Saturday, July 24, 2004

Slogging through Summer

I‘ve not only got island fever at the moment, I‘ve got summer fever, too.  I’ve been thinking about summer jobs.  The first that came to mind was working as a maid at the El Patio Motel when I was 15.  It sounds like something out of El Mariachi, but it was just a small one-story motel in my little hometown.  It was across the street from the Methodist Church, the same church where the straitlaced woman who’d been my brother’s kindergarten teacher later hung herself in the vestibule.  (We also had a mortician who hung himself in the tool shed at the cemetery.  Both of those always seemed like pretty powerful final statements.)  I think the minimum wage in those days was about $1.50.  I really didn’t hate it as much as you might think, especially when I got my paycheck each week.  Even that paltry sum went pretty far when you consider that a movie ticket cost fifty cents.

The next summer I worked in the service department at the Chevy dealership, which was owned by one of my father’s close friends.  Rather than filing the office copies of the invoices once the service work was completed, the mechanics would toss them onto a growing mound atop the file cabinets.  I was hired to file the backlog.  I was an alphabetizing whiz but most of the guys had unintelligible handwriting, so I spent most of my time trying to decipher the customer’s name.  That and occasionally answering the phone.  It was hideous.

The next two summers I worked at the pharmacy around the corner from my house.  I’ve already ‘prophylactically’ posted about that one (6/26).

The summer I was 19 I went back to l housekeeping, but at a different motel.  It seems comical to me now that I spent two teenage summers doing maid work, because I detest cleaning.  (A quick glance around our condo would confirm that.)  I wouldn’t say I liked the work, but it did sort of appeal to my innate desire to always create order out of chaos, and occasionally a guest would even leave a tip.

Then there were the ‘permanent’ jobs (always a misnomer if I’m filling them) and the temp jobs that came years later.

I remember spending a summer in San Francisco doing office temp work for a start-up venture capital firm.  I had temped for the two owners when they'd worked at a large corporation.  When they started their company, they called my agency and asked for me.  Lucky me.  The assignment was to enter into their brand new computer all of the word processing documents they’d heisted from their previous jobs.  (And, no, they didn’t have a scanner.)  They didn’t have a proper workstation for me.  The PC was on a table that was too high and the chair was too low, so the only way I could type for hours on end without excruciating pain shooting through my forearms was to sit on a couple of phone books.  As it was, my wrists and arms still ached at the end of each day.  I lived for my lunch breaks when I could escape into the S.F. sunshine and walk to my favorite take-out window for a panini.  The venture capital guys adored me but, surprisingly, I had no interest in becoming a permanent employee.  They had an assistant (who had been wooed away from their previous employer) but it was left to me to screen and interview the applicants for my position.  I honestly can’t remember any of the people I interviewed, save one.  He was an older gentleman (in his 50’s, I guess) and had the most bizarre resume I’d ever seen.  It was hand-written in very small printed letters and covered every inch of the page.  I kept a copy of it for years and would occasionally pull it out to show friends.  I know that’s cruel, but it fascinated me--not only for its bizarre presentation but also because of the conspiracy theory paranoia that leapt off the page.  I killed a lot of soul-numbing temp hours that summer imagining that man’s life.  I pictured him holed up in his San Francisco apartment convinced that Casper Weinberger (who'd been listed as an associate and reference) had it in for him and was preventing him from obtaining the word processing job of his dreams.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to live not too far from San Fransciso, a lot of colorful people there. Thanks for stopping by my blog --Sheryl (paper napkin)

11:20 PM  

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