Funny That Blanca (o) Means White
Blanca put me on hold. When she came back she said that if I could get there 15 minutes before they open today at 9am, she would open early for me so I could rush in, take my test, and get out. I agreed and thanked her. It was such a nice thing to do that it made me wish I could bring her a giftcard to a coffee shop or something.
When I started out this morning the heatwave had lifted. The cool air felt great as I waited for the bus. And waited. It was eight minutes behind schedule. Inside my head, I kept urging the bus driver to go faster. At my stop I rushed off the bus and tried to get my bearings and figure out where in the Mission the career place was. Down the block I saw a long line of people waiting outside. Hoping that was it, I walked towards them. It was.
There were security guards all over the place. All the people were standing in line. If I stood at the back of the line I wouldn't even get in until after 9am, let alone 15 minutes earlier. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to go up to each person in line and somehow tell them, "I'm not cutting you," even though I was. I walked in and said I had an 8:45 appointment with Blanca.
The woman asked me my name and then told me Blanca wasn't there yet, but I should go wait at the tables for her. The tables were next to a desk with a "Computer Center" sign. I told the guy manning the desk that I was there to see Blanca. He told me she'd be right out. I pulled out my book to read and people-watch. There were tons of people there. I was kind of shocked. I shouldn't have been - everyone knows it's hard to find a job.
I was the only white person in the entire place. An old Chinese lady was in line for something, and a security guard went over and told her to stop singing loudly. A group of girls sat down at a table near me, and pulled out McDonalds and started eating. It smelled both good and gross all at the same time.
Blanca came over and introduced herself to me. She's either in her late 60's or has lived a hard life and is in her early 60's. She was wearing grandma shoes with an ankle-length skirt that had fringes cut up to the knees. Blanca led me over to a computer and set me up to take the typing test. I did the one-minute warmup, and then the computer crapped out. When I told Blanca, she pointed to a man talking to a pregnant girl, and told me he might be able to fix the computer. Not to let him leave. So I sat, alone except for the two of them, and pretended not to listen to their conversation.
I pretended not to listen as the pregnant girl talked about her daughter, and how she didn't like the relative doing childcare. How she was putting in all these hours volunteering someplace, but was frustrated. Frustrated because she came home at the end of the day exhausted, and still had to take care of her daughter and listen to her parents and she isn't even getting paid very much. They sat very close - knees almost touching - and the man did active listening.
Blanca came back, said something to me that I didn't catch, and then walked out of the room. After a couple of seconds, I realized she'd said vamanos, so I grabbed my bag and hurried to catch up. There was a second computer room and she set me up to take my typing test there.
A black lady who worked there walked in and told me it might get loud and she was sorry, but I should just do my best to concentrate. We agreed it was warm in the room, and I said surely it wasn't as bad as yesterday. The McDonald's girls walked in, along with some other girls, and I tuned them out while I did the warmup to the typing test again. In less than sixty seconds I felt myself slide into that zone, where your mind checks out and your body takes over.
As I started the five-minute test, the one that would count, I started listening to the girls behind me as they talked with the black lady. First she criticized them for arriving late. Then she reminded them they were supposed to be dressed for work and while she knew it was very hot, spaghetti-strap tank tops and short shorts were not appropriate. I typed, they talked. She asked one girl if she'd talked to another woman who wasn't there.
The girl said no, not yet. A second girl asked why the first girl was going to talk to that woman. Apparently you can apply to get your police record cleared, to make getting a job easier. Who knew you'd learn such important information during a typing test?
When my five minutes were up, I told the program to print my results, and I started out of the room to go find Blanca. The black lady was surprised. "You leavin' already?" I explained it was just a five-minute test. We said goodbye. As I walked out I heard one of the girls say, "I bet she already has a real good job."