Steve Wilson

Somewhere along the line I am sure I mentioned that I have lived and worked in different locales spread across the country and as such there are memorable episodes, one of which came to mind recently so I thought I would share it. I use the word episode because if one looks at one’s life like a long biographical docu-series, or a sitcom, then each encounter in life can be made into an episode not unlike any other long-running television program. This one little vignette (I’ve used the word episode enough) took place in Orlando, Fla., in the mid-90s while I was delivering dinette sets in that area of the world.

The name of the company was Dinette’s Unlimited, there were seven of them spread up and down the state with Orlando the site of two stores. Now, for those of you who may not be acquainted with the state of Florida, it may help to know that it is a southern state and many in that part of the country have a whole different point of view of things than do others; firstly, they have not fully gotten over the fact they lost a war some 157 years ago, and secondly, they still accept the term “Crackers” as a designation they are proud of. And it must also be said of Florida that the two statements just mentioned are not sentiments shared by the sizable Black population.

All that aside, the job entailed unboxing dinettes and checking for any manufacturing or transit flaws or dings, re-boxing and delivery and set-up for the client. I will interject here the dinettes we dealt with were pricey, one two-chair circular set-up was $1,200, and that was the cheapest one we carried in stock. Once choosing the best delivery route and loading the dinettes in proper order, I set out sometimes to homes within the city, other times miles from Orlando proper (which if one looks at a map one can see the many small surrounding towns).

This one encounter took place in one of the ritzier gated communities located on a golf course (lots of golf courses in Orlando), it had not one but two sentry posts to pass, the house I was delivering to was two doors from Shaquille O’Neal’s house and was quite large. Upon arrival I was admitted by a girl about 14 years old, the parents were working.

The set I was delivering took about two hours to unload and assemble, a large marble topped thing that would seat 10 diners comfortably. And it was not the main dining table of the house, this was to be set-up in what I suppose was the den, or game room, or something akin to those. There was a gap in the wall, mostly a wall of glass overlooking the vast patio area, where the swimming pool came into the room; those long plastic strips one sees in refrigerated areas in supermarkets or packing sheds hung down to just inches above the water. Impressive.

There was also a serving area with bar, a few arcade video games and a pool table. This was being used by four guys, one the brother of the girl who let me in and who was at least seven or eight years older than his sister. Without judgment, I will tell you it was quite evident the brother and at least one other guy holding a pool cue were gay. This was not a big deal to me; over the years I’ve worked around gays of both sexes and in fact my present store manager was gay.

I was nearly done with the set-up when the young girl came in and climbed atop a tall bar stool and without a word just sat and watched me assemble the last few parts of the table. She was dressed mostly in black, the only color evident was on her canvas shoes, which had a couple red stripes across the top. She didn’t sit upright on the stool but rather lounged on it, her chin tucked in the crook of her elbow atop the bar with one foot on a rung of the stool, the other dangling in the air. She seemed immersed in a cloud of melancholia.

After a good 15 minutes of silence, feeling that some words would be in order, I said, “You have a beautiful home.” The kid looked at me for a few seconds and replied, “I live in a nice house”; she then hopped off the stool and was gone.

It was a terse reply, but when coupled with the girls overall blasé temperament, it spoke volumes. Parents so occupied with whatever it takes to live in a mansion like that in a high-dollar area like that, they failed to make their house a home. And for a long time after I wondered what happened to that young lady: what choices did she make, what paths did she follow and did those decisions bring her happiness and fulfillment? I hope she made a home for herself somewhere.

In the intervening 27 some years since that encounter, I have come to realize that the situation of that girl is not one common to just the wealthy. Her parents were no doubt highly educated professional career people who were children of professional parents, but that does not make her unlike many whose parents did not receive higher education, parents who are part of America’s vast labor force.

I am aware, now, there are many young people whose situation does not give them an abundance of parental time, as long hours are necessary to maintain the necessities of life. In place of personal interaction with both parents and siblings, the young today can immerse themselves in all the world has to offer on myriad tech devices; and the results of all that time spent in an online world has yet to be determined. Let’s hope for the best.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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