Friday, March 24, 2006

14 Years Gone Now...

Damn, I'm surprised this thing hasn't been deleted yet...but here we go, a short story pertaining to my recent life:

I got my job at NWL through the auspices of the mother of TLJO, who was the mother to a lot of us back in those heady days of the early, early 90's. Later, I found out that my dressing up for the job interview (complete with sportcoat and tie) was kinda unnecessary, because mom had loaned the Man some money, and was using it as a kind of crowbar to get me on there.

So, knowing the Man, he hired me with great resentment in his heart. On my 19th birthday, in fact.

The first day, I walked to work, which was all of a couple of blocks. The Man looked at me and said "you weren't supposed to start til tomorrow. Ah well, I guess I'll find something." He sent me out on a mow crew full of stoners, but warned me that I would be helping on the "bed crew" for the duration of my stay there.

A couple hours later, a guy on another of our crews caught me at a yard and asked me where the water faucet was his first day, he explained, and he didn't know anything. I guess I already looked like a mowhand. That was Chuck Phoenix, Dan.

The next day I met my foreman, an idiot named Mark. Mark talked like Divine and had some serious dental issues, plus he wore baby blue sweatpants and shaved his legs, for reasons I'd rather not get into...but he had been to school for horticulture, and so I respected his authoritay.

Mark taught me to detect bullshit, actually--not because he knew how to detect it, but because he was constantly spewing it. In a way, it was like watching some indestructible moron walk through a minefield--you learn what NOT to do by watching him fuck up.

The first couple of days we spent picking weeds, and that went OK. Then we were sent to a bed install job, which basically entailed humping giant wheelbarrows of topsoil over curbs and up steep ramps, without chipping brick at the end of it. Mark lasted 3 whole days, then quit. In retrospect, Mark wasn't the one the Man wanted to quit.

A week later (a week I spent pulling weeds at old ladies' houses, listening to them talk about their grandkids or dead cats, getting fed candy, and wondering when I was gonna get paid), Mark was back, and the summer well and truly began.

Don't kid yourself. It was menial, tedious work, and I was very glad when I was moved to a mow crew, that fall.

Mowing was different, and better--I lost my fear of dangerous machinery, the day went much faster, and I might have even gotten a little raise. And the people were cooler.

The following spring, I got my own mow crew. I thought I was doing pretty well--less than a year, I went from low-man to bossing people around...and I think I did pretty well. I took to the regularity of mowing, although I still hated the drudgery of doing the same thing every time, and thus got to know a large part of the city by taking alternate routes to the various jobsites. I coulda been a cabbie.

Five years later, we got an employee named Ed. Ed was about forty years old, gray where he wasn't bald, smelled bad, and talked about "pussy" and "weed" in a way I thought was the domain of people even younger than ME (I think I was 24 at the time). But for Ed, I might still be there--because when I looked at Ed, I saw me, 20 years from now, taking orders from some longhaired punk and not being real sure where all the years before had gone.

And, hey, I was 24 in 1996--the world was my oyster, yo. TLJO and I made plans--floating the Mississippi (foiled by the floods and our giant-ass LSD habit), walk the Continental Divide, etc.. Stuff MY dad dreamed of doing, and I think everyone does (Twin B and the Appalachian Trail, for instance)...but instead, I gave my notice and my reasons, and the Man talked me out of it.

The company was in dire need of technical support at the time--schedules were being printed off a spreadsheet at the time, but billing was still being done by hand, and that looked pretty bad to the bigger contracts we were getting. So in 1996, I sold out.

Two years later, I had a company owned car, a company owned computer, life insurance, a HOUSE, two company credit cards, and an ulcer.

Two years after THAT, I had health insurance, credit card debt, and a bleeding ulcer.

And six years after that, I'm here.

So, add it up--fifteen years. And you know what I got?

"Well, thanks!"

Yup. No watch, no fucking bonus, no nothin'. Don't let the door...sayonara, sucka. ..