In high school I participated in a work study program where I could earn high school credit for getting out of school early and going to work. Some of my fellow students were already employed, but the rest of us had to fill out surveys about our interests so the teacher could place us in jobs that best matched our personalities. For one student the best fit was working the drive-thru at McDonalds and for another it was working the night shift at a gas station. For me, with my mix of intelligence, rebelliousness, and eye-rolling, I was best suited for unemployment. I remained jobless until after the Christmas break—a program record! Eventually, I was hired as a part-time kennel tech at a local veterinarian’s office.
My first job was cleaning up dog shit. That should have been a sign for me to just surrender and go ahead and get myself a homeless lady’s shopping cart. However, I remained inappropriately optimistic. In my twenties I worked many unfulfilling, low-paying, part-time jobs. Instead of putting my effort into graduating from college, I continually drifted away from campus and applied myself to jobs that could easily be handled by a well-trained housecat.
I once answered a classified advertisement to work for a man who published an addiction recovery newsletter from his converted garage. The position was part-time, which really resonated with me, and the main task was typing testimonial emails from recovering addicts into the body of the newsletter. He set me up at a spare computer nestled between stacks of papers and a shelf of paint cans. He showed me the emails and then waddled to his desk on the other side of a work bench stacked with more piles of papers.
“I’m finished.” I said.
“I’m finished. I copied all the emails. Now what do you need me to do?”
He did not know about cut and paste. Maybe he got really drunk in 1981 and by the time he sobered up in 1998 he had missed out on many important technological developments, but it seems like he would have learned about cut and paste, especially since his job-slash-cover story was being a publisher. I showed him how I highlighted the text and then copied it into his fucked up newsletter. He could not believe his eyes. I was like the David Blaine of word processing.
He found other tasks for me to do. I organized the piles of papers and changed the printer cartridge. I took out the recycling bins. Each morning he would walk to the convenience store on the corner and get himself breakfast, and sometimes he would bring me a carrot cake muffin. We talked about how I was new in town, and I didn’t really know anyone (and nobody knew where I was). He said that if he wasn’t divorced with two kids (and probably under house arrest) he would take me out to dinner. That seemed somewhat creepy, but the muffins were delicious (how did they make them so moist!), the job was easy, and I was usually home by lunch, so I kept showing up.
Then one day I got in my car to go home and there was a single long stem rose on my dashboard. I looked up, and he was standing in the driveway. It was one of those moments when lightning flashes and in the micro-second of illumination a creepy guy with a bloody chainsaw, or a carrot cake muffin, suddenly appears, grinning maniacally. I screamed and then quickly locked my car door and put it in reverse. I never went back. I don’t usually mention this particular job on my resume, and I probably won’t unless I am applying for a position where the main qualification is “not getting murdered,” then it seems relevant because obviously I nailed it.
I would like to say that after I left this job I went back to school, and I gave up on the allure of only working until noon and living on a wage that made me envious of third world children. I would also like to say that this was the last time I worked for a man in his converted garage, but it wasn’t.