A Story About A Plant: Part 1
I’d like to tell you a story about a plant. It’s in four parts:
A friend who had worked as a high school teacher for years and who seemed to have built much of her whole identity around social justice and community service went to work for a tech company. A lot of teachers end up doing that. Teaching becomes impossible after a while, no matter how much you want to do it, how much you love the kids, or how important it is to you. You’re paying for your own supplies, working 70-hour weeks but being paid for 35-hour weeks, trying to individually solve problems that are entirely systemic. You get tired. You start to wonder if it would be better to be able to pay rent, or even save money. She tried to integrate herself into startup culture but felt like she was stumbling over the vowels and consonants of a foreign language. She did stay there long enough to enjoy the company holiday party. I went with her. The theme was “Old Hollywood” and I thought about going in blackface. The company had just closed a $150M round of funding in the fall on a $1.7B valuation. Their product was some kind of app that helped with chores. For the party they rented out a giant venue and had one of those corporate bands who have like 50 members so that they can play multiple weddings and corporate events at the same time covering all genres. Tonight, was Soul and Funk. The head count, as I could see it, was the two of the singers, me, three of the people on the wait staff, and maybe like four employees out of the 350 or so people at the venue. That was the Black people. A month later the company announced layoffs and my friend was out of work again. She was making ends meet by doing whatever labor she could and her most recent odd job was leading the cleanup of the giant rent-stabilized San Francisco apartment for a family friend who was going into assisted living and who was also something of a hoarder. She hired a few former high school students to help.
For a few days she was texting me updates from this adventure and it looked chaotic. Unwieldy antiquated pieces of furniture, stacks of 8-track cassettes and classical CD’s. She began posting on social media asking her friends to come buy or take stuff. She sent me a picture of a plant and asked if I wanted it. It looked like a reptile, an ancient serpent goddess. Of course, I said yes.
When I arrived at the apartment my friend was covered in sweat, bubbling with utilitarian energy. She’s high energy. Sleeves rolled; a…