On a hot afternoon in West Hollywood, I’m prowling down Sunset Boulevard on the lookout for a building. My graduate program requires an internship, so I’ve got an interview and I don’t want to be late. Despite getting stuck in traffic, my maiden voyage to Los Angeles is still on track thanks to the big cushion of time I’ve given myself. Being overly prepared for seemingly normal things is a compulsion of mine born out of a need to avoid cornering myself into unfortunate situations. Situations like in high school when we went to the ice rink that didn’t have skates with proper ankle support. I couldn’t stand up, my ankles wouldn’t hold. I spent the whole time sitting in the minivan with my friends’ mom. Actually, that was some nice conversation time with Nancy, but here’s my point. When you have a disability, you have to ask extra questions about everything. Of course, there’s always a few surprises.
Whenever I go somewhere new, I always think I do CIA-level recon. Mostly I use satellite imagery (Google maps) to ascertain parking spots because I can’t walk far and certainly not without stopping to catch my breath. Asphalt may be a melanoma on the skin of the Earth, but whenever I see a parking lot attached to the place I’m scoping out, it’s a relief. Before today’s operation (code named, SNEEZING FALCON), I discover the destination lacks a parking lot. This leaves only the street. To me, street parking is a little like Russian roulette. Most of the time, it works out okay, but every now and then… Well, I try not to think about double parking.
One and a half blocks past the place, I find a parking spot. Twenty minutes left.
The extra quarters for the meter jangle in my pocket as I make my way to the interview. The extra nickels and dimes also jangle in my pocket, I bring them in case the meter is an ancient, eldritch device which only takes currency relevant half a century ago. An over-active imagination can conjure many frightful scenarios. Have I ever encountered a parking meter like that? No, but that only ups the chances I will soon. That’s how life works.
The sidewalk is dirty, the whole place looks baked to a golden brown in the afternoon light. I have plenty of time to notice the grimy decor of the storefronts because I walk slowly. After the first street crossing, I pretend to field an important phone call. I never get important phone calls. Anyone who knows me, texts. I do the cell phone charade to prevent strangers from asking me if I need help while I catch my breath. It works half the time. When it doesn’t, no matter what I say, they never leave convinced I’m totally fine. Their doubt unnerves me a little, what do they know that I don’t? Maybe I’m not totally fine. Is my hair sticking up in the back? Are you sure? I try to avoid petty existential crises when they’re instigated by others, but my success rate is mildly abysmal.
With minutes to spare, I make it to the medium sized office building for the interview. The exterior is covered with heavily tinted windows which lends the place a monolithic feeling, at least it will if the structure grows a dozen stories taller. Like so many of us, it too must be waiting for its growth spurt. The entrance is elevated on a front porch of sorts, much of this town is hilly, but I mount the few steps without delay. Brimming with confidence, I yank on the door only to discover it’s locked. No problem. I know what to do. I peer in through the glass to look for a receptionist because, with offices like these, I know there’s always a receptionist. Knock, knock! Hello?
There’s no receptionist.
I see an empty desk, in an empty lobby, in a potentially empty building. Panic looms but I distract it with a thoughtful gaze at the surroundings. This part of West Hollywood feels like the kind of place where there’s always a stream of odd people on the sidewalk, loud cars in the street and new billboards going up every day. Whether this is true or not I have no idea, but it takes me only a few more moments of internal pontification before I notice the intercom unit on the wall. This could be trouble. I can barely reach the buttons, but manage to mash the right one. A crackling Voice speaks from the unit. I have no idea what it says but I announce who I am, state my reason for being there, and hope for the best. My speech is impaired so all I can do is a loud whisper most days. The Voice crackles something back. I wait, then try the door. It’s locked. I push the button again, and again the Voice crackles at me. I whisper back. Nothing. Still locked. I’m not getting in. Panic returns and its amigo Despair saddles up for a ride through Feelings Town. Desperate, I whack the button one last time. The Voice crackles but I say nothing, maybe they’ll figure it out on their own? Hope withers as the door remains locked.
There are times in our lives when we question the universe. This is important. The universe needs questioning. But today, all I need is to get inside this damn office building. I mean, I have an interview. It’s for an internship. Flippin’ summer credit. And the only thing holding me back is this primitive intercom? Tuck SMASH! This is important! Important to me, anyway. So here’s the deal, Universe. You let me into this building now and I’ll freak out about the world later. I promise. We’ll go through all the classics like why does good stuff happen to bad people? How come Mom and Dad are getting older? And why can’t I be in a Star Wars movie?! Under duress, I make jokes to amuse myself. There is nothing more I can do but wait the allotted time of a good college try and go home. Five minutes elapse. Then ten. I am hopelessly late. Through the glass door, the empty lobby taunts me with its indifference. Frothing with frustration and rage, I question the universe. For once, the bastard answers back. I turn to leave in defeat when, down the sidewalk, I see someone familiar.
The Lord Jesus Christ is walking towards me.
Dressed in dirty white robes, sandals and long brown hair, the tall white guy makes eye contact as he approaches. Without slowing his brisk gait, he raises his fist and I follow suit. Our knuckles touch. He nods. I nod. He continues on his way. The whole thing takes about twenty seconds, but I swear it felt like forty seconds.
Minute or so later, a small pack of workers show up. They’re dressed in the traditional skins of the office drone, khakis and button-ups. Since I’m wearing similar pelts, they take me as one of their own, and lead me around the back. They apologize for the lack of receptionist. Apparently they need a new one. I realize these are not the people I am interviewing with. They think I work here. I don’t disabuse them of the notion with my smalltalk. Yes, lovely weather we’re having. Oh thanks for getting the door. I’m needed upstairs. You too? Oh, hold on. I have a phone call. Yes, I have to take this. Thanks for the help. No I’m fine.
There’s no doubt in my voice. Of course I’m fine. I’ve fist-bumped Jesus.
I have the interview. They chalk my lateness up to traffic. I don’t get the unpaid position. Whatever. Rejection always feels personal, but one tries not to take it as such. On the way home, I get stuck in traffic at an intersection near the freeway. Sirens blare in the distance and I notice crowds on the sidewalk stop to gawk at something coming down the other way. I half expect another sign from the universe. Suddenly, an SUV barrels through the intersection and cuts a hard left right past me. At one point, the SUV is up on two wheels and barely misses wrecking the parked cars on the street. People point the police in the right direction as cop car after cop car chases the joyriders. I guess we’re all snitches if it means being part of something exciting. Later on, after I’m safely on the freeway, I decide the universe has in fact sent me another sign. If I was double parked where that SUV hooked the left, I would have been flattened.
Existence is a high stakes game. Plan wisely.