Most folks think they know who they are and where they’re going. They’re the dangerous ones. — From the file card of the G.I. Joe figure Footloose
Like most kids of my generation, I was into G.I. Joe action figures. I loved them all. I had Jinx, the ninja, Fast Draw, the mobile missel specialist, and Wet-Suit, the Navy SEAL. Along with Payload the astronaut, these four comprised my shuttle crew; the best of my best. But, whenever I looked through the catalogues that came with the vehicles, I was always drawn to this one figure. Not for the reasons you’d expect, though. The figure’s name was Footloose, and he was an Infantryman. Next to all these ninjas and mobile missel specialists and laser troopers, there was…an Infantryman. I’d talk to all my friends, and they’d talk about people like Snake Eyes and Law & Order, but no one wanted Footloose. Next to all these military specialists, a plain ol’ soldier just didn’t seem exciting. I spent a great deal of time thinking “Why did they even bother making Footloose? No one wants him.” Well, I never took the time to think about how Footloose may have felt about this.
As you’ve heard me harp on about in the past, I am currently employed as a grocery bagger. Now, have you ever taken a close, hard look at the front end staff of a grocery store? It’s divided by gender. Women are cashiers, men are baggers. That’s just the way of things. And in a store like mine, I often find myself the only man on duty, surrounded by six or so women. Some of you more hormonal people may be going, “Yeah! I gotta get me a job like that!” but let me finish. If I’m working the daytime shift (which I usually am), then I find that the women I’m surrounded by are middle-aged, supplementing their husband’s income, and waiting for retirement. When things get slow, they gather together and gab in that way that two-degrees-away-from-being-old women do. They talk about who won in bingo last night, what their idiot kids are up to, and their hot flashes. Of course, being a young, virile, good looking male, I have nothing to jump into the conversation with.
When I’m working the evening shift, I find the women to be teenagers/recent high school graduates trying to make a few extra bucks. Keep it in your pants, boys, it’s not as good as it sounds. I’m sure longtime readers will remember my highly illogical puritanical ways which just kinda happened. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, and a 23-year old virgin, so this all adds up to the complete lack of self-confidence to talk to a girl. When things get slow, they gather together and gab in that way that teenage cliques do. They talk about their boyfriends, what they bought on their last shopping trip, and how drunk they got last night. Well, sometimes they talk about other things. A few days ago, two of these people were having a conversation. Being on the outer reaches of my hearing, this is all I heard:
Cashier #1>> Murmer, murmer.
Cashier #2>> Murmer, murmer, murmer.
Cashier #1>> Murmer?
Cashier #2>> Mark!
So, as you can see, when you’re name is the punch line, you have somewhat of a reluctance to strike up a conversation with these people. Because of my silence, I’m sure I’m starting to develop a reputation as the “quiet, creepy guy” among those people.
And then, there was yesterday. One of my co-workers has turned into quite the male-basher. She was taking great pride in showing off the poster she had taped to her till: “Cell phones are the only things men brag about being small.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there long enough, and I’m starting to find stuff like that offensive. Oh, and obviously she doesn’t know about my computer geek ways, because she bad-mouths technology at every available opportunity. So, when her cash register crashed and she had to spend three hours on the phone with the SysAdmin in Edmonton trying to fix it, I couldn’t help but smile to myself and think what goes around comes around. It turned out it crashed because of her attempt at reprogramming it to recognize a bar code. Not long after this, the store manager came to me with “a special job.” Turns out the big bosses are coming out soon, and someone had to sweep out the back room. Did I mention it’s a huge back room? It’s like being a seaman on an aircraft carrier, being given a mop and bucket, and ordered to swab the deck. It took me an hour. All alone in the back room. The guy no one will talk to.
That night, I had my latest meeting of the Liberal association. There, I have a very similar problem, only its ageism. Being a 23-year old young, virile male in a room where the average age is 55, it’s difficult to reach out. You can’t start a conversation with, “So, have you seen X-Men yet?” You’d be better off opening with, “Did you catch Judge Judy this afternoon?” Talk about behind on the times! Even the fiftysomething lecturer giving us advice on election preparedness said, “Oh, we don’t expect the Internet to be a major part of campaigning for at least two more elections.” And being the treasurer, it’s almost like they’re waiting for me to screw up. As I was giving my financial report, there was this one guy who just glared at me. Nothing more. Just glared. And I’m sure he didn’t like my answer to his question. He asked how much money we get back from the Liberal party for the sale of memberships. My very honest answer: “I won’t know that until our President gets the key to the mailbox and goes to pick up our first check, which has probably been sitting in the mailbox for a month now.” And when people were looking over the copies of my financial report that I passed out, there’s this one who chimes in, “You’re out by $0.23.” So I copied down a number wrong as I was typing it up. Big deal. At least I’m not like our President, who sat in the corner with a pad and pen and whipped up the agenda 30 seconds before the meeting commenced.
I went home that night and flopped down on the couch, feeling very much alone and unwanted. I’m very confused in my life right now. At college, the students’ union president once told me I had a reputation for being outspoken. When I saw something go wrong, I’d speak up. When I saw someone I’d like to get to know, I’d walk up and say, “Hi!” But now, I’m at home, and things have changed. At work, I’m left out because of my gender. With the Liberals, I’m left out because I’m young. With my friends, I’m left out because I live so far away. My mind started wandering, and it soon came back with, “And you left out Footloose because he was just an Infantryman.”
I hopped on ye ol’ Internet and went to YoJoe.com to read Footloose’s file card. Let’s find out about this guy I always left out. According to his file card, Footloose was the Valedictorian of his high school and captain of the track team. He was halfway through getting his Phys Ed degree when he dropped out of college, moved to California, and got “quite weird for about three years.” Then, one day, he decided to join the Army. This was the standard “quote from a buddy” on his file card:
“Some of the Joes think that Footloose is out there, but all he’s trying to do is find himself. He’s the All American Boy who got lost on the way to the fair and now he’s simply trying to go home any which way he can. Most folks think they know who they are and where they’re going. They’re the dangerous ones.”
So, what do you know? The one I always left out was the one I had the most in common with. We are both two lonely travelers, trying to find ourselves. He with the army, and me in my life. Right now, I’m coming back with that it’s not with a bunch of old people, and it’s not with a gaggle of women. Perhaps I should seek out Footloose on eBay or some such auction. Now I know that we weird, spacey ones aren’t all that uncommon. Perhaps, together, we can find the strength to find ourselves, speak up a little more, and not always be the ones excluded.