The Max is a lite rail public transportation system in Portland, OR. and like any type of mass transportation a very interesting cross section of people ride it for various reasons. Some are commuters going to and from work, others are visiting the downtown area to see a show or go to dinner, others use it to meet up with their buds and run around, while others use it as a way to get out of the cold of night or heat of day.
I however, am a tourist using it to visit my daughter who attends college in downtown Portland. And as I do whenever I go anywhere, I observe the people around me and wonder what they are thinking, wonder what makes them do what they do. This post is one of those observations I made during a trip back from downtown Portland to my hotel.
After the little four year old boy fell to sleep we stopped in Old China Town and a young 20 something man with a Mohawk haircut wearing a tie died shirt boarded the Yellow Line and stood near the door with a look of disgust on his face. His black jeans were tight against his legs and came to a compressed pile at the top of his combat boots.
“I can’t believe I didn’t get that job!”
“I was the strongest one there! No one could’ve taken me!”
“All because of my piercings and haircut!”
“Where does he get off telling me that I wouldn’t fit in!”
“Especially in a place like that! A strip joint no less!”
“I would think you’d want someone who looked scary for a bouncer.”
“And how does he think my piercings pose a potential health risk? Does he think someone is gonna rip them off me?”
“What am I gonna do now? I need to get a job so I can pay rent and continue with college.”
“No one is hiring, at least not hiring me anyway.”
“I guess I’ll have to try over at McDonalds or Wendy’s again.”
“No, wait, They told me last time I couldn’t wear my piercings and I’d have to wear a hat.”
“Man, that cramps my style! It hides the real me! I can’t do that!”
“All the really cool places won’t be hiring for another couple of weeks until after school starts back up. But, then it’ll be too late! I won’t make rent!”
“Maybe I could join that group of panhandlers, I hear they make good money. Everyone’s a sucker for some dirty, poor, kid, on the street with no place to live.”
“No, that won’t work either. Once they see my piercings and hair, all they’re gonna think is I’ll spend what they give me on another piercing or tat. I’ll never make any money panhandling.”
“I guess I could call up the parents and ask for a loan until the clubs start back up.”
“No, that won’t work either, Dad said he would never loan me another cent until I came to my senses and proved to him I was truly committed to going to college. He wanted to see at least two semesters of B’s or higher before he’d give me another cent.”
“Man, I’m screwed! I never should have goofed off so much last year. I knew better and the classes weren’t that hard anyway. If I had just applied myself a little, I could have gotten straight A’s, no sweat at all.”
“The money from the strip joint was fine! After a couple of weeks, I’d have a full month’s rent and everything I need for this semester’s tuition.”
“Hell, if I put in a little overtime, I could make enough for my books and a few supplies.”
“I guess I’ll have to do it! I’m going to tone down my image so I can get the job and back into school. Then, next year, Dad will see I’ve changed my ways and pay to send me to college and everything will be alright.”
“Hell, I could even pick up a part time gig over at Wendy’s, so I have some extra cash for the weekends.”
“And if any of the guys give me shit, I’ll pound the shit out of them!”
“They don’t rule me and they can’t tell me what to do or how to look!”
“I’m gonna do what I have to do to make it through this. And if that means I have to change the way I look to get a job, well, Hell! I’m gonna do it.”
“I think I’ll head back over to Old China Town and talk to the owner of that club again. Hopefully he hasn’t given the job to anyone else.”
And, then out of the corner of my eye, I saw the young man start to comb down his Mohawk until it was flat and then he started to unscrew the end off the stud which ran through his nose and pull it out with a little wince. The train came to a stop and the man got off the train and turned looking for the next one heading back south.
As we drove off, I saw him put the stud in his pocket and start to attack the bar going through his eyebrow.