Something happened today that reminded me of an epiphany I had as a seventeen year-old pizza driver.
This afternoon I had been shopping with my six year-old daughter. I bought her a fluffy hair tie, which snapped before we had even got back into the car. She was distraught and back we went to swap the stupid thing.
We approached the teller, who was busy counting a bundle of fifty dollar notes, and she said "Someone will see you soon," without looking up.
Someone will see you soon? I don't think she was trying to be poetic.
She had counted two bundles and was starting on her third by the time I had grabbed another hair tie myself. And, other than the CCTV camera in aisle three, nobody saw us.
If my life comes down to having to choose between counting rolls of fifties for my employer or helping another human then my life is officially broken. Kick me in the face.
And all this goes back to my epiphany as a seventeen year-old.
I worked for a major pizza chain and we were trained to move quickly from the store to the car, from the car to the residence and back again. This was partly about safety (it's harder to rob a running pizza guy than a dawdling one), partly about the company getting the most work out of their employees and partly about employees appearing to be enthusiastic.
This accelerated workstyle was referred to as the "hustle". Employees were rewarded with a form of currency known as Hustle Bucks, which we could spend on pizza.
The word "hustle" can refer to a positive state of great activity, but it can also mean to push roughly and jostle. To hustle can be to obtain illicitly or by forceful action, or it can just be a plain ol' swindle.
Predominantly negative definitions, I would say.
Anywho, we were asked to hustle (pick the definition you like best) and paid in Swindle Bucks.
On one evening I was self-consciously hustling from my Datsun to the rear of the store, head down, when the manager spotted me.
"Good hustling, Dan!" he said Americanly, handing me a Forceful Action Buck. One of them. A single Rough-Pushing Dollar for my Momentary State of Great Activity.
With the pizza delivery satchel in one hand and a pretend dollar in the other, I saw that my hands were full of emptiness. I lifted my head and realised that to have one's hands full of emptiness was probably a normal feature of modern, grown-up life, that it would kill me and that there was no fucking way I could live like that.
I resolved never to run for money. I kept my head up and counted the steps to the store. Seventeen.
Empty your hands. Keep your head up. You will see someone soon.