Friday, February 23, 2007

Tales of Employment Woe- Part II.

In college I spent a lot more time trying to figure out what type of job I could bear than I spent actually working. At one point I thought I might enjoy working in a greenhouse. The first flaw in the plan was that it was summer, and thus extremely hot work. The second problem could not have been anticipated. The owner of the place tipped the scales at 300 pounds. She was a lady in her forties who, for some reason I never figured out, never bathed. By that I don't mean she showered once a week- I mean that I doubt she ever took a bath. She wore a do rag on her head, and I sware that you could see twigs and chunks of things sticking out from underneath. When she waddled by she would leave a stench which combined the worst parts of puke, shit and body odor. Even among all those flowers, that stink would linger for a full five minutes after she passed. Needless to say I didn't stay long in that job.

I also spent two years working as a bouncer in a hippy bar. It wasn't a position that required too much fighting. The worst part of it was the manager's love for the Grateful Dead. Every Wednesday she would have the DJ play bootleg tapes of the band. This would last from 8PM and extend to closing at 2AM. There was never any respite. And the crunchy clientele was always bitchin' how I was never "kind" enough. I always refused their offers of acid in exchange for letting their preadolescent girlfriends into the bar. Somehow that made me a conspirator of "The Man". I mostly just sat at the door, reading and trying to avoid eye contact. It's not that I had fully developed my contemporary detachment, but rather that I already knew what kind of invitation eye contact is for a hippy. The last thing I wanted was to be trapped for hours in one place with some fool forcing his drug-addled road stories on me. Sometimes the place could be amusing. I remember one time when some oldtimer was eating habanero pepper wings, and he unthinkingly rubbed his eyes. He was convulsing on the floor, and his head was swelling like a nitrous balloon. Looking back, it definitely had its charms. The whole situation was made a bit better by the fact that the bartender I worked with always looked the other way when I wanted to drink at work. So I did that a lot.

Coffeeshops were also beginning to come into vogue during my early twenties. I learned the difference between a cappucino and a latte, and could identify about 5 different templates for "cool". Fortunately most of the patrons just wanted to crawl into a corner and read their Rilke. But once in awhile we'd get a real live one. I recall this one homeless-looking guy who would buy a small cup of coffee, and then pour it right into the garbage can. Then he would fill the empty cup with cream, and go downstairs to the bathroom. He'd turn off the lights and chug cream in the dark, and then come upstairs for a refill. He had the typical sour smell of old fashioned poverty. I never bothered him. Of course, there'd always be a co-worker who would flirt with every teenager that came in. That was always fun and a little pathetic to watch.

For awhile I worked at a coffee joint in the uptight nouveau riche area of the city. I hated those people. Just to give you an idea of what type of neighborhood that was- I was once taking a cigarette break on the walk in front of the store, when a middle aged woman came strolling by with her 5-year old grandson. They walked by a convertible sports car, and the woman stopped in her tracks, jerking the arm of her young charge. She pulled her hand in front of her mouth and gasped... She said, "See that car? Grandma covets that car!" That was what those peopole were like. There was one pinched yuppie woman that tried to give me a hassle about the word "cappucino" being spelled incorrectly on the menu. She said it was an insult to her "Italian heritage", and that she was going to complain to the manager. It took all my restraint not to toss the drink on her chest. Instead I simply asked her, "Do you want a drink, or are you buying a lifestyle?" It took her a bit to process that before her sour face melted, and she stormed out of the cafe. The funny thing is that the owner had been standing next to me during the entire exchange. We laughed about that for the rest of the day.

Eventually I became too embittered to continue in the service industry. I decided it was a good idea to join an exterminating company. The one I chose to work for specialized in the eradication of stinging insects. The uniforms were paramilitary style, and with our respirators and chemical applicator guns we looked like a SWAT Team. I passed the requisite certification tests, and went out on the road with an experienced warrior. That line of work presented a lot of grueling tasks... among which was shimmying through attic crawl spaces to get to particularly volatile hives. This was in late spring, and we sweltered in our clothes. I had a lot of fun squirting the outside of suburban tract homes with carcinogenic chemicals, but the stuff inevitably came into contact with my own skin... and the smell lingered on me even when I wasn't at work. Still I enjoyed the wholesale destruction of insects, and I probably would have stayed on longterm had I not been fired by the owner for being a bad driver. I couldn't really blame him either- I wouldn't have insured my driving at the time.

More Tales of Employment Woe? But of course! Part III coming soon.

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