Sunday, May 4, 2008

Work fascinates me

I can sit and watch it for hours.

The S.O. has been strolling down Memory Lane recently thinking about the various things he has done in order to collect a paycheck. Or, to quote the immortal Shel Silverstein, remembering "how much soul one man has to sell just to rub two coins together." Work is not one of my favorite things to think about, but his ramblings did get me thinking about the various job titles I've held, some of which described the work pretty accurately and some that were so unbelievably grandiose in comparison to the actual duties.
In order, starting with earliest paid labor, I've been a berry picker (also cucumbers but never potatoes, for about five growing seasons in a row), cashier at the defunct Saxon Co-op (even the building's long gone), mother's helper for some obnoxious people in Chicago (an experience that gives me one degree of separation from the actor Alan Arkin; the woman I worked for had an affair with him)(and obviously had no clue just how tacky it was for her to brag about it to the teenage hired help); short order cook at Joe's Pasty Shop (had never even eaten a cheese burger before I got told to make one); nurse aide at the University of Wisconsin hospital, dash waxer in a carwash (Octopus Carwash -- many hands to serve you)(I loved this job; minimum wage but we all had a blast), did telephone sales for aluminum siding (I sucked at it. Big time), operated a hydra-fold machine at a commercial laundry, ran a shirt press machine at F. W. Means (another commerical laundry)(and I still have burn scars from the sleeve irons), did a stint in the U.S. Women's Army Corps (told you I was old), did some freelance writing, was a stringer for a newspaper, functioned as the activities director at a nursing home that was like the waiting room for a local funeral home (the doctor who owned the place kept the patients so heavily medicated to control them that I kept expecting to see George Romero and a camera crew), enjoyed being a restorative therapy aide (grandiose title; my duties consisted of walking old people) at another, spent several interesting months as a power sewing machine operator for a company owned by a coke head (the company's profits kept going up his nose so eventually the business went bankrupt), spent about five months as a sales analyst (job title definitely did not match job responsibilities; I hand addressed thank you cards and other mailings to customers so they'd be suckered into thinking the salesmen actually cared about them) at Galpin Ford (the largest Ford dealership in the U.S. at the time); moved on to being a nurse aide at the Sunshine Nursing Home in Panorama City, California; wound up with two degrees of separation from Bob Hope when I did some subsitute teaching at the Country School (Hope's grandkids were students there); got lucky in Arizona and was a Secretary II at the University of Arizona in a NIOSH Educational Resource Center; on to Nevada and housekeeping at Harrah's, then data entry at the J.C. Penney catalog sales distribution center; back to the U.P. and a newspaper staff job, then back to school because I finally got tired of minimum wage . . . then grad school because I'd figured out I'd rather be a student than work for as long as humanly possible, two summer jobs as a historian with the National Park Service's Historic American Engineering Record, a string of part-time teaching gigs and temporary secretarial (although not simultaneously, more like alternating), an editor's job with a monthly publication, then back to the Park Service as a temporary historian for a number of years, and finally where I am now, a technical-writer editor with another (unnamed but humongous, especially compared to NPS) federal agency. And I'm job hunting again. Sort of. I think I've spent so many years always thinking that whatever it is that I'm doing is temporary that job hunting has become like breathing.

Besides, I'm still indulging in wishful thinking about the writer-editor job I interviewed for a few years ago on the Tongass National Forest and will apply again the next time they have an opening. Didn't get it back in 2002; they hired someone with more tree experience than I had. It would have meant being duty stationed at Thorne Bay, Alaska. Sure, it rains every day and it's a 60 mile drive over a gravel road to get to the ferry landing -- but I hear the view out the office window (when it's not obscured by drizzle) is amazing. Orcas in the channel, mountains on the mainland. It would have been amazing. And I still have days when I fantasize about the Sea Dory we never had an excuse to buy.


  1. i think you maybe the one person that has more odd jobs than me...i also worked in a sewing factory..i hated it..also was a roofer..hated it too...
    but then i think i just hate to work..i love shel granddaughter's loved for me to read to them from his books..jenny is 21 and still likes to hear me read her favorite book lafcadio the lion...

  2. I could never be a roofer. Heights scare me so much I won't even wear high heels.

  3. You did have an interesting 171, no question.

    I seem to recall it was the "dash waxer" credentials that distinguished you from the rest of the field.

    And, um, the PhD.

  4. My dad (who was a Park Ranger (WICA, CHOH, DEVA, GRCA and HFDC)) always said that the key to happiness in life was to find something you enjoy doing, then find someone stupid enough to pay you for doing it.

  5. Well, now I know why Ranger Bob and I got along so well.

    And, Billy, thanks for answering my question of a few weeks ago about bleeding green.

  6. No problem. And Dad's last duty station was HFIDC, not HFDC. Sorry.

    I'm always happy to see you moniker come up in my coments section.

  7. Well, now I know why Ranger Bob and I got along so well.

    That, and my finely honed "pretending to listen" skills.


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