Sunday, January 14, 2007

Work, Work, Stop

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life.

At 13, I started working as a clerk in a small family-run deli and food market in Wilkinsburg, PA. By the time I left, at 22 I was the manager, opening and closing the store when the owners went on vacation or for weekend trips. During the school year, I worked nights and weekends and during the summers I worked whenever they needed me.

When I began college I got a real, full-time job at the Gas Company where my father worked for his entire adult life. I was what was then called a “casual laborer.” There was nothing “casual” about it.

I was sent out with repair crews to replaced broken or leaking gas supply pipes. My primary job was to dig up the pipes, watch while they were repaired, then back-fill the holes or ditches. Since another one of my responsibilities was to retrieve tools and supplies from the truck, one of the first things I learned was that the distance from the tip of my outstretched pinky finger to the tip of my thumb was 8 ½ inches. That way I could use my hand to gauge the length of short sections of pipe.

My hours were 7 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday at the Gas Company. Then I’d rush home, shower, eat dinner and head to the deli three nights a week. On Saturdays I worked 11 to 7 at the deli and on Sundays I slept. The Gas Company job paid my college tuition and the deli job paid for fun – when I had time for it.

My first job as a real grown-up was at a small radio station in Geneva, New York, in the Finger Lakes region. I was the night DJ, working from 7 pm to sign-off at 12:30 am during one of the most exciting eras in popular music, the mid – 1960’s. I was WGVA’s Nighthawk until 1967.

Since I had a young family, I needed to make more money than a small-town radio station was able to afford. This was well before the age of home computers, so I took my resume to a local printer who also published a weekly newspaper in Seneca Falls, NY. He took one look at my education and work history and offered me a job as manager of the local Chamber of Commerce, a one-man and part-time secretary operation. The money and hours were better, so I changed careers.

By 1969, I actually knew what I was doing in the job and decided that it was time for another change. As the old saying goes, “money talks and bullshit walks,” and I was off to Niagara Falls, NY as Public Relations manager of their C of C. With a great salary, an expense account and a company vehicle it was the best job I’ve ever had. But all good things must come to an end, this one far more quickly that I had hoped for.

In early 1970, the city council voted to cut its Chamber of Commerce subsidy. My job was part of that arrangement and I started looking for a replacement job before I was laid off. Thus, I found one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had. I moved to Binghamton, NY and took a job as Public Relations Director with the Broome County Chamber. The job wasn’t that terrible, but the Executive Vice President who I worked for was a giant asshole. At five feet, five inches tall he was the personification of the “Napoleon complex,” a loud mouthed bully who was never wrong and whose decisions were never to be questioned. After my first wife and I split he fired me because, according to him, he had hired a family man and I no longer fit that description.

So, a series of part-time, flunky jobs followed augmented by a lot of alcoholic consumption. Finally, I got a job through an employment agency as a manager trainee for McDonald’s hamburger chain in Rahway, NJ. It was actually a pretty decent career. The money and benefits were great, but the hours sucked. I stayed in restaurant management until 1988, moving from McDonald’s in NJ to a barbeque start-up in Asheville, NC, a Big Boy restaurant franchise and a seafood restaurant. Then came a brief stint as a cookie salesman and it was back into the food business. I worked as an assistant manager at a theme-restaurant chain in the local shopping mall, then manager of a Mexican restaurant and back to the theme restaurant as the kitchen manager.

In 1985, the manager and I both quit our mall jobs and opened our own place, the Jersey Shore Deli, a 40-seat place north of Asheville. We featured live music on week-ends and business was great! We lasted about a year until my partner snorted up out of business, using the cash register as his own personal bank for buying his coke.

The following two years were split between management jobs at a chicken franchise and a truck stop restaurant. After pulling one too many double shifts in the truck stop kitchen, I left the business for good.

For the next 12 years I worked as a route salesman for three sandwich companies, selling and delivering our products to convenience stores in North and South Carolina. For the final three years of that career, I was a supervisor, supposedly overseeing route operations, but really just running vacation routes and others where a salesman had quit.

Following hip-replacement surgery in 2001, my rheumatoid arthritis became too painful for me to continue a physically demanding job, so I switched careers again. In January, 2002, I attended truck driving school and spent the next two years navigating the country at the wheel of an 18-wheeler, traveling through 47 states and logging over 215,000 miles.

After a freak accident at home, I was forced to go on disability, where I remain. So, after 50 years of hard work, I end up being supported by Uncle Sam. C’est la vie.




Girl Child said...

That was very informative. I didn't know a lot of that. I think I will start saving these...

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog while looking at some information on Asheville. I lived in the Arden, Skyland area until about 6 years ago, when I moved to Arizona. My husband and I are OTR drivers and I am always interested in other drivers experiences. You might want to try submitting some of your "trucking" stories to some of the trucking magazines. It would be a start. I'll keep watching for you book to be published. Good Luck!