Tuesday, April 9, 2013

365 Jobs: Betsy's Door

Tuesday, October 24, 1989

Betsy's Door

Betsy is a grandmotherly sort.  Gray hair, sweet face.  You can tell immediately that money is tight.  She lives alone in a one-room apartment over a garage. 

Somebody kicked in her front entry.  She's hired me to replace it with a crummy used door that she found leaning against a dumpster.  I'll have to swap out the hinges and locks, then adjust the weatherstripping before she leaves for her job at three o'clock.

"Shouldn't the landlord pay for this?" I ask.

"No," Betsy says.

She watches me work.  Occasionally she glances at something called The Daily Word, which is a Bible quote with a little sermon.  She moves her lips as she's reading.  Otherwise, she's silent.  A simple, lonely woman, I'm thinking.  To make conversation, I ask an easy question: "Where do you work?"

"Oh, you know," she says as if I might.  Then it comes in a gush: "I used to run the Bar Association but it got too crazy so now I work at Stanford because they have good benefits and I do some extra bookkeeping on the side.  I thought I'd be retired by now.  I was planning to travel around in the motor home but now I can't afford to and I need to sell it.  You interested?"

"No.  Sorry."  There's a boxy Fleetwood, dented and dirty, parked in the driveway. 

We're quiet for a while.  She watches me work and glances at The Daily Word.

I don't know why, but for some reason I remark: "I see a lot of motor homes with a bumper sticker that says WE ARE SPENDING OUR CHILDREN'S INHERITANCE."

"You don't like that?" she asks.

"It seems sad."

"Why not spend it?  My son's an addict.  I used to have a lot of fine antiques.  Now look." 

"Is that who kicked in the front door?  Your son?"

"He's broken," she says.  "Like an egg on a sidewalk."

A grandmotherly sort.  Gray hair, sweet face.  She has one room and The Daily Word.

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