Scaler in San Francisco, Taxi Driver in L.A.

by Rob S.

A well-known A.A. speaker from the 1970s remembered his wife asking how his very first A.A. meeting went. Well, he replied, they smoked a lot of cigarettes, they drank a lot of coffee and I am going back! Of course, it wasn’t the cigarette smoking or coffee drinking, or even the different personalities that prompted his decision—it was that invisible A.A. spirit that we all know so well.

When I was a few months sober and working at an antique store located only a few blocks from a recovery clubhouse at 26th and Broadway in Santa Monica, California. The most exciting thing at that club was a checkerboard. Yet when the newcomer heebie-jeebies began their chaos I would forgo lunch and make a b-line for that club, nervously shaking and head spinning like a top. Yet soon a mysterious calmness would take over. A much-needed A.A. style conversation would begin. Following that brief experience, I would return to work without eating a bite, mind you, but refreshed and in a pleasant frame of mind.   

In San Francisco I had belonged to the Painters and Scalers Union at the Embarcadero. Sometimes we worked with the longshoremen when they were low on personnel. One day the shipment was from England with Chivas Regal Scotch and Rolls Royce automobiles. While unloading, the crane operator swung one of those beautiful cars out too far along the side of the ship and it swung back to crash into the steel hull. We thought he might have gotten into the Chivas Regal. Ha! This was in the mid-1960s. The painters and scalers job involved scraping the internal cells of Mason ocean liners. Not a pleasant job but it paid well enough to drink.

One passenger from a bar had me pick up a pint of whisky on the way home

After I got sober I started driving a cab. During my L.A. taxi driving career there was a time when my associate driver had a part in a movie for 13 days. So I had to pay for the cab 24/7 and work both shifts. There was no time for meetings, but to be sure I stopped by one or another recovery clubhouse for a few minutes to receive my share of the uplifting A.A. spirit every day. I often would have a back-seat passenger who seemed to benefit from my chatter. Often they turned out to be members as well. One can never know where the spirit may appear.

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

One passenger from a bar had me pick up a pint of whisky on the way home. I had to practically carry her through her apartment door. She passed out almost immediately. I sat the bottle on the table next to her bed, then brought some A.A.  literature from my trunk and laid it next to the bottle. Who knows? But this was an example of the spirit working for yours truly. 

These days I love to attend District Meetings, Area Assemblies and Intergroup

These days I love to attend District Meetings, Area Assemblies and Intergroup meetings where many members have spent years serving the fellowship in one way or another. A good feeling pervades state conventions and especially the International Conventions that happen every five years. Just imagine holding hands with 50,000 A.A. members praying the closing prayer. I’ve been to five of them and am planning for Detroit next year. 

I believe that spirit is a major factor that brings newcomers back to meetings on a regular basis. It is important to always greet the new person and make them feel welcome until they begin to feel this life-saving spirit deep in their bones. In Los Angeles many of the 90-minute meetings have a short break at halftime. I believe the reason for this is to get to know the new person and perhaps invite them out to coffee after the meeting. The A.A. spirit flows through that conversation as well. Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It works—it really does.

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