Today was an exercise in desperation. Today was also a mystery unfurled. Warning: Pseudo-God stuff below, in case you're not interested.
It all started two weeks ago, when my parents (whose car I am currently borrowing in lieu of my own, which is dead as a doornail) explicitly told me not to drive the Blazer. Their insurance was intransient at the time. Decent enough reason not to drive; after all, having a wreck in my parents' car would potentially be very bad, but doing so without proper insurance could be devastating to all involved. So I called my boss and left a voicemail, explaining the situation to him. I'd called 8 hours in advance of my shift- twice. I figured that my ass was covered and that he'd have plenty of time to cover my shift that night. No sweat.
I went to work the following day and was told, as soon as I walked through the door, that I couldn't work the rest of the weekend until I spoke with the general manager (my boss' boss). Apparently, the GM was under the impression that I'd skipped out of work without calling in. And, no, I couldn't speak to him until Monday because he was out of town. No, my direct supervisor (my boss) can't talk, either, because he's out of town too. Sorry. No work this weekend.
Well, shit. I get paid a measely $6/hour, which isn't a whole hell of a lot. Missing three consecutive days of work, after already having had two scheduled days off, would be a severe financial set-back.
I came in the following Monday and argued with my bosses for about an hour- kept my job, which is a sort of pyhrric victory.
A week later I got my paycheck and, not surprisingly, it was far less than necessary for survival until the next pay period (this coming Wednesday). Today, my day off, I woke up with $2 to my name. I have to work tomorrow. My parent's Blazer guzzles gas like there's no tomorrow. I have to eat. I have to put gas in the truck. These are my barest of necessities and I would not be able to afford them on $2 with my next paycheck 4 days away.
Thursday I got an email from a cousin's husband, Chad. A nice guy if ever there was one. He'd tried to get me a web design gig a few months ago (I got underbid by someone else who, much to the client's chagrin, ended up making a huge mess of their site- you get what you pay for). In his message he said that he wanted to set up his online portfolio using Flash, but he doesn't know how to use Flash very well. I do. He wants to hire me to help him out. We corresponded via email (because my phone is down) and made plans to meet up tonight and discuss the job in detail, to see if it would be a small project (worth my time) or a big project (not worth my time). You see, I'm trying to get out of the whole web design thing. I'm just sick and tired of it. Everyone wants a website that looks good; no one wants to pay for it.
So I went to the cafe today and was given a free cup of coffee (it helps being a regular customer sometimes) while I checked my email messages and whatnot. I stayed at the cafe until 8:30 PM. The meeting with Chad was scheduled for 9. On the way there I glanced at the gas gauge and saw that I have just enough to get me to and from work tomorrow, but that's it- I'll be stuck at home till Wednesday. I'd never lived through the gas crisis in the early 70's, but I remember seeing some of the propaganda from that period, a three-word government-funded ad campaign: "NO UNNECESSARY DRIVING." Those three words rang through my head like the Liberty Bell on crack.
When I came to a red light, I closed my eyes and whispered a small prayer. "God, once again I'm asking for Your help. I don't do this often, but I'm coming down to the brass tacks and, honestly, all I've got left right now is my faith. You and I both know, for damn sure, that it's just about the only thing I have left in this world. You know what I need. Forget what I want. Please help me with what I need. Thanks in advance."
The problem with relying on God for assistance with the things one needs is that what He knows you need and what you think you need are sometimes two entirely different things. If you end up getting something else altogether (or nothing at all, which is sometimes worse), then you have to sit back and wonder, "Is this one of those let's-build-some-character things or was I just talking to myself like a mindless sheep?" Some or many of you probably are too cynical to appreciate this, but that's what faith is, sometimes. Sometimes faith is holding out just the slightest grain of hope that you haven't been talking to yourself all these years.
I got to my cousin's place, which is just a few minutes' drive from my own home, and was welcomed inside. Chad and I talked for a few minutes about life, what it's like to have kids (he has one, I don't), the fact that I'm quitting this web design stuff and The Biz. He asked if I had heard of The 615, a group of Nashville graphic and web designers. I informed him that I actually used to be a member of the group, but couldn't maintain my level of activity in it anymore, so I quit it earlier this year.
We got down to business and he showed me some preliminary design concepts he had for his site. What he wanted to do with Flash looked pretty simple, all things considered. Nothing too complicated. A couple of MC's, ActionScripting, minor animations and general functionality issues. Ho-hum. He'd already begun working on a FLA and showed it to me. I showed him some beginning tips on how to create MC's in Flash and how to copy keyframes and swap images in the copied frames. Really simple, basic stuff that I guess I take for granted. He seemed in awe of these things, commenting that he'd taken a year-long college course on Flash and they never even touched on half the stuff I was talking about.
I agreed to help him out with the site for $15/hour. All told, it'll probably take roughly 6 hours on my part to get the site fully operational. He seemed rather pleased with that, knowing that what I was agreeing to do for him was actually worth about 4 times what I was charging. But, hey, he's family, right? What kind of schmuck would I have to be to charge a member of my family, distant though he may be, full price for simple work?
We shook hands and chatted a little more. I was about to leave when he whipped out his wallet and handed me $15. "In one hour you've saved me about three days of banging my head against the wall. Here."
I gracefully accepted the money because, let's face it, I'm not in a position to turn it down, and talked with my cousin for a few moments before leaving them to their quiet night. I started the day with $2 in my pocket. I'm ending it with $15 (I had to eat, okay?).
Now... was my prayer answered or was Chad just being an honorable businessman in his own home? I didn't ask to be paid for tonight's dealings. I had honestly shown him those tips and tricks without even thinking about being paid for it. I mean, I hadn't actually done anything but grab the mouse a couple of times to illustrate the techniques. And yet he paid me for my time, without being charged for it. He's a good man and deals honorably with others in his field. But what compelled him to pay me exactly, almost to the dollar, what is necessary for me to survive until Wednesday?
Providence will provide.