Thursday, June 3, 2010

Red Blue Face

Embarrassing moments are character builders, aren't they? When we hear about others' embarrassments, we're so glad it wasn't us, and yet we all have them, don't we? I certainly have my share. This post is one of them...and hopefully not one of many I remember.
It was 1996. I worked at a produce procurement company that arranged purchases of produce from local shippers to grocery food chains nationwide and up through Canada. That was the job I had when I realized I needed to seek higher education. There I was, fresh-faced and right out of high school, and within six months I'd gone from secretary assistant to a buying assistant. I was labeled a buying assistant, but reality was I had the largest and only international account as my charge, and yet I was making the least amount of money. I'd sit at a large wheel, like a lazy susan, and it spun between all of us buyers with all the accounts filed inside it so we could access any file at any time. It was a cool concept, but it got hard some days looking at the same people. The small office also only had one bathroom. Ten guys, four girls, and one bathroom. Not pretty, oh privacy at all. Anyway-part of the job was scouring the produce through California, which was our main region, on top of the southern deserts of Arizona and Chilean markets, plus parts of Mexico. I had to go out one day and check out local soft fruit as the season was at its peak and our office manager wanted to know what our shippers were shipping to our customers. Yeah, I knew them all--Driscoll strawberries, Grimway carrots, Ito peaches, Fresh Express salad, the Dole empire, and on and on. It's a small world in produce, but I suppose it's also obscure to the main population. I didn't mind going out to look at produce, which required me to meet with shippers, go into their coolers and packing houses, and describe in detail what I saw. In return shippers would place large boxes of fresh fruit in my company's car so I could take it back and dole it out (dole...punny~). This was back before GPS and I would have a heck of a time finding the small shippers in the tiny towns outside of anything remotely plottable on a map. At the time I was five months pregnant with Kindsay. I was heading out early summer and she came in October, so I was showing pretty good..I always looked pregnant too soon, you know? On top of that, the maternity clothes were L-A-M-E so I was wearing this overall-jumper-shorts outfit that added a few months to my look. What did I care? I had a job to do, and my goodness--I was gonna do it! I had my paper to fill out and my flowing pen of ink ready to jot till my heart couldn't take it any more of the soft fruit that I picked up and marveled at with feigned interest. I had no idea what I was looking at, looking for, nothing. Even now I couldn't tell you how to pick a good watermelon though I got first-hand instruction from watermelon growers of California's agriculture wonderland. I still thump, smell, and look around at what other people are buying. Whatever, I was right out of high school and doing a job so off I went. I had about four shippers to visit, all plums, peaches, and nectarines--which meant great samples to take home! But first I had to get my report done. After I visited two shippers, I went to PacSun and found it pretty empty. I was the "client," the one the shippers had to woo so I would tell my clients how great they were and buy from them. I entered the shipping yard looking around for any sign of packing life. I found a worker and he told me he'd get his manager to come out to talk to me and show me around. I nodded and sat on a set of pallets to wait for him, and thought perhaps I could start filling out my paperwork. As I started writing, the wind whipped up between the buildings and through my arms, blowing my papers up. Thankfully, I had both hands on them with the pen ready to write as I snatched around trying to get the papers in order, fighting against the wind and it's attempt to trash my visit. As I was getting myself together, the manager appeared. There before me was a former neighbor of mine, from my childhood, the older brother of my girlfriend down the street who was so stinking cute that everytime he mispronounced my name I giggled instead of correct him. He'd call me Y-vette, pronouncing the Y like you say it, then adding "vet" on the end. *sigh* He recognized me before I recognized him. Apparently I have a distinct face. I remembered him right away after he said his name. He was still a good-looking guy. He went on to small talk about how his sister, my childhood friend, was tall, beautiful, and living the good life down south as a single, free woman of leisure. There I stood with my pregnant belly, overalls (bleh), fuzzy wind-blown hair, and my "fruit paperwork" with all the authority of newly hired produce boy. Just what was he inferring? That I wasn't tall, beautiful, and living the good life? I had a great husband, children, and a job that paid, well, better than flipping burgers I guess. But still...I wasn't scraping the bottom of anything! I smiled and nodded as he created this goddess of southern California, a "coulda been me too" fantasy of a person that just couldn't be real. And yet, there he stood with his blue shipper shirt and his name stitched on the front. Hmph. We chatted, then he showed me around, I took notes diligently with all the seriousness I could muster as I described the plums in their purpley plumpness. The flesh was orange and fleshy. The plums were round. Oh yeah, I was taking some important notes. Watch out people, I'm rising up the produce ladder. You'd be able to pick out one of my described plums in a box of regular plums in a heartbeat. I finished up my visit and shook his hand, looking into his dark eyes and watching his thick hair flitting in the breeze. I'm married, I remind myself, can't think some other guy is cute, but I also couldn't help but be swept back into my childhood with my youthful crush on my friend's big bro. I went back to the car with authoritative fruit-describing urgency, ready to meet another 'competitor' shipper and say some good stuff about his nectarines, yeah--you've got competition and I'm not taking sides, buddy, no matter how cute you are. He stood and watched me get into my car then walked back into his warehouse. I sat in the car for a moment, getting my report in order and preparing to find my next shipper in the next remote, no-name town. My mind went back to his overly kind description of his gorgeous sister. What does she have that I don't have? I'm not half-bad, right? I flip down the visor to peek into the lighted mirror. Horror stared back at me. Yes, my face had it's baby-carrying glow, but it also had a five-inch blue line drawn from the top of my brow down to my lower cheek, almost jawline, on the left side of my face. What? What was that? The silky blue inkpen I carried that was so easy to write with as I walked around with shippers quickly became my enemy as I remembered grabbing papers in the wind with the unlidded pen in my hand whipping around careless of what it swiped across in an effort to save my beloved fruit reports from flying off into some forsaken field. I had inadvertently whipped the pen across my face, so smooth was the writing that I barely felt it, yet it left a solid line down my face. All that time I spoke with my old crush I looked like a hillbilly in my overalls, unable to master my fancy writin' utensil, hair mussed and face red and shiny with a blue streak of naivety. Yeah, my childhood girlfriend was living the good life. Why he had to stand there and go on about her while he could tell I was a complete mess is unknown to me...just another unquestionable question in the life of a girl unsure of, well, anything and everything. Except I could describe the pants off a peach, you better believe it. Those "fuzzy, peachy peach things" hmm!
...I still got it.

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