphany that happens. You realize there is no place for this woman in the worlds of Tibor Gergely, Richard Scarry, or Dr. Seuss’ world. You wish there had been, to prepare you for the real world.

I don’t know what this woman did for a living. Maybe she was a stripper heading to her club. Maybe she was a dominatrix coming back from a visit to a needy shut-in. Maybe the chair meant she was a house mover. I don’t know. But I do know that while you might find a house mover in the Berenstain Bears’ house, you sure as shit won’t find a prostitute.

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