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Thursday, Apr. 25, 2002
So instead of boarding a plane this morning wearing Nawlins' beads and a funny straw hat and getting my mouth all set for that first bowl of honest to pete gumbo with andouille sausage I'm sitting here, trying hard to entertain myself. Trying hard not to stick a CD in the computer and filling the room with Little Feat or some other bayou band sound which would just further depress the living hell right out of me.

And it's raining. Hear it's sunny and warm in Louisiana.

Can you spell 'suck'? Is it possible to use it as a noun? How about: The suck caused him to fall groaning to the floor with much flailing of arms and legs.

Yes, you can all pity me now. It's okay. Go ahead, I've earned it.

Since I'm in a state of depression I might as well tell the tales about getting fired (no, I didn't lose my job. I'm the boss, remember? What kind of boss would I be if I fired myself? Don't answer that.). I actually only got totally fired from one job, back when I was young and noble and full of myself.

As opposed to now, when I'm ancient and noble and full of myself.

I'd just got out of high school and had rather dramatically taken offense with the college that offered me a scholarship and then significantly reduced it for some reason or other. It was late in the game so far as applying elsewhere, and I just didn't particularly have the energy to try the local college scene. In a fit of inspiration (it sounded so adult-like at the time, as I airily informed my cohorts that "Oh, I think I'll just work for a year and then go back to college") I put school on the backburner in favor of turning my brain off for a year. So I nabbed a minimum wage job which consisted of performing the one thing I did fairly well - drive a car.

It was a printing business and so there was minimal lifting of heavy objects, it was prior to the days of fax machines or internet and, for that matter, word processing. Ancient lithograph and linotype machines, printing presses and the whole art of setting type. The process of putting words or drawn art to paper was still one that typically required impressions to be made onto metal, applying ink to the metal and then slipping paper under the whole thing. Talk about your displaced industries. I wonder how much of that process is still in use today. It was dying off 25 years ago when I was in it.

At any rate it was my task to deliver finished art or text to various end users scattered around the city, sometimes racking up hundreds of miles a day in a fully loaded Cutlass with a four barrel carb and a penchant for tire chirping which I thought was rather attractive. I mean, it could certainly smoke my 2 year old Toyota (My first car! I loved it! My freedom!) at any given time.

Given that the owner and his partner had all driven the delivery route at various stages of the business it stood to reason that they had a reasonable expectation for how long it would take me to accomplish various trips. I figured that out my first day. So it fell to my competitive nature to try to impress, to improve upon the norm, to get out and hustle and move that copy from point A to B with cheetah speed.

You know, just to show that I could.

I probably overdid it a little. I'd zoom around town so quickly that a three-stop trip would be done in half the time they expected. Then I'd wind up with a broom in my hand for the next hour while they prepared more material to send out. I think I put a little too much pressure on the girls who were creating the hand drawn art in the back, they'd constantly hear from the boss about "Outfoxed is here waiting to go, let's get this stuff finished and get it over there now" which certainly didn't endear me to them in any way. Being rushed never puts anyone in a good mood. Particularly not an artist.

And they let me know about it, oh yes indeed. "Will you for God's sake slow down a little? You're killing us back here." Ever willing to comply, I slowed it down. Matter of fact I slowed it down by taking a little time off for myself. Stopping off to see how friends were doing. Browsing a bookstore or record store (vinyl still being king back then, and it was a lot more fun to sift through bins with big record jackets and find out all about the music from what was on the outside of the recording than have to tear through CD cellophane to get to the inside). I think that once I even drove 10 miles out of my way to give a pal a lift to the local fishing hole. Might have even wet a line myself. I'm sure the girls in the back were delighted with that one.

That was the time the owner inquired as to "Where the hell have you been?" Yep.

All in all, it was a brain dead job with no other career endorsement than to know how to find an address and be able to depress the appropriate pedals in an automobile. I knew it and the owner knew it. He wasn't paying me minimum wage for nothing. Well, actually that's a self-defeating observation but you know what I mean. After 6 months I was bored beyond all repair and the owner was getting a bit sharp in his observations about how long it was taking me to schlep stuff around. Minimum wage delivery drivers were expendable. I mean after all, this was when Jimmy freakin' Carter was President, okay? It wasn't like there weren't capable people looking for employment.

So he called me in one day and uttered the famous "We're going to have to let you go." I've always had a thing for that phrase. It sounds so much more benevolent than "You're slacking and I'm not putting up with it anymore" or "Shitcanned! You're shitcanned!" Has a sort of civilized ring to it. Let you go. As if he was holding me above shark infested water or something.

For all the casual disregard I'd had for the job it still surprised me. I got a little slack-jawed, a little teary-eyed, a little hitch in throated. I didn't have much right to be. In fact, if the same scenario happened in this present day I would be the one firing somebody like my young slacking self. Of course, minimum wage nowadays is considerably more to get excited about than the $2.10 an hour I was pulling down at that time.

Or maybe stuff just cost less. I don't remember.

Out the door with hoof prints in ass I went, in all my glory, 19 years old and certain that I'd been wronged and full of the righteous wrath and indignation ("How dare he insult me by expecting me to accept this?") that only the na´ve can conjure up. Me, my Toyota, and my pride. I suspect that the Toyota was the only thing substantial enough to weather the storm of self-pity that was to follow.

And remember, I was only off for a year. Then college. Yes. That was the grand scheme. You might not be terribly surprised to learn that I had stashed away enough college money from this job to purchase, maybe, two textbooks. Used ones. With many pictures.

In the reoccurring theme of my life I had another job in a week. Same basic type of thing, printing office/delivery truck mayhem. I was a lot better behaved of course, never let it be said that I can't learn a lesson from something. This firm genuinely like me, and aside from the aforementioned $2.10 an hour, I liked them right back. Like the first job, of course, it was going nowhere, it was a filler gig, it was something to do for 8 hours a day. It was an improvement over the alternative of flipping burgers or heaving boxes onto a truck.

Although come to think of it, I seem to spend a great deal of time these days heaving boxes onto trucks.

Which is okay if you're getting $40 an hour to do it. But still.

And the burger flipping I do is in backyards, for some of the finest connoisseurs of charred flesh you'd ever want to meet. Using state of the art equipment. As described in detail here. But I'm off the subject entirely.

Everybody goes through this 'entry level job which isn't your life expectation' thing. The most awful thing might be if you're finding yourself still stuck in it after 25 years or so and knowing no other way to pay the bills. I've seen and know folks like that. Making wages that, relative to their age and seniority, amount to little more than a minimum wage. I feel for them, they complain about it constantly but seem to have no other personal choice but to muddle through it day after day, Monday after Monday.

But I'll bet they'd be on a plane to New Orleans this morning.

And they'd have earned it, in my book.

Guess I was lucky to get fired. How's that for a sunny outlook?

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