Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

The Good Questions

It didn't take long at Valet at Portland International Airport for me to become a de facto trainer of new drivers, who we called hikers. I got asked to do it, I did it, eventually I'd get a pay bump on the days I did it because, it turned out, I was good at it.

One of the first times I helped train a hiker, in late spring 2019 before I was getting the pay bump for doing so, I was helping a woman I'll call May. Fifty-something, re-training, had plenty of experience driving but not valet driving, and who needed to know our procedures. You don't want a car or a key to get lost; you don't want a hiker to put a car in the wrong parking area.

And May was...scattered. At times she didn't seem to listen. I'd be talking to her and she'd bring up something completely tangential. I'd reply then get back to explaining. One time she noticed a car's license plate, with a Portland Trail Blazers logo on it, and asked "So you get that if you're a Blazer player?" Um, no, it's one variety of custom license plate you can get at Oregon DMV, to show you're a fan. "License plates for just the players of a pro sports team" would be really niche.

Another time, May returned to the booth that Valet operated out of, walked up to the window, and surprised us by acting like a belligerent customer. "Where's my car?!" she said, looking put out. Then she smiled, like she'd made a good joke. She hadn't.

My unspoken reaction to May, over and over, was Huh?

Then, one day not even two weeks after she'd started, May was no longer there. Did she quit? Get fired? Either way, she was gone from the schedule.

Around the same time, I trained two young men. One stayed with Valet for a while. One didn't. I couldn't know yet that that would be the result; all I was doing was showing them around and explaining details. One of them asked, reasonably, if airport employees got discounts at businesses in the terminal. I said yes, usually a 10% discount. He yelled "That's f***ing nothing!" I mean it: yelled. He smiled, but he yelled. That made me not want to add Well, some places do 20% off, a few places do only limited discounts; and honestly, I kind of wanted to add 10% is not nothing, you could buy $70 sneakers at Nike for 63 bucks. But, would he have listened?

Again, he didn't last long at Valet.

I'm thinking of those moments, and of times when training went better. I'm also thinking of a moment last November 1st, a Friday. I was on my weekend and having a birthday meal at the Original Hot Cake and Steak House on SE Powell. I was demolishing a steak at a two-person table near the back of the diner. At a larger table to my left were two young people, most likely college students, talking.

And almost philosophizing. They were interesting. They were engaged in their talk, which went to thoughtful places. And I soaked that up, smiling about it.

They were asking good questions. Questions that could, maybe would, lead to good thoughts. Thoughts with depth. Thoughts that showed they were paying attention, to interesting things and in interesting ways.

Not the "right" questions; I have no way to know that. There are so many questions one can ask. But maybe they'd be the right questions for them.

I like seeing that.

I hope those two young people are doing okay, in this (again) (still) weird, off-putting year. I do also hope May and Yelling Guy are doing okay; they deserve that, even though I bounced off of them and think of them as examples of What Not To Do.

Paying attention is good. My striving to do so continues.
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