Thursday, April 21, 2005

"working hardly"

Maybe it was because of the snow slowly melting or the fact that the geese were now flying North in V formation. Maybe I was just bored, but a few months ago I decided to seek a new job. The melting snow and flying geese are not supposed to be reason for employment but when you're me you fall into a routine and until you start to think about it, you're stuck. Without geese, I'd still be riding my bike and wearing a satchel at work.
The job looked really great! The sign posted on the board at the coffee house reminded me of a personal ad - using terms you would never use in any given assembly job. It seemed like me, so I took to thinking about it for a week before finally making my way to this fantasy land of a workplace to inquire.
I arrived with 5 minutes to spare before I needed to be leaving for my real job. It took me long enough to even find the place, holed up & building recumbent bicycles in a Mafia meeting room-type-building. The size of the building alone threw me off enough to where I forgot to try to act like I fit the description of the desired applicant. For nearly two years, I've been taking 5 minute walks across my workplace just to get to the bathroom and this place was like driving up to a gas station. When I opened the door, I was greeted with being briefly glanced at by one of the three gentlemen in the room. I had enough time to notice bike parts all over the place and two guys at a table assembling one bike. I immediately thought "whoa, that's totally inefficient" then stood there for around 5 seconds, which seemed like an eternity, until one of them spoke.
"Can I help you?"
"are you hiring?"
"are you hiring"
(the clearly socially inept guy then threw it over to his associate)
"I'm sorry, the position was filled"
"the position was filled, you're about aaaaah....week or two late. But thanks for stopping by!"

Oh well. The place was small anyways. And I probably couldn't listen to music either. And they probably don't pay very well.
I didn't let myself get too disappointed and instead stopped at vertigo on the way to work and bought some compact disc therapy.
my first job was hardly inspired by geese and melting snow. I needed money for magazines & things, so the day after my 14th birthday, I called the phone number in the paper and got myself an interview for a job with the Grand Rapids Press. A paper route. I was to be an "independent Carrier". The woman from the GRP in charge of the Hastings area came to our house a few days later, my mom signed the forms and I had the job. She drove me on the route the first day to make sure I understood the process of leaving a paper on someone's porch. She gave me a little book designed specifically for keeping track of money collection and a large canvas bag with orange reflective edges and the press logo on the side. She also gave me a gigantic bag of green rubber bands, most likely to keep me occupied after work.
I started off the next day, alone, on my bike. I Lived near the south edge of Hastings, and my route happened to be on the North edge, it was quite a trip considering the incline and my weakling-ness. My papers were dropped off every day in front of the credit union, so I actually had time to rest while I rubber banded each paper and stuffed it into my bag. The neighborhood was mostly inhabited by the elderly... Or lonely middle aged people. The old men were always waiting for the paper. Watering the lawn, washing the car, sitting in a lawn chair in the garage, certain men always asked silly questions. "what's the word?". "uhhh"
I felt sorry for the old men who lived alone. Some of them were married to their lawns, but the others were just plain alone. One guy was always on his back porch around the time I came by at the end of the route, drinking lemonade and reading a book or doing some sort of puzzle. He'd always greet me enthusiastically with a "hey Joe!" when I opened the door to the porch and handed him the paper. One day I opened the door to find him at the table sitting across from a framed black and white picture of a young woman. He was drinking some sort of liquor. He greeted me with an "oh... hey there".

One year later, I was 15 and fed up with my monthly salary. It fell somewhere between $90 and $120 monthly. I tried to get a job at the new Applebees, but was disappointed to learn that the last of the positions suitable for a 15 year old were filled earlier that day. DAMMIT. The paper route had kept me from getting a new job. I relayed my dismay to the boss, and she offered me a new, larger paper route that was closer to home. Left with no other options, I accepted. The new route was much like the old route, but now included an entire retirement community. Retirement communities can be looked at by their denizens in two ways.

1.Pennock Village: A place where older people can enjoy their retirement without the worries of home maintenance and with the convenience of meals on wheels, a health club and a hospital next door (just in case) there's also a golf cart path that leads directly to the Kmart parking lot.

2. A prison... Forced upon you because you cant keep up the house anymore and your kids are pretty busy and can't come help you out all the time. Plus, you can't drive.

The difference of perspectives is made clear when it comes time to collect the money. Half the time, my money was left on the door or mailed to me in the envelope I had provided a week earlier. Half the time, I would have to knock on the door and politely demand my seven or thirteen dollars (depending on the subscription). Half of this time (one quarter of the entire time) the people inside were very nice and would offer me cookies or on warmer days, a drink. I always accepted. Sometimes I stuck around an extra few minutes to converse, and I ended up hearing some pretty cool stories about the old days, the depression, world war, vacations to Yellowstone, fishing, etc.
The remaining time was pure hell. Being a 13 year old left me with little right to argue or even defend myself against the cranky ones. Evidently, knocking on doors was taboo in the earlier half of the century - or so they made it seem. I'd knock at the door and be greeted with an angry expression and unkind words.

"I'm here to collect for the grand rapids press"
"Why do you always come around at dinner time!?"
"I shouldn't have to be interrupted from my meal"
"I'll get your money, but I really don't appreciate being interrupted during my dinner"

I could have responded with "perhaps you should hang some sort warning on the door next time you're eating dinner, bitch, assuming you still refuse to pay me on time with the conveniently pre-addressed envelope I provide you with every month. I know you can mail it, because I know you get the newspaper from outside your door which happens to be 3 steps from the mailbox, which has a large outgoing mail slot...If you can't acquire a stamp, just leave it on the door like some of your neighbors do. I don't think they'll steal it, you have quite a reputation for bitchiness".

Cranky elderly couples are even worse, they work as a team.

I kept up the job until my sixteenth birthday. After a very brief period of unemployment, I was hired at McDonald's.

TO BE CONTINUED - when you least expect it.


emilie said...

Aw.. I completely understand about relating to the elderly. Kay and I go up to the nursing home once or a few times a week, and and it took me a while to stop the immediate depression that settled on me seconds after I walked through the doors. The residents are confused or at the very least deeply depressed, and many of them just sit around in their wheelchairs, parked in the middle of hallways. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Heads down, hands shaking.

I hope they take me out back and shoot me before they put me in a nursing home.

Tom Naka said...
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