working world

workingWorld

Resumes. Interviews. 9 to 5. Benefits. 401k. Paid Vacation. All terms that we’re familiar with. Everyone in every industry from all walks of life knows what these are referring to. The ‘working world’ is more a part of our culture than anything else short of perhaps war and sex. The idea of a world where you don’t wake up at 7, shower, put on a tie, drive to work, have your coffee, waste time until 5, drive home, have a TV dinner and go to bed, is practically alien to most. While the details may be different (“I don’t wear a tie to work, asshole!” – relax…) the basic idea is still the same. This is an idea that makes sense and is normal to everyone… over the age of 16.

It’s hard to remember a time when phrases like “water cooler talk” meant absolutely nothing to me and vacation time referred to the 1/3 of the year that I spent on Summer Break. This was a time when my lunch breaks coincided with a half-hour spent playing outside. Before crosswords and Sudokus replaced kickball and freeze-tag.

As a kid there was a certain fantasy about the working world that occasionally worked it’s way into my mind. It’s not a fantasy like how you dream to play sports or be a rock star. I doubt any 8 year olds are in their backyard pretending to demonstrate spreadsheets to their executive board of stuffed animals or taking extra long showers because they need to finish their speech about optimizing workplace performance. But simply, the kind of fantasy that produces such adorable pictures as a young boy dressing up in his father’s dress shirt with a tie draping behind him like a tail.  I was no stranger to this phenomenon.

When I was growing up, I mowed our family’s lawn. Because that’s what white kids in the suburban Midwest do. They mow the lawn and then play catch with their neighbors. Throw in a block party at the end of the week and we were practically a Norman Rockwell snapshot. No shame in that.

(For anyone reading this in the future – “neighbors” are like Facebook friends that you actually talk to.)

At one point – I had a brilliant idea. I wanted to start my own lawn care company. I knew that there were only two things that you needed in order to have a successful business (products and clients, you say? No, dumbass.) A cool name and colorful flyers. So I printed up flyers and posted them around the neighborhood. “Business is easy”, I thought. Until I got my first call and my father reminded me that I would actually have to go mow Mr. Vandervlucht’s lawn. As I pushed my lawn mower around the block to his house, a bead of sweat dripped down my forehead. I stopped, shook out my aching hands and vowed never to work in the lawn care industry again. Come to find out, that was anything but the case.

The most notable element of “Drew’s Awesome Lawn Care” (besides, the brilliant creative department) was that money was never part of the equation. Sure, we were paid to do the work – this isn’t a Nike factory – but the company wasn’t started so that I could start saving up for a speedboat or an extra night at a Vermont B&B. We did it because it was fun and, in retrospect, because we didn’t have to.

FLASHFORWARD – six years and two exhausting customers later -  I was fifteen years old and retired from the lawn care industry, living in a nice 3 bedroom in Northern Ohio, when my landlord (read: parents) approached me with the demand of “You need to get a job.” Seeing as how I was retired, the logical response was “No, I need to play golf.”

With complete control over my food, room & board, and the ever-threatened presence of a car in my future – my parents won out and I looked for a job.

Financial recession or financial boom – trying to get your first job is like getting backstage at a concert – you need to be good looking or know somebody because you have no business there. When I was fifteen years old the only jobs I was legitimately qualified for were either – “Awkward Slow Dance Specialist” or a stand-in for a ProActiv commercial.

With that in mind, I wrote up a resume built from practically made up and overflowered qualifications and dropped it off at a few different places. This was the type of document where “babysitter” was subbed out for “Supervisor” and “did chores around the house” was translated to “Director of Domestic Rehabilitation.” Although, to be fair to myself, I was the CEO of a company whose stock tripled during it’s three-week life. So my qualifications weren’t all bad.  In retrospect – that resume is the kind of thing that gets presented as evidence for white-collar crimes.

Luckily, a family friend of mine worked at a grocery superstore in town. I got an interview and was lucky enough to avoid the questions I thought my resume would invoke, like:

Why do your name and address take up half the page?  How is 10 years of youth hockey relevant to the retail environment? Do you expect to implement 8th grade honors history lessons into your check out procedure?

I got the job. It turned out that there was actually a position there that I was qualified for. Manual labor in the nursery. No – not the “newborn baby” nursery, I don’t think that they need to hire weight lifters to carry the infants from one crib to the other – it was a plant nursery. And my job was simple:

Carry. Heavy. Shit. From pine trees to bags of mulch. Stuff started in one spot and it was up to me to take it somewhere else. It was an easy job and I was good at it.

But, like any job, it had its difficulties. And those difficulties manifested themselves in oblivious Midwestern housewives.  Here’s a tip: If you ever go to a garden store of any kind and see a 240 pound high-schooler wearing a weight belt over his work shirt – He has no idea ‘where the perennials are.’ In fact, he has no idea what the perennials are.

Without fail, once an hour I would walk through the main floor carrying a 350-pound fraser fir and some woman would stop me and, looking through her $200 sunglasses, ask me where she could find some lavender. To which I would respond with the only thing that I found to be effective: set the tree down and pretend to only speak Spanish. At which point, if they didn’t walk away confused, I would point to their kid that was always begrudgingly by her side and ask “Would you like me to take that to the register for you?”

So what if I had a few customer complaints. At least I never had to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about what I was carrying around all day. Plus, if my supervisor was busy making sure that the customers didn’t ask me questions, she’d be less likely to notice when I snacked on the cherry tomatoes growing in the vegetable patch.

Manual labor, er, I mean “Product Relocation Specialist.” The good old days.

It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of. Even now, working “grown up jobs” if there’s ever a point when someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to, I stare at my feet, point at their briefcase and ask “would you like me to take that to your car for you?”

 

-       dc

 

It’s worth mentioning that this was written while sitting at my desk at one of the aforementioned “grown up jobs.” Unfortunately, there were no cherry tomatoes in sight…

 

One Response to working world

  1. Kayleen says:

    This arictle went ahead and made my day.

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