The Uber inched its way up toward SF on US 101. It was well past 7 pm and I thought rush-hour traffic would have dissipated by now. I usually head home a couple of hours earlier in the day. Traffic is heavy then too, but it’s different on the bus. No conversation is required there so I’m free to do whatever I see fit to make the outside world go away.
No such luck here. This is not a slight against the others. They’re nice folks, much nicer than me. Most people are. I’m including the driver in this even though I didn’t really know him. He had neither spouted racial slurs nor swerved to hit any animals on the road and that made him aces in my book.
The other passengers were my coworkers. We were employed by the same consulting company working at the same client though I had few interactions with them day to day. They let me ride shotgun.
We had just gotten out of a mandatory team gathering held offsite at a fancy brew pub in Sunnyvale. Awards were given. I neither received nor deserved one. They are given to those who demonstrate leadership or initiative. I just keep my head down and try to be productive enough to be worth keeping around. My accolades come in the form of continued paychecks and I’m all right with that.
One of my fellow Uber passengers did get an award for stepping up in a situation where a lesser consultant might have just shrugged. The other passenger did not receive one, but I imagine she will eventually. Both of them are young and earnest. I used to be one of those things.
“So Dave,” said the award winner. “What do you see as the biggest opportunity in your area?”
It was a fair question. What consulting companies do is to find out where someone with a skill set is needed and then bring in someone who has those skills. That’s how I got my job. I didn’t have an immediate answer so I talked about the project in general terms instead.
I wasn’t being deliberately evasive. I just drew a blank because I don’t think in those terms. My brain is a noisy place and a frequent open-mic venue for either my self-loathing or my delusions of grandeur. Often with the help of music, I put considerable effort into keeping that part of my noggin under control so I can focus on my work.
Also, I tend to call first dibs on potential opportunities. You see, I’m old and scared shitless of being made redundant. If the client needs someone to do something that doesn’t require people skills, I know some old guy with bad posture and worse teeth who’d be a good fit. I need to hang in there until I turn 65 or have amassed fuck-you money, whichever comes first.
The Uber made it into the city and I hopped out at 24th and Folsom Streets, bidding my colleagues a pleasant evening. I had enough time to hoof it home, drop off my backpack, and meet a friend for a drink. Tomorrow would be another work day and another chance for me to strive to be acceptable.