I quit my job in Miami with the Yellow Truck company after one year and one day of employment. My boss, Luke, who is a really nice guy and still a friend (and who no longer works at that sweatshop, either), made me wait the extra day just so nobody could hassle me about repaying the move package or not getting my vacation time.
I quit the sweatshop job because I got a new job. The new job office was in Boca Raton, but they told me not to move from Miami to Boca (about 60 miles?) because they were going to be moving the office to Miami soon. SOON! Really!
I think they were just too cheap to move me up to Boca, not that I had any interest in living in Boca. They never have moved that office to Miami because the guys I worked with had no interest in living in Miami. This was the Latin America group of the paper company. I interviewed with everyone in the office. One of the sales guys spoke no Spanish whatsoever and had no interest in learning. (And how could such a man be salesman in Latin America, you ask? Good question!) When he found out I lived in Miami proper, he was astonished. How, how could I live in Miami?
What's wrong with living in Miami, I asked, genuinely puzzled.
He would never live there, he told me. He had children.
Oh. Right. Miami. Not safe for kids.
He was a racist jerk.
Anyhow. I didn't even consider moving to Boca. If one is going to live in Florida, one might as well live in Miami or else one is just in a giant anonymous suburb that used to be an orange grove. At least in Miami, you know where you are. Some other cities that will go unnamed but that I have had to visit against my will could be anywhere that has a Best Buy, Target, and Starbucks. Not that I don't like any of those places - I do (well, not the Best Buy, which I don't dislike but really I couldn't care less about an electronics store) - but if I have to put up with nasty summers and hurricanes, I want either great Mexican food or great Cuban food. Plus, I really like Miami. It's a neat place. I'd move back.
Even though I had no interest in moving to Boca (home of the Early Bird Special), I also had no interest in driving 120 miles to work and home every day. Hence, the train, which took 80 minutes to get from the airport stop in Miami to the West Boca stop, which was 50 yards from my office, and which was subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer, thank you very much.
Taxpayers, aren't you happy to pay more so some of us can ride the train to work while you are stuck in traffic? Sure, you feel all superior when the train is delayed because someone decided to commit suicide by stopping his car on the tracks and keeping the passengers from getting home before 9:00 p.m., but other than that, you're jealous. Many a naked man is visible from the train, even if he thinks nobody can see him standing by that pickup behind the Home Depot in Ft Lauderdale, and that is a worthwhile sight indeed.
Riding the train was kind of fun, just because there were so many weirdos. Also many nice people. There was Marisol, who suggested very sweetly when I was coughing that I should try some Veevahporoo to make me feel better. You know. Veevahporoo! That pungent cream in the blue jar known as Vicks VapoRub to us gringos and as the miracle cure to the Cubans.
The weirdos, though. I had no idea I was so unbearably attractive to men until I started taking the train. Well, I had some idea because I had traveled from Chile to the U.S. over land and had the opportunity to be hit on by many, many men on trains, buses, and boats in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, and Mexico. And points in between. So I had learned to be firm. Gringo code didn't work. Being nice but distant did not put off Latin men. They've seen Baywatch. They've seen American movies. They know what American women are like. We will sleep with anyone, anywhere, any time.
Thus I was prepared one morning when I sat in an empty coach and the only other passenger got up from his seat 20 feet away and sat right next to me.
Right next to me.
Not across from me. Not across the aisle. Not behind me.
Right. Next. To. Me.
I knew the next step was conversation and I wasn't interested. I had my Economist, I had my book, I had my newspaper. I had plenty to occupy me for the next hour and 20 minutes.
Yet he persisted. It was 6:00 in the morning and this guy thinks we're in a disco. "Where are you going?" he asked.
I looked at him and said coldly, "There are a million empty seats on this train. Why do you have to sit here?"
He huffed and said that he was just trying to be nice and sheesh, why was I such a bitch? and he'd show me.
Leave me alone.
My instincts were correct. A few weeks later, once I started taking the more sane 7:48 train (my boss didn't care when I got to work or left as long as I did my job), a man asked if he could sit across from me (the coach was almost full). I couldn't stop him, so I shrugged and went back to my book. He didn't need to ask. It was an empty seat. But all cons start with a question that demands a "yes" answer. "May I ask you a question?" is about the first thing any panhandler asks you. Just say "no" and keep walking is my advice.
He asked if I would move my newspaper, which was spread on the table between us. Then he removed a thermos from his backpack (he was in a suit) and a pack of instant oatmeal. "I eat my breakfast on the train," he confided in me.
Really? Do tell. I kept reading. Did I look interested?
He ate. Then he pulled out a ziplock bag full of potions and concoctions. And started to tell me exactly what each pill did. And how he lived with his mother.
What do you say to someone like that? What do you say to get him to shut the heck up because there is not another empty seat and you can't move? You just have to get over the dread of being thought Rude and Be Rude. You can justify your Rudeness by telling yourself that Vitamin Oatmeal Man is also being rude by presuming to talk to you while you keep POINTEDLY RETURNING TO YOUR NEWSPAPER after each, "Um-hmm."
So yeah. I avoided VOM after that.
And then there was the airline baggage handler guy with the wandering eye. Not that his wandering eye was his fault, but it did make him seem creepy. He was always staring at the women. Well, part of him was staring and part of him was looking elsewhere.
But there was Kip, the nice guy. He was cute and I watched him. He got on the train at Ft Lauderdale and got off at West Boca. I'll tell you about him next time. I wasted too much space on the weird people today.