Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tales of Employment Woe.

Given yesterday's post, I thought I would share some of my previous work experiences. It's rare that anyone would work only one job during the span of his/her life. I worked in plenty of circumstances, especially in my twenties when I was casting about for a career plan.

My very first job was as a paperboy. I'm not sure whether kids are even allowed to deliver papers anymore. But it was fairly common up until the eighties. Now that I think of it, that system set up the perfect opportunity for some pervert to snatch up an unsupervised victim. I generally delivered the news as early as 6AM, and rarely saw other people along my route. Besides being bit by a dog (which would somehow become a theme in my life), it was a fairly comfortable routine, and provided me with a pocketful of spending money. Sundays editions were grueling though, and required the use of an ancient metal cart. When snowstorms hit on the weekend, it was particularly difficult to drag that cart through the snow. Collecting money for subscriptions was the most rewarding part of delivery. We made our money primarily off tips, but the best bonus I ever had was the sight of a particularly hot customer, who used to run around in her bikini. She was shameless, and often invited me inside for a soda. Her husband was a bit of an asshole, so I was glad he usually wasn't around.

In my senior year in high school, I decided that I might enjoy working at the grocery store (a Food Lane). My position was C.S.A. (customer service assistant). What did that entail? I had to reshelve products that shoppers would pick up and then impulsively set back down wherever they were when they decided against paying for it. I also had to feed all the empty packing boxes into a crusher, and through the garbage into the walk-in compactor. My employment at Food Lane was short-lived. One reason for my quick departure was the requirement of joining the union. My first check was written out for $4 and change, after union dues were subtracted. This simply wasn't worth it. Especially since my manager kept threatening to make me crawl inside and clean the abovementioned trash compactor. It smelled awful, and the rooom it was in was covered with pallets so the rats would run underneath and not be tempted to bite you. That was too much to ask from an adolescent with no dependents.

When I was in college, I got a job as a nighttime security guard. I had to make hourly patrols of an industrial building that made little scheduling books called Daytimers. I enjoyed being around all that imposing and enigmatic machinery, and the ghostly feeling of being alone in the plant resonated in a pleasantly shivery way. I wouldn't have known how to operate any of that stuff, but I spent hours dreaming up potential plots of mischief. Soon I was asked to transfer to the construction site of a water treatment plant. The guy that showed me around the grounds told me to be careful on my rounds, because there were open electrical lines laying all over the place. There was no light (other then whatever ambient rays came from the moon and stars), and on rainy nights the conditions were particularly precarious. In addition to strange wires in puddles, you had to look out for unexpected pits in the ground, as the terrain was constantly changing with the work being done. For the first week I actually did those hourly rounds. I explored the great yawning chasms and strange edifices of the incomplete plant. Eventually though, I quit walking around altogether. I'd just sit in the trailer listening to music or reading. Sometimes I would just sleep through the entire shift. On a few occasions I invited my girlfriend for a visit, and made sure she brought a bottle with her. We'd drink whiskey and then play around. Good stuff. You can't beat those work conditions. I never felt especially guilty about my negligence, because anything worth being stolen had already been taken before the security company was hired. We were simply there to act as a deterrence. There was nothing we could have done anyway. The plant was isolated and we worked without being armed. There were also wild dogs that occasionally ran around. I loved that job.

For a few years I worked at various day summer camps. I supervised the sports program at a local arts camp. I was responsible for amusing up to thirty indulged brats at a time. Somehow I got through that with no major injuries. I was pretty popular with the other counselors because they got a nice break from the kids. It was a chichi camp at an all-girls college, so needless to say there were plenty of diversions for me. I got to play the role of the rough and dangerous lower-class male. Young rich chicks are suckers for that. I'd play up the Bukowski act, and I could do no wrong. I was consistently catered to.

I was also the token goy at a J.C.C. travel camp. A lot of my friends were Jewish, and so it wasn't difficult to insinuate myself into the place as an interloping heathen. We took those pre-adolescents to Toronto and Orlando. The majority of these kids were from very wealthy families. They had all the latest gadgets to divert them on the long bus rides to our destinations. It was fun, especially when we could arrange to go off on our own at night and find some trouble. Of course the drinking age in Canada was 18. We drank in shifts. That made looking after the kids at the underground super-mall that much more fun. The most surreal trip we took was to Amish country and Hershey Park. Watching this strange sect, with their habits out-of-time, baffled these urban kids.

I felt accepted during the years that I worked for the J.C.C. camps. They seemed to embrace me despite my differences. I even got to work as a landscape handyman before the sessions began. I'd throw on the headphones and spend an early summer morning painting a barn, or piloting the riding mower through the tall grass. All that ended for me when I got caught at the camp pool one night around 2AM, skinny-dipping with some sixteen year-olds. Of the three of us involved in our enthusiastic pursuit of the corruption of minors, I was the only one to be cited by the bemused cops that caught us. I guess membership has its privileges.

Coming tomorrow-- Tales of Employment Woe II!


Blogger Rob Park said...

How about unemployment woes? Remember those time in between jobs?

7:28 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

That certainly qualifies for its own post. I should be awarded college credits for the stuff I learned when I was unemployed.

8:43 AM  

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