As I waited a skinny, deeply tanned, pony tailed man dressed in granimals...(defined as khaki pants and a white or blue shirt)...walked by and said hello. I smiled and said hello back as he darted past. He looked professional but a little disheveled. I thought he was a maintenance worker or maybe drove the van to drop off people.
Five minutes later I entered the office of the minister only to see this skinny white man standing by a computer. It all made sense now, he was the tech guy.
Turning around a white Styrofoam cup was next to his lips and I hid my grimacing as he spat his chewing tobacco into the cup.
Who does that I thought.
"Nice to meet you Sarah," said the minister as I caught his blue eyes checking me out in my purple pants suit. Oh boy, he was that type of tech guy. Great!
Saving the awkward moment another lady came in. "Oh, I see you have already meet Micheal Elliott?" she said.
"Um...well...yes!" I said.
I grabbed the chair and used the moment to sit down and focus.
This was The Reverend Micheal Elliott. Oh boy.
He sat down, propped his sockless feet up on the table and spat in the Styrofoam cup again. Thank God he had on shoes!
"So, Sarah..." he said in his southern drawl...
"How much do you weigh?" That's an illegal question to ask.
"I see you did an internship with the Buffalo Bills. Do you like football?" No. They are just people like the rest of us. We all poop.
"What are your favorite colors?" Black and red.
"Really, and you don't like football?" No
"Is your hair naturally blond?" Another illegal question, but no.
"Why do you what this job?" I need to make money. But, really I want to help others.
"Do you drink?" That is illegal to ask that question.
"Where do you see yourself in five years?" At home with my kids.
"How would you describe yourself?" What you see is not all you get. Honest, aggressive, always get the job done right. I am northern girl.
"What do you like to do in your spare time?" Read, travel, pole dance, cook and run.
"Where is your favorite place to be?" At the beach. I have always wanted to live near the beach.
"Cats or dogs?" Yes
"What is the last book you read?" The Bible
"Do you know who Frederick Buechner is?" Of course, just read Wishful Thinking
"What kind of music do you like?" Anything but rap, depends on my mood.
"You like country music?" I just said I like anything but rap. That is not rap, is it?
"Why should I hire you?" You can't live without me. Why should I work for you?
He swung his feet off the table, spat into his cup, and leaned closer to me. "Because Sarah, one day you and I will be unemployed because we have worked ourselves out of this job," he said as tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. "We will have ended homelessness in Savannah and replicated this program across the United States. And we will celebrate big!"
This southern boy lost his drawl as he fired random questions at me. And I fired answers right back. It didn't really matter what the questions were, but he needed someone that could keep up with him.
The next day he hired me to be his administrative assistant.
My second day of work he took me out to lunch and informed me that he fired everyone else before me. "Don't spell his name wrong," his wife at the time chimed in. "It's two l's and to t's." Don't..." And she went on and on and on. I tuned her out.
Later that day I saw him approaching my office wearing way too short red running shorts and a bandanna. "Employee fitness time," he beamed. "Either you run with me or you pay me $10." I laughed and said, "Can't show my boss up during my first month here."
He laughed and then sat on my desk. His itty bitty shorts were bothersome and I saw parts of my boss I never wanted to see. But at least he wasn't chewing tobacco and spitting.
"Sarah, what I need is someone to protect me. Protect my time. Everyone wants to meet with me, everyone needs me for something, everyone swears they are my best friend. You are the keeper of all that now. In one sense we are a lot like a husband and a wife. You tell me where to be and when and make sure I am there prepared."
I nodded. Please take your stuff off my desk I thought.
He bounced up off the desk and I shook my head in surprise and distaste and said, "Oh God!"
He chuckled and bounced away.
Everyone in Savannah tried to drop the old family names to me to get to see him, but they were all the same to me. I watched his time. Learned what his mood was for the day by what music he played in the morning. Listened to what he didn't say. Made distractions when he needed to get away from people. Scheduled empty time to protect his sanity. Said no often to others when they needed him. Told him the truth always. And never spelled his name wrong.
I know I surprised him in many ways.
He knew when he messed up. Often his apologies came with him dumping bags of chocolate on my desk before saying "sorry."
We made a great team for a year.
When I knew I was moving back to New York, I knew telling him would be the hardest thing. I rehearsed the most beautiful speech, full of admiration and thankfulness, but when it came time to tell him I couldn't find the words and just read my resignation letter to him.
"Damn you!" was all he said to me for the next 48 hours.
My last day they gave me a "Damn you!" party. We took one last stroll down the hallway..."Sarah, if you ever want to come back, the door is always open. Always!" he said as tears ran down his face. I nodded my head. There were no words.
It was a long time before I took him up on his offer.
But coming back was different and things in our lives both fell apart. And one day we both found ourselves sitting alone in the midst of hurt and alone. And we began deepening our friendship and discovering mutual respect and passions, and found a new door opened for us.
And we didn't wait to pass through it. And our journey has been the thrill of a world I never believed existed.