Monday, July 18, 2011

First jobs

Growing up at my parent’s A&W drive-in I started early working the grill, the fryer, the cool wall mounted gizmo that sliced whole onions into dices in one pull of the lever, the Root Beer machine & especially the soft-serv ice cream machine. It wasn’t a job really but I helped and learned fast food and how to over eat. My folks got out of the food business when I was 11.

It wasn’t till I was 17 that I got an actual part time job stocking the shelves of a convalescent hospital’s kitchen. The young manager was fresh out of college and as cute as she could be. I could have sworn I was getting some place with her, but one day she started talking about her boyfriend the baseball player. Besides being pretty she was very all american so this made sense. What was her name?  . . . I can’t think of it now but what I do recall is that her name was equally ‘All Amaerican’. The job got kind of boring after that. When summer came I went to work in the laundry to cover for the people taking vacation. I got fired on my 18th birthday for being too slow. Telling my supervisor it was my birthday after she gave me the news was a sweet dose of instant karma back at her.

Then it was on to The “Sandwich Express”. Sandwich shops were a new thing in our town in 1975. This one was owned by on of my buddy’s step mom and her brother. It was in what had originally been a Dairy Queen. Some places are just not meant to be food places. in the years since then, several food places have failed in that location. 
Again part time, I showed up early on Saturday mornings to build what were actually quality sandwiches that we sealed onto foam plates with stretch wrap. For example the Turkey sandwich the boss roasted whole turkeys every night. We used a good quality sour dough bread the dbl wide kind with real mayo tomato slices and whole lettuce leaves. After a few months I asked why we peeled the heads off of each of the heads of lettuce. “Why don’t you just bonk the lettuce?” At the A&W we went through allot of lettuce. At the prep sink in back we would rinse then hit the heavy cut end of each head on the counter. This broke the heart away from the leaves all at once. After another rinse the whole thing was ready to use. The colorfulness and usefulness of this hint made me the the hit of the place for several days. 

The boss Stan was a real character. Among his traits was a very slow and deliberate way of speaking. My best friend at the time was Steve who also worked there. We had endless fun at Stan’s expense; imitating his voice and catch phrases. “You wanna cut me some Raaare Rooaast beeef?” “You wanna bonk me some lettuce?” Steve liked to chronicle the absurdity of our work place by drawing a comic strip of some of the more famous moments. 

Stan (and his sister Soni) would have their mother down at the shop every day. They were raised in a different kind of business where the whole family went to work together for 40 years. Just because Granny had no idea where she was at any time was no reason to leave her home. She was actually quite dear all things considered but had other issues relating to age. Certain of us who’s turn it was to keep an eye on Granny made sure to place her near the floor drains and down wind, if you get my drift.

After prep I loaded the sandwiches into ice chests and loaded the chests into one of the delivery cars. I had a route of beauty shops, card rooms and other places. At each place I brought in a selection of sandwiches, containers of gourmet versions of the standard mac and potato salads and juices in a picnic basket. After the route I had the duty of giving the restroom it’s weekly cleaning. Again, thank god for floor drains.
At college I studied Theatre and got paid to stage manage and run lights when groups came in to use the theatre. 
After college was my time at the ambulance company. See earlier posts.The post about my time as a massage therapist starts with that.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but interacting with the old timers and other ill people while doing my medical transportation driver job at the ambulance company, took a toll on me. This should have been the first indication of my special gift of empathy. 
The next 5 years I was the guy behind the counter at a small neighborhood liquor store. Arrow Liquors. The owner claimed to keep a close watch on the stock but I never heard a word about the sometimes significant amounts of liquor I drank. There were times I would grab a six-pack on my way out after closing to take to a friend’s place. Most times they would pay. If they were under age I would bring it with me after work. 

I have to say that I loved marijuana. Still do. These days it’s only fun for me once a month or so or when I have an attack of gout. At that time the novelty hadn’t worn off a bit and for several years I had from a few hits to a few joints every day. This and all the liquor made for many many adventures with friends I’ll post later. A few took place in the store. 

When it was 115 outside nothing was better than piling into the cold box with a few friends and downing some of those 8 oz. Millers they sold back then.

I had many regulars. With a few of them the routine was to retreat behind the cold box to smoke pot before they completed their purchases. I remember one time I was so ‘wasted’ during the Saturday night rush that I had to keep one hand on the counter so I wouldn’t fall down. No surprisingly my till never came out just right at the end of those days. Still I never heard if from the owners. I was a pet I suppose.
During that time I had a couple of part time day jobs. I’ve always preferred to live simply, but $97 a week from the store was a bit too simple. 
My dad had a friend and customer who built swimming pools. He also had a pool cleaning service too. 
Tom was a really big man. Over 6’6” tall and a bit of a gut but you could tell by looking that he’d been a big league football player. I want to say the Detroit Lions, maybe it was Green Bay. Anyway, Tom didn’t know the concept of an ‘inside voice’. He was always very loud and except for women customers he always addressed people with “You god damned piece of shit” or “Asshole Mother Fucker” either before or after your name. 

This wasn’t a problem in the big picture because everyone got the same treatment. You could tell that he only acted that way because no one had ever called him on it. He was at heart an easy going good ol boy. Even when he did have something to be mad about there was always a lilt of humor behind his words. His wife Rachel had a kind of Elvira thing going on. She didn’t put up with his abuse, she kept him in line. Tom had a heart condition that prevented him from drinking the way he liked to but even Rachel couldn’t stop him from smoking big cigars in the company trucks. This was before fine cigars were easily available. The ones he smoked were pretty nasty but did come in these cool aluminum tubes lined with a paper thing sheet of wood. They littered the floor of the trucks and came in handy for all kinds of things.

As basically a customer service job it was the kind where most of the complaints were from the pool owners with the least to complain about. Then as an often hung over young guy I did screw up a few times too. Like the time I was dropped off at a pool that had been covered for the winter and told to get it ready for summer. I had never done this before and didn’t know about draining the water off of the top of the pool cover before removing it. It took me over an hour to get the 150 gallons of leaves and water pulled down to the deep end inside the plastic. I was a moment away from literally pulling it off when at the last second all the leaves dirt and rain water that didn’t get in all winter did get in. I remember being told in no uncertain terms that I was a good for nothing mother fucker idiot asshole. I was further queried as to what the fuck I was thinking and how and why the fuck I was so stupid. As you would have done I had no explanation to offer. 
Next was my next step into working with people. 
I got a day job driving the vans and the short bus for the local YMCA. This may deserve it’s own post as it involved dating 2 women and was during the time of the Bakersfield witch hunt. It was quite a change from the storm of verbal abuse to working with latch key kids. 

After I had been there 5 years the little store suffered a steady decline in customers.  No, not because of me. Mostly it was the way the city kept changing the traffic flow. Making it 2 left turns for lots of folks to get to the parking lot. Besides the old couple that owned the place were ready to retire so the store closed. 
That's when I started looking for a new career and started to investigate Massage schools.

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