It’s story time! I know, I know — you’re very excited. Before becoming an adult with a full-time job, I traveled around the country as a multimedia technical presenter for a non-profit production company based out of Los Angeles.
For ten months I cruised around the U.S. in a sketchy white van (as seen below) with a partner, living out of “economic” hotels, eating out every meal and getting paid less than minimum wage to tell students from kindergarten to 12th grade how to build their character.
And I loved it! If it had paid more, I’d probably still be doing it. If only student loans paid themselves …
At any rate, I learned a lot about myself, God and other people while living the gypsy life. One of the lessons I learned came from a middle school kid in Louisiana.
My partner, Cass, and I were packing up from a show that we had put on in a small school on the bayou. Many times we had students help us set up or pack up our equipment, and this particular day we got three strapping 13-year-olds to assist us.
Now having students help us either went one of two ways: 1. The kids listened to our instructions so well and were a huge help, or 2. They were too cool to listen to instructions and almost broke our equipment, forcing me to use my “authoritative voice,” which of course lost me cool points.
On this particular day, the kids were the former with a dose of hilarious. We didn’t see that often, so we were basking in the wit and banter of the moment.
As we were loading up the van, the kids started asking a lot of questions about how traveling is and where we’ve gotten to go and things like that. Before I go any further, you should know a little about Cass.
She is very well-traveled, extremely intelligent, hilarious, full of life and a little bit of a hippie. If we were driving down the interstate and saw wildflowers on the side of the road, we were stopping so she could pick a bouquet and make a flower chain. If we were going to be in a big city, we had to stop at a Trader Joe’s so she could get her raw, all-natural almonds and no-added-sugar-or-sulfates-or-anything-that-isn’t-all-natural dried mangos. That’s just how it was.
As a result, we always had interesting decorations in our van. Strategically hanging from an overhead compartment were rocks from Wyoming, moss from Montana, dried flowers from only God-knows-where, postcards and even a tumbleweed chandelier that she had painstakingly stapled to the roof’s lining. We were very proud of Jorge’s (the van) charm and character.
So naturally when the kids were asking all these questions about Jorge and our job and traveling, I wanted to show off Cass’s handiwork. So in response to the conversation, I said, “If you think that’s cool, you should see inside our van.”
The moment the words flung themselves out of my mouth, the most quick-witted kid said something like, “Whoa now, I’m not supposed to get in strangers’ vans, especially if candy is involved.”
I could’ve swallowed my arm. That was another learning day for me.