By Dom Cioffi
The sun was shining bright enough that the warmth against my face felt like a space heater. I closed my eyes and tilted my head skyward to soak in the rays. For weeks the weather had been sketchy, but now spring truly felt like it was upon us.
I had just walked out of a bookstore where I had left my son. I told him to take his time and to meet me at the storefront when he was finished browsing.
As I sat on a nearby bench waiting, I noticed an elderly gentleman approach the garbage pail next to me. He was obviously a city employee since he was decked out in the appropriate attire. He also had extra garbage bags tied to his waist.
I could hear him whistling softly as he got closer and when he was no more than a few feet away, I recognized the tune. “That’s ‘Somewhere My Love’ from the movie ‘Dr. Zhivago,’” I boasted with a big smile on my face.
The old man chuckled. “Well, you could be right or you could be wrong. I have no idea,” he stated. “I just love that melody.”
I whistled the first few bars of the song as he listened intently. “That’s it. That’s the song,” he said. “But what was the name of the movie?”
I went on to explain that “Dr. Zhivago” was an Academy Award winning film from the 1960s that was based on a pre-World War I love story set in Russia, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie.
“Well, that’s all news to me,” he shrugged.
I threw out a few more cinematic tidbits while he listened politely, but I realized fairly quickly that the nice old man was not well versed in the world of motion pictures.
After he finished changing out the garbage, he tied the bag tightly and then surprised me by sitting down on the bench next to me. I got the feeling that this was not something he did often, but on this occasion he had no qualms about taking a very visible break during this glorious morning.
“This is a beautiful day,” he said while smiling. “And a great day to be working.”
I laughed politely at his statement and said that I didn’t think many people would combine “working” and “a great day” into the same sentence.
“Compared to other jobs I’ve had, this feels like heaven,” he replied.
I took the obvious bait and inquired to the other positions of employment he had over his career. What followed was a brief timeline of occupations that would make even the hardest laborer wince.
The old man said that, as a youngster, he had worked on farms picking vegetables and fruit. He explained that the sun used to scorch his neck to the point of blistering and that he went months suffering from headaches brought on by dehydration.
Later he took work on fishing boats, complaining that the years he spent on the ocean made him unable to date women because he couldn’t wash off the smell. I laughed politely at this statement and he followed suit, stating that it probably saved him a lot of grief in the end.
Eventually he made his way to New York City where he worked in water treatment facilities (a.k.a. sewers) before eventually becoming a transit bus driver, which he admitted wasn’t that bad even though he witnessed two murders and found several people dead on his buses from overdoses.
And now the old man was a custodian, and he “couldn’t be happier.”
“I don’t look at this job as emptying garbage,” he stated. “I look at it as keeping things beautiful.” He then got up and said he had to get back to work. I smiled and nodded goodbye as the old man wandered away, all the while whistling “Somewhere My Love.”
This week’s film also features some rough occupations. However, in these jobs, the lives of both evil and innocent people hang in the balance.
“Eye in the Sky” is a military drama focusing on a governmental drone strike program. Set in various locations around the planet, this film gives an inside look at the tactics involved in removing war criminals via computer guided missiles.
Starring Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul, “Eye in the Sky” builds a progressive tension in real-time as various officials weigh the moral implications of eliminating dangerous targets when innocent civilians are within the strike area.
Anyone interested in military-based storylines will be intrigued by this picture. It is a timely film given the subject matter, but more than anything, it is about the cost of war and the sanctity of human life.
A high profile “B” for “Eye in the Sky.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.