Friday, March 27, 2009


Budget: -$386.82

After an unsuccessful morning search for under-the-table work, I got off the train at Sullivan Square station

and caught a bus that let me out at a stop right near where I was going.

I found the building

and went inside.

The sign said the office was open from 5:30 AM until 6 PM. It was 11 AM; it was locked and there was no one inside. I decided to check out the electronics store next door (Electro Sales, as it says on the building).

I walked in and started checking out the various motors on the shelves. For about 30 seconds, at which point a man came out and asked if he could help me.

"I just came in looking for work and thought I'd take a look around."

He took a deep breath. "We.....discourage that."

"You.....discourage that?" I wondered what kind of business he was running. Then I thought about what I looked like, looking for day work, in my work clothes. For a second, I almost tried to tell him about majoring in astrophysics, about building electric motors in high school, about it being possible that I buy something if it's sufficiently interesting. Instead, I said nothing. After all, I really didn't plan to buy anything.

"You want a catalog?" he asked.

I figured since I didn't have any reading material, it couldn't hurt. "Sure."

He handed me a catalog, the cover of which included a computer fan of a type I remembered from when I was a teenager. I checked the date on the catalog. 1995.

I smiled and thanked him, went out, and sat down on the stairs with the catalog.

A while passed, and some guy walked in and made straight for the locked door. I thought maybe he was staff, but when he pulled on it and it didn't budge, he groaned and sank against the wall. His name was Eddie, and he needed work. We tried to see who could come up with a better story about where the staff had gone.

He asked about how I ended up looking for day work, and I told him the story. I asked about his, and he told me about how he used to just stop whenever he saw landscapers working and offer his assistance. "Suddenly, last summer, it got harder. I don't know why."

A couple of other guys showed up. "She's here, I saw her. She'll be here any minute."

Finally a woman came and opened the door. The two guys who came later had clearly been coming in for a long time, and knew the woman well. She chatted with them for a couple of minutes, then turned to me and said "Can I help you?"

I gave her my documents, zipped through the paperwork, and went to talk to her. It seemed like she knew the other guys, so I figured I shouldn't be a stranger either if I want to get work. Her name was Louie. I told her about how this last week I was doing day work in Lynn.

Another girl I hadn't noticed behind the counter perked up.

"Oh, he's from Lynn?"

"Day work in Lynn, huh?" said Louie. "You might know my sister Shante."

I hadn't even really started, and I had connections in Somerville. Perhaps, given that I'll be traveling relatively small distances (on the order of 100 or a few hundred miles) between cities where I work, perhaps such a phenomenon will not be so unusual.

"No vehicle?" asked Louie.


"And you came from Lynn?" She looked at the address on the forms I'd filled out. "Oh, you came from farther!"

"And I'll be going much farther," I said, and told them about my plan. From there, it was small talk from fixing a bike chain that has fallen off to why I have no accent if I came from Russia.

"Where'd that book come from?" asked Louie. "Is that yours?"

"They gave it to me next door while I was waiting."

"Really! I couldn't imagine him giving anyone anything but a catalog."

"It is a catalog. A 400-page catalog from 1995."

We both cracked up. Suddenly I was in a much better mood.

I asked Louie if there's any "nice" way to walk back to Sullivan Square. She sent me up a side street

and a boulevard.

Yeah, Somerville was going to be all right.

After walking down the boulevard for a while, the buildings turned to houses, then to lots, warehouses and junkyards. Then the street narrowed, went under a bridge

and again I heard metal clanging and saw smoking chimneys, and sure enough, there was Sullivan Square.

I got on a train and went to have lunch with my friend Michelle. Changing locations, in itself, is clearly nothing to stress about.

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