Dennis G. Jerz describes his close encounter with an alternate life. It made me think about where I could have been. Or rather, where I at 18 realistically thought I would end.
At 18 I was a confused high-school student. In the week-ends I did my mother's cleaning job at the hospital, in the week I did the household chores. The summer I spent gutting salmon. With regular intervals I would have to look after my little sister while my father spent time at the hospital, and what I made in the summers would disappear for books and clothes and at times food when the adults were too busy surviving to remember that they still had two children living at home. In between this I struggled weakly to keep up at school.
My future was pretty clear to me. I would get a job cleaning or something similar, I'd marry a local man, have a couple of children, buy a little house in the area and split my energy between raising children, cleaning, looking after the house, garden and husband, and read trashy novels. On the coastal steamer some years ago I saw one of my old boyfriends and his family - a tired-looking wife with too much makeup and two stubborn, red-headed boys (just like himself). I pulled discretely further into the corner where I was seated and raised the book I was reading like a shield between the potentialities.
I have the house, kids and husband - and occasionally the trashy novels - but somebody else cleans my office, and the experiences I have through my work are way beyond anything I imagined. No, I don't ever want to go back. But I always make sure to be really polite towards people who do the kind of work I could have done, if I had not taken another turn at some point in the past. We could all have lived some alternate life - and not all alternatives are to be mourned.