My first few days in Miami were not too bad. It was weeks before school started, so Aunt Fern would take the children to the malls & other stores when she got home in the evenings. She was shopping for school clothes and supplies. I began to familiarize myself with the place and Aunt Fern was very good at pointing out the names of highways, streets and avenues. She would say, “All you need to remember in Miami is the avenues run from north to south and streets run from east to west”. She would quiz me on highways sometimes when we went out.
The visits to the mall were hard on me because I could not buy anything. When I came to Miami on previous visits, I mainly bought music and clothes but now all I could do was “window shop” as I was saving my money till I got a job. I would call my contact every other day to see if there was any word on getting my social security card.
School starting for the children was the end of the mall visits. I was completely bored and no one was around to talk to. I was up early each morning because I shared a room with Andre, who had to leave early for school. By 7:00am the house was empty and I was alone. In the past when I visited Miami, my parent & sisters were with me. We would shop most of the day, go to movies and eat out. This was no vacation and I was lonely. My best friends during the day were now Bob Barker, The Price Is Right”, Victor on “The Young & Restless”, Lilly on “As The World Turns”, Reva Shane on “Guiding Light” and “The Donahue Show”. I still can’t believe how addictive the soaps on TV were. I don’t remember the Jamaican TV soap opera called Prescott being so addictive. Then again it was once a week and not every day like the one’s here.
The TV game shows were also a favorite as I kept thinking that one day when I have papers, I would be on them and win. I remember thinking that I would love to be like Victor. He was the Don. All the women just seem to love him, despite his skeleton looking face. The Donahue show was an eye opener for me, as the outrageous things on the show was shocking. The one show I still remember is one with homosexual men who were married to hide their homosexuality from friends and family. I was shocked that homosexual men would show their faces and were open about. In Jamaica a man rumored to be gay or who acted effeminate could be subjected to ridicule and even violence. I was just surprised at the openness.
On many occasions my mind would wander. I would think about what my friends were doing. What was my family doing? I also wondered about a girl I was courting just before I left. Here name is Sheri-Ann and she was really pretty. Her smiling face stuck in my mind. We were not officially girlfriend and boyfriend yet but it was certainly leading up to that as we had held hands a few times. She was 15 and went to my sister’s school, Immaculate. I met her the first weekend of the summer holidays when my friends and I had gone to the game center, “Fun For All”, near Half-Way-Tree. After some boosting from my friends I went over and spoke to her. I asked her for her phone number and we were talking every night since that day until I left. I had promised to write her but I just could not bring myself to it because I just preferred talking on the phone. I know I could not call her because it would certainly show up on the phone bill. I think deep down there was the thought of me not seeing her again and this was why I probably did not want to communicate.
Even though I watched a lot of TV, I tried to keep a balance by doing all the chores I could around the house. It was part guilt and part needing something to do. I insisted that everyone leave the dishes in the sink so I could wash them. I vacuumed the carpet, mowed the lawn and pretty much any chore I could do to help out. During this time I called every other day about acquiring a social security card.
My big job break came in week 3. Aunt Fern got me an evening job cleaning an office building that required no social security card. Aunt Fern was a caregiver to the elderly or as some people say ‘watch older people’. The son of the old Jewish gentleman she took care of had a cleaning business. She spoke to him about giving me a job & paying me under the table.
I remember the first day on the job like yesterday. Aunt Fern took me to a building at 6:30pm. It was a 4 story peach colored office building perched near some other 5 and 6 story buildings. There were people walking out of the building as it was 5:30pm, the end of the workday. I was told to ask the guard in the lobby of the building for Pedro. Enter the building and a few people with mops and brooms. I asked for Pedro. I was pointed to a man with a bunch of keys closing a closet. I was still a little reserved or shy so I was scared as I tapped Pedro on the shoulder. I introduced myself and he asked me if I spoke Spanish. I later learned that I was the only worker who did not speak Spanish. He opened the closet door and beckoned me to pick up a bucket. It was the bucket I really did not want to pick up. It contained a toilet brush, some yellow gloves, a big sponge, glass cleaner, a roll of paper and bottled soap. Next he took me for a floor-by-floor tour of all the bathrooms. I felt so conscious of me walking around with this big bucket in my hand with people dressed in office attire walking by. All I could think was “What were they thinking of me”.
Next, I was instructed that I had 2 hours to clean all of them. I was in shock but did not show it. It is the first day on the job. I was not sure how I could accomplish this in that time frame but knew it had to be done. I was told to knock or shout into each one to be sure no one was there. As I began to clean the first bathroom stall I began to think about what I was doing. I never went to school to do this. What would my friends think? I wanted to be a professional. The stench from one of the toilets stalls in the bathroom was overwhelming, I almost passed out. I would be cleaning that stall next. I remember Pedro sticking his head in a few times & mention don’t let anyone in the restrooms while I am cleaning them. I was puzzled about the name ‘rest room’ but I would later learn that what we called bathroom in Jamaica and that America they were called rest rooms. For me this first day was no rest at all…
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash