A Place to Stand or Finding The Song...
If you have ever gone through a toll booth, you know that your relationship to the person in the booth is not the most intimate you'll ever have. It is one of life's frequent non-encounters: You hand over some money; you might get change; you drive off. I have been through every one of the 17 toll booths on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge on thousands of occasions, and never had an exchange worth remembering with anybody.
Late one morning in 1984, headed for lunch in San Francisco, I drove toward one of the booths. I heard loud music. It sounded like a party or a high energy concert. I looked around. No other cars with their windows open. No sound trucks. I looked at the toll booth. Inside it, the man was dancing.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm having a party," he said.
"What about the rest of these people?" I looked over at other booths; nothing moving there.
"They're not invited."
I had a dozen other questions for him, but somebody in a big hurry to get somewhere started punching his horn behind me and I drove off. But I made a note to myself: Find this guy again. There's something in his eye that says there's magic in his toll booth.
Months later I did find him again, still with the loud music, still having a party.
Again I asked, "What are you doing?"
He said, "I remember you from the last time. I'm still dancing. I'm having the same party."
I said, "Look. What about the rest of the people"
He said. "Stop. What do those look like to you?" He pointed down the row of toll booths.
"They look like tool booths."
I said, "Okay, I give up. What do they look like to you?"
He said, "Vertical coffins."
"What are you talking about?"
"I can prove it. At 8:30 every morning, live people get in. Then they die for eight hours. At 4:30, like Lazarus from the dead, they reemerge and go home. For eight hours, brain is on hold, dead on the job. Going through the motions."
I was amazed. This guy had developed a philosophy about his job. I could not help asking the next question: "Why is it different for you? You're having such a good time."
He looked at me. "I knew you were going to ask that, " he said. "I'm going to be a dancer someday." He pointed to the administration building. "My bosses are in there, and they're paying for my training. And I have a captive audience to dance to. Where else can you do that?!?
Sixteen people dead on the job, and the seventeenth, in precisely the same situation, figures out a way to make a life while making a living. That man was having a party, while all those around him were the living dead.
He and I did have lunch later and he said, "I don't understand why anybody would think my job is boring. I have a corner office and glass on all sides; I can see the Golden Gate, San Francisco and the Berkeley hills. Half the Western world vacations here and I just stroll in every day and practice dancing. Where else can you get a job like that?!
The Story Bin
Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Those who wish to sing... always find a song.
Have a great day!