Sunday, March 6, 2011

They Call Me the Working Man

I'm not sure how many jobs I've had since joining the world of work as a teenager. Quite a few. I think I have a pretty steady stream of unbroken employment since I was 15 or 16.

I didn't really mind most of my crappy jobs, they got me out of the house and they were usually easier and less frustrating than the jobs I'd be doing there, plus there were always weirdo co-workers, work crushes and overbearing mustached assistant bosses that continue to serve as meat for stories to this day. Plus, I could always quit and get a new crappy job within a week.

I was always a pretty good employee; even though I remain fundamentally lazy, my poor self-esteem, fear of authority figures and puppy-like desire to do a good job ensured that bosses knew they had a sucker that would do whatever crap they needed to be done without a lot of the sass and backtalk the younger generation is known for.

My friend Curt was pretty much the same, work-wise. We had a number of crappy jobs growing up, but we took them for what they were, vehicles for providing gasoline, skateboard decks and records, so we did whatever Mr. Mustache told us to, then had our fun.

That didn't seem to be good enough for our parents. Although both sets of parents grew up in the '50s, they seemed to have a 1920s idea of employment.

"Why don't you just go to a store and start cleaning for them," my parents would suggest during my few lulls in employment. "Or tell them you'll work for free for a while until they hire you."

I didn't think that employment in the 1980s and '90s worked that way. I didn't think think employment in the 1950s and '60s worked that way either.

My parents were much better than Curt's, though. On the morning of his first day of Christmas break back home from college he was awoken by his dad throwing the classified ads on his bed. He had helped by circling the advertisements he thought his son should apply to: Plumber's assistant, union electrician, airplane mechanic, things that a 19 year old with no previous experience would ever qualify for.

My parents sort of kept out of my work, except for the few times they thought I was being wronged. At one point the terrible photo processing job I had laid me off after I got a hernia. This was probably illegal, but I didn't really care. I wanted out of that place anyway. Dad erupted with Southern dad indignation. Like me, he instinctively sided against management (Now that I am management, I stay non-hypocritical by hating myself) and was gonna bring some teacher's union rage down on CPI Photo Finish.

"That's some sorry bidness, there, now," he'd thunder. "They're going to lay you off even though you can still do the job? I'm gonna go down there."

Somehow I was able to convince him not to head down to DeSoto Square Mall and union agitate the place up.

I'm not sure if my many years of crappy jobs actually taught me anything. I'd like to say that observing so many terrible management styles, I realized what not to do, but I think they just taught me to always beware of people with mustaches in positions of authority. They also made me sort of suspicious of people who didn't have a lot of crappy jobs.

"You mean you didn't work sweeping beets in a factory or selling socks at a flea market?*Well, hello Mr. Fancy Pants."

*These were actual jobs held by my friends. My roommate Scott's first job was sweeping beets in a factory when he was like 12 years old. Really. I think Oliver Twist was his work buddy.


Todd said...

What about the night you spent at Kash & Karry scrubbing the bottoms of the end-caps with that over-sized toothbrush, while I hunted down every one of the thousands of shopping carts, or "buggys", in the parking lot? That was a real dumper. Remember the temp name badges we doctored into saying "Shithead McCray" and "Mr. Asshole" or something like that?

scott said...

Oh man, I'm gonna have to write that one up. That was halloween night, and I had to leave a party early to scrape gum off Kash and Karry floors til 7 AM. I remember we kept our last checks which were for like .65 on the fridge forever.