Bin On A Bad Day

Posted on July 2, 2010

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Bin, Though No Different From Any Other, Differed Deeply Within

Bin On A Bad Day

Bin Redman, chief elevator inspections supervisor for [agency name withheld], hasn’t had a good day.

Four or five conversations lasting more than thirty seconds are the only ones I’ve had with him in the three years we’ve worked in the same building; same department, same division. A good layperson phrase to peg Bin with would be “out there” and that is largely the reason why I generally avoid such a strange man. Usually attracted to the weird and unknown, myself having been labeled everything from eccentric to erratic, one thing I have not yet had the distinction of being called is “potential serial killer,” which was Bin Redman’s nickname around the office for a good six months. Not to his face, of course. Never to his face.

Physically unimpressive and out of shape, going on appearance alone Bin is more likely to provoke derisiveness than fear, and my reaction to his approaching me while on break is almost dismissive, but I grant him an audience anyway— our differences aside, Bin has had a bad day and needs to talk to someone for comfort. He doesn’t need to tell me this. I know this instinctively. I know you need to be near-death desperate to come to me for any sort of guidance when I’m at work. Especially when, like Bin, you’re more than thirty years my senior; a lost cause as far as my concern goes.

Parking lot. Evading the sun’s rays, returning from my vehicle with a lock-box full of CDs, Bin is standing by the entrance corner smoking a cigarette. He nods.

“Mints?” he says in reference to the box of CDs in my hand.

‘Mints’ is an insider code word for “marijuana” used around the office should the topic ever need discussion. Bin smokes weed and somehow (thanks to a former employee) knows I do too.

“Wha—no. No, I don’t bring that stuff to work, dude. Just CDs…” I gesture with the box.

I try to walk past him, but before I can allow my attention to squirm by, the creep opens his trap and decides to do the one thing he knows will annoy me on the job. Talking to me.

“Oh, man, lemmeetellia, I could use some mints today.”

I fidget, leaning outward, almost very nearly about to move away from Bin, but goddamn conventions of etiquette deem that I have to listen to this asshole until he’s done yammering.

Fucking courtesy.

“Yeah, I feel you,” I say.

Ben says, “I just need something to get away from the damn wife screaming and shouting in my ear nonstop. Cigs just ain’t cuttin’ it today.”

“…Yeah, I feel you,” I say.

He’s waiting for a response from me, an opening. My stoner sense goes off. I know exactly what he’s implying and so does he and because avoiding elephants makes me even more uncomfortable than it’s worth, I tell him that I’m almost dry and that I need to get more. “Look… I need to call Bee to see if Bash is in… maybe you could come with us at lunch if you’re not busy…”

“Oh,” he goes, “I’m not really lookin’ to buy any right now… just kinda want to smoke it…”

“Well, I’m buying it today. Guess it’s on me, then.”

A Boomer mooching off a Millennial is a first in my book. They always said the post-war children would one day turn the tables.

An hour later Bin, Bee, and me take lunch and we pack into Bin’s silver 2007 Generic Motors Piszaschit and we head Bee’s town house. On the way there, Bee is silent and Bin and I toss back and forth a pitiful word salad vying to pass for chitchat. Enter the soundless void. Bin starts talking about his wife, clumsily backtracking over his words like he’s still trying to grasp his situation. He’s been married almost four decades; quit smoking twice, changed his diet, he said. Despite hitting the companionship checkpoint of having produced nine children, he tells us he’s miserable, tells us that he doesn’t want to be alive anymore. In the back seat, I ask if he’s okay, not looking at him, face plunged in my moleskin notebooks as I write down what he tells me like some shrink. Like a shrink, when he’s fast to clarify that he is not suicidal, I go “Uh huh” and “Mhmm” as I jot it down and Bee is silent.

We get to Bee and B’s. For once the front yard isn’t covered in trash; this centuries-old neighborhood has fallen to gang violence, street prostitution, robbery, and unspeakable nasty horrors that flatten any memory of its nobler origins as historic landmarks. It’s a ghetto now, full of crime, filth, and poverty, barely touched by the sun. The commute from the driveway to inside the front door is a hurried one. It’s dark. Bash isn’t here. No one else is home. Bee flips the lights on and begins washing dishes. She says since Bash didn’t show if we want we can help ourselves to some of her pot so we do. Redman lights up. Coughs.

“Man, let me tell ya… this, this isn’t even about the pot, getting’ stoned… I just needed the company. Was just looking for a loose joint to get me by; you know, tough times and such, we all havumm.”

Poor, lonely old clown.

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry to hear you’re having a rough time right now, Bin,” I exhale. I inhale.

Bin says, “Well, it’s all a bit silly, you see, she, and I, and she gets—she gets…all… emotional and high strung, and like, it’s like I know she’s going on her period now, well, not at the time I didn’t, but I know she’s on her period and she’s going through menopause and I’m respectful towards that, but it’s like, the things she gets upset about when I come home after working eight hours just seems, well…”

“Ridiculous?” I suggest.

“No, not ridiculous, I see why she’s upset most of the time, but it’s just… I don’t know, it’s just it seems silly to me.”

“Well, what kind of things do you argue about?”

He gets uncomfortable, flustered. He says he doesn’t know. All kinds of stuff. What to do with the kids mostly.

“Living stuff; stuff like that.”

It’s cool. I don’t really care that much anyway. Bin. Even now, I don’t really care that I don’t really mind admitting that. I care enough, just enough to make it seem like I care, but I don’t really care. Call me callous, jaded, product of a self-centered generation. I don’t really care.

I ask, “How long have you been feeling this way, Bin?” and he responds with ‘Since my kids became teenagers’ which is a lovely thought regarding his kids who must have entered a painful pubescence ebbed with angst, enough in itself to drive some over the edge, and topped that shit-sundae off with a dollop of marital cherries red with frustration, resentment, hate. Real conducive to their upbringing, you jittery nitwit.

Still, considering he’s a grandfather now, I can’t help but feel for the guy, even if he does happen to be a gigantic dork. That’s an awful long time to have marital problems. I tell him that. I tell him it makes my own problems seem unimportant. I figure that’s the kind of thing people in rough situations like to hear; we all love being able to give into and confirm our own pain and sometimes it’s so much easier when others just nod and pretend to agree. Bin attests to this, saying the mood he’s in is one he feels intent on festering. That’s his pride talking. Superego. For some in this unjust social spectrum, that’s all they have left. It’s not a thought pattern I can agree with or recommend, but I understand why many feel that way after what they’ve withstood. Billy Corgan didn’t lie; the world is indeed a vampire. Look it up.

The topic shifts to work, to where and which we must return in the next twenty, thirty minutes. Bin says that the first year I worked here he barely noticed my existence and told me I’d been nicknamed Zippy-The-Pinhead after the eponymous comic and the low expectations and perceptions of me that haunted my early days working for [bleep]. In many ways, much like some nervous freshman entering middle or high school, the cubicle kingdom is a politically correct punishment-reward institution with its own unique hierarchies and stratification, one of which being the hazing of new employees, especially young persons, in the same manner that one would break a horse, except that it is will of fortitude and self-worth that is broken. Is your back okay, though? Et cetera, bullshit, bullshit. I tell Bin something to that extent, and he says that he acknowledges the job I do now as essential but that “back in the day when you first started and were working for the director’s office, we didn’t know what you did; just knew that stuff we needed wasn’t getting done. Guess we didn’t account for the other load of work you had to do.” No, really? I hadn’t noticed. “Plus,” he adds, “you were like… eighteen. I mean, we’re talking a very young adult here. You’re going to have to work through the ranks to get respect, cuzz at that point they’re all just going to view you as some rookie punk kid who ain’t got no brains.”

This is a rather enlightened thing for Bin to say as most of his insight is constricted to his expertise in hydraulic fluid and traction passes. His evaluation is one that cultural studies theorists and those involved in the study of “Generations” have been making the last ten or fifteen years or so. Sometime in the late 70s, socio-cultural infrastructure altered its child-rearing mechanisms to compensate for what my parents called “over-parenting” by their parents’ Establishment. People as a whole being apprehensive and easily cowed, with the assistance of tightly-controlled censorious media and public education the new line of parents from the Reagan era onward melded the Just Say No (But Also Question Authority) generation. All I remember from school in the Clinton era can be summarized as: If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It/Everyone Is A Winner/You Are Unique And Special And Everyone Loves You. People don’t like to admit it, but they lie to kids all the time. White lies, little protective shrouds to hide them from the cold, confounding nature of things. I don’t blame them. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, God, Leprechauns: Mom and Dad only gave them to us so we’d have hope, maybe some understanding of real unmitigated joy in life before our march onward into No Man’s Land. They looked at their childhood and relived the belt-whippings, verbal assaults, and humiliation they felt. They then looked at their own children and thought “What can I do to make life better for them?” For all their sit-ins and demonstrations, those from Bin’s heyday knew they couldn’t lessen the problems of the universe, so they settled for curbing their kids’ awareness of them. It made sense. A child will take whatever you tell them at face value—no intellectualizing, no abstraction of thought until they’re almost a teenager. Why, then, hinder a child with thoughts of corrupt officials, obliterated environment and natural resources, high debt, low wages, a cutthroat workplace, competitive and bureaucratic academic systems, users, pushers, naughty words, rejection of any kind, and other things beyond their comprehension? In practice, this shelter-and-spoil-your-spawn theory generated a group of young people who after a lifetime of ingesting their own self-importance, uniqueness, significance were to be ejected into an uncaring status quo unwilling to give the slightest of shits. I’m speaking of an actuality where everything rolls downhill to the ladder’s last rung, and the young and inexperienced at that bottom enter that Real World in shock, unprepared for the lack of respect, consideration, and human decency they can/will/may suffer. If only the pissing and moaning helped there, amirite?

Point is, Bin encompassed the attitude many older, wizened (in body and spirit) adults have toward contemporary youth.

Some Rookie Punk Kids Who Ain’t Got No Brains.

“I like to think I have some brains, Bin,” I say to him. “But, yeah, like… you might be onto something there.”

Or maybe he’s not. I don’t know every dimension that there is to Redman but I’ve gleaned enough to know that he’s not a very deep thinker, not at all an intellectual. Very blue-collar guy built-in to a sort-of white-collar job. Knows what he knows, what he has to know, and not much else. I’d venture to say that the majority of people live their lives similarly. He and I likely tackle subjects like work and relationships from divergent and at times oppositional wavelengths. Differences in thinking rarely bother me though, and finding connections between warring ideas is a forte of mine. This is a habit that forces me to look at any argument from all possible viewpoints before arriving to a conclusion. Not always with accomplishment and not always without bias, still I aim for the closest estimate of objectivity in determining what I believe. The vast difference of opinion and knowledge in the world is inspirational; it points to a type of diversity that is undervalued and underrepresented in a time where diversity is scarcely acknowledged except when skin color and religion is an issue. That said, we’ve all come from different backgrounds, customs, ways of life—somewhere down the line people are going to disagree. A lot. Most of the time, to be blunt. Especially if, like me, you’re stuck in the Bible Belt.

Compromise and cooperation go a long way. Too bad for people like Loony Bin for whom magical thinking is their only basis for Understanding that those two C-words are intermittently beneath them. I don’t recall what we were talking about that prompted it—I think racism—I don’t remember the conditions he applied his reference to either. All I know is Bin Redman, one minute just sitting on the couch smoking a joint, without warning launches into this rambling history lesson about how people shouldn’t be racist because the first people were from Africa, where, he claims, is the site of the Garden of Eden and thus home to Adam and Eve. It takes a minute to register that this grown man in his mid-fifties who for decades supported a family of eleven actually believes in Adam and Eve. Not talking Mitochondrial Eve here. This cat is a hundred percent certain that Man’s origins reside in a bored deity with some clay. And then a rib. For… some reason. Also, racism is bad, in the event you haven’t heard.

Bin stumbled on a bad day

Intent on it not going away

Through his problems he festered

And his neighbors he pestered

In hopes that his miseries stay

I repeat: I give it my best and most earnest shot when it comes to relating to others. Learning how and why they believe what they do is important to me. Knowing how misconstrued our thoughts can be in the heat of discussion, my experience in this tells me it’s always better to give others benefit of a doubt when we can’t see eye-to-eye. I’m not religious and I don’t particularly like religion, but I realize that there is the possibility that I, like anyone else, could be wrong. It’s just not enough reason for me to automatically believe something irrational. I’ve heard many explanations people have given as to why they believe in a higher power, but I’ve never been swayed as they invoked Pascal’s Wager, Intelligent Design, The Shroud of Turin, whatever. From person to person, I think there are some indiscernible factors and some tangible ones that go into why people believe, and since it’s so futile to try to refute someone intent on proving a point sometimes it’s just easier to sit back and hear them out, regardless of how crazy they sound. So as Bin goes on for several minutes about Cain, Abel, and Incest and I’m unable to derail focus of our talk to the efficacy of DNA testing and the benefit of National Geographic‘s Genographic Project, that this happens means Bee and Neil C. have the option to either ignore Bin (awkward, rude), play at humoring him (humiliating, dishonest), or ridicule his beliefs (tactless, petty, cheap, probably more frustration than it’s worth). Bee is silent.

Options A & B both suck so I end up taking a sort of bizarre middle-ground colored with halfhearted chuckles and neutral side-comments. Nobody said taking the high road of the middle-ground would be easy or comfortable. A damned liar, that Nobody was. It’s true that Bin had made me feel put-off; not in that it’s unusual in these days for Bin to explain write-off reject plate tectonics by saying that the continents were split when God summoned The Great Flood and that before that, “the peoples of the world were black, white, brown, red, and yellow in the God-Haven called… uh… what was the one land mass called then…”

Bee and I say “Pangaea” in unison.

“Yeah… that,” Bin says. It’s not unusual that Bin thinks these things. Most in these parts do. It remains, however, a very superstitious line of thinking, and one even purveyors say requires faith, a statement they don’t understand is an entire rationale for disbelieving in the first place. It’s in this moment and many others like it where I realize just how batshit the faithful can be at times. I guess that’s what unsettled me the most. That, and the eeriness exuded by the vibe Bin gave that assumed everyone else in the room shared his views, an exclusion which is another barrier that divides most Of The Faith from the remainder of humanity. It’s this unwillingness to compromise or understand the mind of Others that marginalizes their platform, and the Faithists come out looking more like Fascists. It’s the reason that, although nonbelievers have become the fastest-growing religious minority, people like Bin hold that the default setting on our Belief switches is “On.”

It remains the reason that I don’t confront these issues or bring them to Bin’s attention.

That, and, like other epistemological gems stuck in the rock of religion, this:

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Since I’m damned and all, the Serenity Prayer probably gives me a message other than the one Christians expect, but it’s still not at all bad practical advice, and while Bin’s lecture on what the Bible really meant to say when it condones eating Jesus’ body is not necessarily an activity I enjoy, it’s one that, as his capacity for reason has been shot, I might as well indulge since, hey, the guy has had a bad day, he’s not a bad guy, and his difficulties make for one hell of an excuse to rant loosely about contrariety.

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