Back in 1995, I found out my live-in girlfriend was seeing/carrying-on with two different guys. So, I packed as much as I could into a black hefty bag, paged a friend and left. But not before I kissed my one-year-old daughter on the forehead as she slept in her crib.
The old friend pulled into my driveway, I walked out. I would’ve left in my car, but just weeks earlier the engine on my ride died, it cracked, croaked and everything else. I sold it for scraps.
As I walked out the door my, now, ex yells, “If you walk out now, you can never come back.” I nodded and said, I knew. As I closed the door, I heard rumblings of “Punk ass white boy.”
I knew I needed transportation, a job and something to keep me busy—quick.
A friend I had lost touch with, about eight years earlier tracked me down and got a job at Kinko’s. She was dating the manager there and said I could grab any shift I wanted. I chose the night shifts. Later the better. Night time is when I missed my daughter the most. Once I had money the manager let me take the Kinko’s van home on weekends, making it easier for me to take my daughter on weekends.
After about six months they promoted me to assistant manager in the computer department and then moved across town to another Kinko’s. I spent the next couple of months trying to move up and out to a different location. I became a cleanup manager. When different Kinko’s would end a computer department, they would send me into overall and streamline everything. Once that was done, I’d leave. I was hired full-time at the Pasadena location.
I’ve always loved Pasadena; it’s like Downtown L.A. without being as filthy. And 90% less homeless people peeing in alleys.
When I first got to Pasadena, the computer staff did not like me. I had already earned the reputation as the “cleanup” guy, and no one likes things being changed.
Over time everything fell into place. Everything became familiar fast. For example, there was a Hispanic homeless man that sat on a bench a half a block down and every day we’d have the same conversation as if we were both stuck in the movie Groundhog Day:
“Con permiso, you have matches?”
“No, I have no matches.”
“You have cigarettes?”
“No, I don’t have a cigarette.”
“You have marijuana?”
I wouldn’t need to answer because he would laugh so hard he’d be rolling off the bench.
I would see the marijuana man daily, but one of my favorite people would be opera man. Once a week this little-challenged man, who wore glasses and was about five feet five, would walk into Kinko’s, stand in the middle of the lobby and bust into the loudest, booming opera you have ever heard. He would scare the shit out of some people, while others would ask me, “What station are you playing?” Then after a couple of minutes, he’d turn and walk out the door.
Then one of the coolest oddballs was this black lady (who was also mentally challenged) that came to the store about once a month. She would walk in and wave over every Kinko’s employee and hand them one or two blue cans of some kind of Spam-like canned meat.
She was quick about this. I’d be in my office and she would come up behind me and drop two cans on my desk and bolt out of there. Not a word was spoken. The one time I was able to make eye-contact with her, she just smiled and rushed away.
Something about all the chaos kept the customers on their toes. If an employee was starting to get chewed out and Opera-Man popped up the customer would be completely out of sorts and have to restart the thought process. It was kind of cool.
After a year of working in Pasadena, I was transferred to Glendale and then over to Monrovia. Finally, I decided I didn’t want to hear the sound of copy machines anymore and I left to work for a design studio that was contracted with Universal Pictures.
I still think about Pasadena all the time.