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The following is a chapter I wrote for a book called In the Matter of: The Gatekeeper: The Gate Contracts" which I ended up cutting because it didn't fit. So I've decided to share it here for lack of anything better to do with it.
"I think... about the place I worked before... the 'job from hell'."
Maybe I should talk about my work. Other than school, it's about the only other thing I had in my life before I met a special friend. I have always had a small number of friends, but I typically lose them when they move, or go to a school out of town, or something else. With the exception of one, who convinced me to go to Central College, and I'm glad he did.
Let me go back about three years. I had just moved to the town of Lauryl, where Central College is located. I was glad I was there working instead of trying to struggle and fail where I used to live. In fact, if it hadn't been that a friend of mine was moving there, and suggested I come with him from San Pedro, I would still be back there. He's the guy who played jazz songs on his stereo when he was busy with his girlfriend, and wanted to make sure I didn't interrupt them during the most important moments of the two hours, when he was begging and pleading for her to let him have sex with her. The other 30 seconds he spent having sex with her wasn't that important.
I found out that the people in the town I had moved to were a lot less demanding than companies in the LA area. For example, even though I did good work, it wasn't enough for a really competitive area like Southern California, and I was often unable to find work because there were six hundred better people applying for any job I went looking for, unless I worked under the table or piecemeal, which I've done to keep myself in the luxuries I had grown accustomed to: food, clothing, shelter and second-hand books. In Lauryl, the competition wasn't as stiff, and I could get work that I couldn't have gotten before.
I've worked freelance when I was between places, which wasn't that often. Had I really wanted to, I could probably have set up my own business and sold myself to customers, but I just wasn't that aggressive, and there were times when I preferred having the same office to go to every day. Maybe if I had been more aggressive, I could have managed in Los Angeles.
One time I did decide to do freelance work continuously when the boss I had before I quit to go test with Dr. Sign, had to cut hours because the building was being renovated and we had to be off three weeks to a month, and because business was slow. So I did freelance work for six customers during the time I wasn't working. One of them offered to hire me full time at the same time my old boss had a massive influx of work that required everyone he had plus two more people, which kept me busy.
I never took the other company up on it because despite the fact my boss was really miserable when he was in a bad mood, which was most of the time, the only time he ever got mad at me was when I screwed up. Since I was left alone to do my work and nobody bothered me, it was better than working some place where the phone would interrupt me every 5 seconds, like it was at one place I worked.
I think I ought to tell people the story about the place I worked before, a plumbing supply and hardware store. I think of it as the 'job from hell'. It was a hard place to work at. Very hard. Here's some examples of how hard it seemed to me. It seemed like the job was depressing, boring, stressful, and a lot of work for low pay. You judge for yourself if it was hard, or maybe I am whining too much. Maybe I'm exaggerating about how hard it was.
That place I worked at must have been the largest single employer in terms of total number of employees hired in one year in the state. He had so many people who quit one after another, that I heard a caseworker at the welfare office, who wanted to spend more time at the track, and less time handling paperwork, sent the worst hardcore unemployed, who complained they couldn't find any work at all, over to his shop. After a half an hour working there, the threat of being assigned there permanently, as the work they had to do 3 hours a week for their welfare check, made otherwise unemployable people find work, sometimes the same day.
The caseworker's supervisor found out that he had so reduced the number of people in the county who collected benefits that he was only in the office four days a month. He didn't get chewed out for all the time he spent away from work playing the ponies, while still collecting his check as a caseworker, but for so raising the number of people hired that the state's unemployment rate went down by 1/10 of 1%, reducing the state's contribution from the Federal Government. The caseworker was told to stop finding work for so many welfare recipients.
So then the owner of that hardware store had to go back to using whoever was stupid enough to work there, or the occasional armed robber who tried to rob the place, and when caught (every time), was forced to work as a cashier, unless he agreed to call the police and turn himself in. Shortly after they worked there, every single one did. Some did so before even trying to rob the place, upon discovering what it was like just to be a customer, let alone try to rob the place or even work there. Which comes to my part in this saga.
I was about the fifteenth person they'd hired for that position in some period of time, whether it was in the last two hours or the last two minutes, I couldn't remember. Someone really desperate would work a while, then quit. I happened to be the longest occupant of that job. I had just come in from Los Angeles and thought the job market was as tough there as in LA. I did it for 45 days. The plumber who owned the place begged me not to leave, but I told him that I hated the job, and the only reason I stayed was I'd promised him I'd work at least a month.
I found out later that nobody ever promised to work there more than ten minutes, and then only under the type of duress expressed by someone on the business end of a 12 gauge. He offered me more money, about $2 a week more. (Actually, the real amount was a raise from $4 to $6 an hour). I needed the money, but I preferred not to have to spend it on crates of Maalox (I couldn't stand Alka Seltzer, and my problem was probably ulcers, not headaches).
I told him what he really needed was to split the job apart, that it needed at least two, and maybe three people to do. I found out later it took fifty people (or was it one hundred and fifty, I can't remember which) to do what I was doing alone. And he was losing money on customers' orders because I couldn't answer calls and do everything else, and when I did get back to what I was doing, I had to remember where I was, bring myself up to speed, and then just as I was getting back into it, the phone rang.
One thing that job taught me was the ability to have a conversation with someone at the registers, answer the phone, talk to the person on the line and take care of their problem, then come back exactly where I was in the conversation before I stopped. The boss used to show me doing that trick to customers who didn't believe it either. Sometimes he'd bet them drinks that I couldn't do it, then he'd roll them after they got drunk for pocket change. He'd then pay some junkie $5, to take six months in jail for the $200 or so my
boss had robbed from the customer. That way the junkie could get access to the better quality drugs that the prisoners sold to each other, than what was out on the street.
So I told the plumber I quit, because I couldn't do the work this way. It was tiring me out and I hated it. Last I'd heard, he had hired his 6,000th person (or was it the 60,000th) to try and fill that spot. One guy quit after two hours, beating the record of the shortest employee there, who took 30 seconds for lunch after four and a half hours, and never came back, except for his check two weeks later.
One time when I had finished a freelance project and was shortly between jobs, I had to stop in there to purchase a new toilet seat. One of the reasons I worked there, was that it was only three blocks from my house, so I didn't have to pay bus fare. Besides that, no bus served the area for six blocks. It was considered "hostile territory," like Beirut, Somalia, Southeast Washington D.C., Chicago's Cabrini Green Housing Project, or anywhere in Detroit.
The last time a neutral transport logistical schedule (bus route) went any nearer to the demilitarized zone (the drugstore three doors down, and the fried chicken place next door), it was often hit by concussion blasts, such as grenade fragments, from ordnance that combatants (customers) used when they saw the enemy (the boss), or thought an enemy supporter (another customer) had attempted to cross enemy lines (cut in the line of customers).
Wartime survivors (customers who lived) always followed the Geneva Convention (acted very polite to each other), because anytime one of them violated it (was rude), they were summarily executed (shot at the instant they were rude), and shipped off in a body bag, assuming that much of the casualty of war (deceased ex-customer) was left; combatants didn't always have rations (bag lunches), so they often engaged in foraging for food ("Donner Parties,") a practice better left undescribed.
Then if the neutral transport (the bus) continued into the conflict area (street outside his store) combatants of the enemy in the war zone (the inside of the store), who were engaged in prosecuting the war (angry fighting over rudeness or delays in filling their orders), when engaged with the enemy (shooting at him), and missed, would hit the neutral transport. This had happened a little too often as "friendly fire." This had killed many people: persons otherwise entitled to safe conduct (bus passengers), neutral transport personnel (bus drivers) as well as civilian non-combatants (innocent bystanders outside the store).
What forced the bus company to stop running a route in that area, was that they couldn't get insurance. It wasn't the people on the bus they were concerned about, (those who were foolish enough to be on the bus serving that route, including the driver, signed a waiver for entering a war zone, and wore whatever military combat protection they could buy, from whoever had robbed the National Guard armory, in the last day or two), but because the buses were taking too many dents from ricochets. The bus was armored, and they stopped putting in glass, so it wasn't hurting the bus, but the ricochets were putting nicks in the fenders. That's what made the bus company mad; chrome costs money.
But anyway, I have to buy a new toilet seat about every four months. They're usually made out of pressed sawdust or cork, and they crack easily, especially after I've used them a few times. The cracks bite me on the ass, so I buy a new one for five bucks.
I was in the store two minutes, and watched the guy at the counter struggle to do the work, which is why he couldn't help me and the hundreds of other angry customers in the store. I realized what he was doing wrong, but I thought to myself, don't tell him, you'll make it harder for him to leave, and he'll hate himself when he does. If he lives long enough to last until the next 10 second bathroom break.
I loved the fact I was busy there, it made the day fly by. But it was so busy it was overloading me, and I hated not being able to do as good a job as I wanted to do. That the boss thought I was doing terrific was irrelevant; I wanted to do better, and I couldn't.
Wouldn't you know it, the phones kept on ringing because the counter guy couldn't answer them fast enough. I don't know why I did it, but I grabbed the phone, and started asking people to hold. Then I took the first free call, told him the item and price which was on the counter book in front of me, then took his order, because I had memorized most of the product codes.
Then I forgot that I wasn't an employee, and started ringing up customer's orders again. I was a little rusty, so I was only able to ring up customers on three cash registers simultaneously. I usually rang up five at a time.
I looked up and realized I'd spent 45 minutes answering calls, picking stock, taking orders and running the cash registers, plus improving my aim at throwing monkey wrenches and hammers at shoplifters trying to get away (only missed 2% of the time and an amazingly low score of hits on innocent bystanders: only 5 nuns in the church across the street injured this time).
The reason I had started working there again was that I'd forgotten I'd quit. I liked doing the work for the first time in weeks; I could finally do the job right, by my standards.
The guy there, who was so busy he couldn't stop to think, and didn't even realize I wasn't supposed to be working there, looked at me, then rang the buzzer for the boss, probably thinking I was pocketing the customer's money, keeping him from doing so.
I think I shall never see a more unusual expression, since my boss didn't even know I was there; he was too busy trying to handle an offer from another plumbing contractor who was willing to pay more in kickbacks than the current one he passed business and excess merchandise to.
The boss came out, saw me there, still working, along with the other guy, answering the phones. The other guy finished a call, hung up and walked away from his station. He said to the boss, "I've been working here for five days. When some customer can walk in off the street and in ten seconds starts doing this work faster than I can, and three times what I can, I guess it's time for me to return to something else less difficult. I'm going back to Oran State University to study full time as a brain surgeon; I didn't think I would be able to handle that kind of work, but it's much simpler. I'll come back for my check next week."
He walked out the door in disgust, as the phones kept on ringing, the unprocessed orders kept piling up, and the customers started loading their fully automatic machine guns with hollow point, armor-piercing, explosive bullets, to inform the proprietor of their displeasure, over being forced to wait more than 5 seconds, for their order to be processed.
That's right, fully automatic machine guns. Customers had become more demanding since the last recession; we used to know they were upset when we heard the distinctive "chock-chock" sound of 30-6 shotguns being cocked.
The machine guns were usually offered by banks in Washington, D.C. and New York City as gifts for opening an account, or sold as loss leaders at department stores there, or from street vendors in front of the City Hall and Police Stations. Sometimes the policemen in DC bought them when they needed a throwaway gun to show just cause when someone was found dead after being shot 50 times for jaywalking without a license, or a tourist who refused to pay the $750 fine for parking too close to a fire hydrant, after a police car had pushed the offending owner's vehicle the six blocks for it to be within 20 feet of the only hydrant for a mile or more.
No matter what you want to say about D.C., and how badly messed up their finances are, their ticket writers make a laughingstock of so-called German Craftsmanship and precision by comparison, because DC's parking ticket writers are so efficient that they put Auschwicz, Buchenwald and Dachau to shame for the sloppiness, sloth, and lack of thoroughness in their operations by comparison.
The Washington D.C. gun dealers weren't hard to find. You just asked any cop there where the best cocaine dealers were. First he'd offer to sell you whatever he had, which wasn't entrapment; they only did that to people who parked cars.
But if the cop had already sold his own supply for today that he'd bought wholesale from the DEA or Justice Department's own drug manufacturing labs in Columbia and elsewhere in South America, and if he couldn't sell you a kilo or two along with an Uzi or a sawed off mini-cannon because he'd sold his quota from his sergeant, he'd tell you where to find them. They are easy to spot, since the cocaine and crack dealers parked their vendor wagons right next to the gun dealers to provide convenient one stop shopping.
That plumber's customers got mad when they didn't get fast service, since they were paying the lowest possible prices, way below wholesale, even below cost, because all of his higher-priced new stock was stolen from construction sites, often two or three tractor-trailer loads at a time. They wanted to escape before we got raided, or they had to pay more because the price got raised to cover the cost of whoever we had to bribe that hour.
We carried a lot of stock on hand, plus whatever we could find from any source, legitimate or illegitimate. I remember one time we got 50,000 assorted pieces of what was supposed to be lead crystal, but the maker had used aluminum instead, so my boss wholesaled it to old age homes, in the hopes it would help older people who might get Alzheimers' disease. It did; he got many checks from hospitals as thank yous for all the new Alzheimers' patients they were getting.
Let me tell you about a few items of stock, and how our customers used them in their businesses.
Our really big volume bestseller was a simulated wood fireplace, made to run off natural gas. He had them made in the back out of used, rusted out gasoline tanks from old scrap cars. Typically the plating keeping the residual gasoline - ten or twenty gallons - from seeping into the flame areas would last about two or three weeks of use. Relatives named in the will of very rich old people would buy these fireplaces as birthday and Christmas Gifts for them.
Shortly thereafter, the descendants would come by the store, very grateful, with thank you checks for the owner, then left to drive off in their new BMW's and Mercedes Benzes they bought from part of their inheritance. They were usually in a hurry, on the way to the funeral of the missing parent or parents they had bought the fireplace for, two or three weeks earlier.
Always a short service, because there was no casket display, or other remembrance of the corpse, whose vaporized remains could not be found, in the crater where a house, or 40-story apartment building formerly sat. They also appreciated that feature too, since it saved them money: a coffin wasn't needed.
Our biggest seller in plumbing pipes was the somewhat lower cost, nonexistent quality piping made out of copper colored, thrice used lead solder, that he was paid to collect as waste. This was sold as "highest quality, 100% copper piping, suitable for use where rigorous conditions are needed, including production of chemicals which explode, when exposed to trace amounts of lead."
I'd heard we sold hundreds of tons of it at a volume discount to some place in the USSR I'd never heard of called Wormwood. Later I found out the Russian name for the place was Chernobyl. My boss was very proud of that order; he said he figured he was in some way partially responsible for the Soviet Union collapsing.
Our next high volume, big profit item was the "highest quality" (even lower than the above), premium grade (the stuff that wasn't factory seconds, but factory ninths) piping, sold for use in industrial facilities (hospitals and elementary schools) for carrying treated waste (drinking water).
The store manufactured this in casting molds in the foundry out back, where talented professionals (8-year-olds we called the "foundry kids") worked under the skilled eye of an experienced metallurgist (an engineer whose license had been pulled) of impeccable qualifications (lifetime prohibition on working as an engineer due to drug addiction and alcoholism on the job). These talented professionals have very high levels of experience (they had to quit after a week), and were in excellent condition (had to stop working due to radiation sickness and black lung disease).
The few who retired (any still alive) usually did due to environmental conditions (a humongous pile of burning tires), not due to any fault on the part of the proprietor, but caused by the rubber manufacturer next door.
The slight air pollution generated (a huge cloud of burned rubber) that was almost unnoticeable (ten to twelve feet deep) did not cause any inconvenience to transport facilities (cars going through the residue), delay operators (cars were completely buried), or provide a problem to operations (accidents occurred all the time) from the end product (black rubber ash residue which can't be disposed of).
The tire maker had arranged for special legislation (paid bribes) to have two states laws changed (to have the lines of the two states moved) a tiny amount, just a little bit (about four hundred and forty miles) so that it was enough to allow him a minor exemption (placing his property just outside of both states), to certain environmental clean up laws.
My boss got the raw materials for making the pipes, when he received money for accepting material disposed for Hazmat burial, under Superfund Site cleanup laws.
After pouring whatever acids and compounds that weren't usable down the (fake) "100% porcelain" (made out of hardened mashed potatoes) toilet, the foundry kids would coat the metals my boss could recover over the piping.
The biggest cost (essentially zero) was in having to constantly replace (five or six times an hour) the toilet which was in "factory new condition" (sold to, then stolen back from, a gas station), because the hazardous materials and acids ate through the "guaranteed acid proof" (if not exposed to acids) coating of the "highest quality welded plating," (painted on the piping to cover over the marking "recycled and used toxic or radioactive waste piping; cannot be decontaminated; keep at least 100 feet from any water supply or underground aquifers.")
He had to keep supplying more of these pipes to replace the drinking water pipes at Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering and No Mercy Hospital, because they ran them overpressure rather than use more piping for the amount of water being pumped, and the pipes burst a lot. That hospital also used them to save labor costs. Not his, theirs.
Every so often (whenever they wanted them to) the hospital's drinking water pipes would spring a leak and burst; the water which had burst the pipes had to be drained out of the basement before it ate through the concrete and dissolved the rusted out slag and pig iron used for the building's structural supports, which were made out of a really cheap metal that the builder had paid a bribe to the Hospital Administrator to allow them to be used in the hospital's construction.
The drainage had to be done quickly; the Administrator preferred not to have the building condemned as extremely dangerous and unfit for human habitation too often; the bribes became too expensive.
So ten or twenty maintenance people would be sent down with hand-held pumps to drain out the water since electricity costs money. Actually, the hospital stole whatever power they used, just like we did, when my boss sold them a license for the idea of running their meter backward so the electric company sent the Administrator a big check every month for the unused power, but that wasn't important.
The maintenance people were expected to wear street clothes; they were not informed that the slightly more expensive, and more protective smocks that the hospital would have had to pay for (when they ran out of the ones that my boss had stolen and sold to them for less than below wholesale), would dissolve in the water.
This saved labor costs for the Administrator because by the time the laborers had stopped draining all the water out, they had melted because of standing in the water up to their armpits. The only problem was the pumps usually had to be wiped off and deodorized due to the remains of liquefied flesh stuck on the handles.
The Administrator didn't mind, typically the people they used to do the work were illegal aliens from Mexico, South America and China who had paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for passage and the chance to find work in the underground economy.
The Hospital Administrator once told me that they sent the ones that were due a pay check down there on the day before pay day to drain off the leaks, and then he could keep their pay since they never came back to claim it. One time he told me, "I don' feel bad 'bout it 'tall. 'Tain't like they's decent white foke or even a half-goud niggah. They ain't nothin' but wetbacks and chinks, tain't like they really human, or somethin' val-u-bul like a daid cat."
He eventually quit to go into a more lucrative business, I think it had something to do with using the discarded diseased, pus-filled and/or cancerous flesh of dogs and cattle, plus various livestock dead from hoof-and-mouth or "mad cow" disease, to make baby food.
So anyway, I remembered I no longer worked at the hardware store, so I stopped working at the front counter. I looked up, told the boss I was sorry, I was having so much fun I'd forgotten I wasn't working there any more, and that I'd buy my toilet seat someplace else. I knew I'd never be able to go into that store again, or I'd hate myself.
I put the seat down on the counter, and walked out, letting the phones ring and leaving a line of angry customers that stretched so long that people at the end of the line (two miles away) thought it was the ticket line for Michael Chrichton, M.D.'s Jurassic Park, which was still playing to packed audiences, fourteen years after its release. That movie was doing almost as well as the one across the street that had been running for 13 years, which coincidentally was also produced by Steven Spielberg, his monster hit Used Cars. His movie Schindler's List, wasn't received all that well. People said he was a little unkind to the Germans shown in the film.
What shocked my boss was that I'd never once said I had fun there; I complained constantly until the day I couldn't stand it and left. Nobody had ever had fun there; there were riots in jail that required National Guard troops from twelve states, with assistance from UN Peacekeeping forces to quell, every time the sheriff threatened to use that store as the work assignment for prisoners.
Even shooting prisoners didn't always work; sometimes they were so angry they came back from the dead multiple times. Someone named "The Devil" kept sending the dead prisoners back to life from some place they kept going to called "Hell", saying that they were too mean and cruel to allow them to stay there.
The Sheriff couldn't threaten prisoners with work details in the store for long; the State Supreme Court later ruled using a work assignment in that store, even in place of lethal injection for prisoners sentenced to be executed, violated the 8th amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and suggested death by stoning or torture would be more humane. The same case declared it was also unconstitutional as "excessively harsh, reprehensibly cruel and inhumanely barbaric" to send prisoners such as convicted rapists and child molesters to that store even as customers.
The place was extremely hazardous to work at; the boss never cared about safety, plus the fact we hadn't had an inspection in ten years; the last five OSHA inspectors were never found, they vanished into thin air. The last three building inspectors were found, but not in good condition. Only their decapitated heads were found, in a dumpster some blocks away. The only clue as to where the rest went was the stamp on their foreheads, "USDA INSPECTED PRIME BEEF"
When I walked out the door of the place, following the trainee brain surgeon, the boss ran out, dodging sniper and antitank fire, and begged both of us to stay. So we did, and this time the boss replaced him when he quit a week later, after I told him who I was and why I was so good at it, figuring my insanity was contagious. But I had to fix the problem or I'd be in the same spot again. I knew if I put up with being the only one there, the boss would try it again. They didn't call him "the cheapest son of a bitch in town" for nothing.
I then walked in to his office and told him someone had quit, so I'd give him until the end of today to find someone. If I came in tomorrow and someone else wasn't there, or they were unable to do the work, I would turn around and leave, and he'd probably not see me again. Not just because I wouldn't come back, but because the upset customers would kill him before I'd left a hole in the air. So he promised he would.
I decided to see if I could negotiate some "fringe benefits". I told him that if the other spot became vacant one day, if it still was on the second day, both spots would be. And he could pick whoever he wanted, but I had to make the call on them if I thought they weren't good enough. I could spot someone who couldn't keep up in fifteen minutes. All I had to do was work on one thing full time, ignore the phones, and it overloaded them. If they could keep up with my doing my work slower than normal, then I told the boss they were okay.
I got one guy who claimed he had three years work experience doing this. If so, I was impressed; I could learn something from him, and I decided to see how long he'd manage before he cracked. He lasted exactly eight minutes, before I realized he had more like three days work experience. Maybe three hours. He got so disgusted he left before even filling out the 40 page job application. The look on his face when he realized he'd been caught was worth having to do the extra work until the next sucker showed up to try and work there a few minutes later, until he burned out in the time it took me to use the restroom.
I never did find out if the lobotomy he got later helped his incurable insanity, but I heard he made some very nice wicker baskets while undergoing treatment.
Actually, I could never have gotten to the real restroom, it would have taken me so long the place would be thick with shrapnel from customers shooting at now deceased ex-customers who cut in line. The "restroom" was ten feet from the counter, and it actually was a chamber-pot. After it got too full, the boss used to use the contents to fill the reservoir of the coffee machine next to it, instead of paying for water. Customers said the coffee was worth $1 a cup, it was the best they'd ever had.
We churned so many people in that job that places that trained people for difficult to impossible work as far as a hundred miles away were sending people over for him to test them; even the temporary agencies that needed people who could work fast started sending people over here to work for a couple hours for free; if they lasted the whole time with me doing nothing, the person was fit to work on their hardest projects which would be a piece of cake in comparison, like being the entire pit crew for all of the cars at the Indianapolis 500. None of the people those places sent lasted more than 20 minutes, some didn't last 20 seconds before running screaming in terror.
I heard from a Mr. Phelps of the Impossible Missions Force who told me he wanted to hire me to work for his organization and replace the entire staff, but I said the work they did was too dull and boring, even if they were willing to offer me $2 million a year in untaxed cash. Plus I hated flying, I always got airsick.
The only guy that I ever met that made me look bad at the plumber's was my friend Speedy. He could do twice as much work as I could. For the first time, I could actually go out to lunch, come back and find the work covered, instead of trying to eat, write an order, answer the phone, ring up a customer, punish shoplifters, pay off cops, raise the prices on the blackboard to cover the amount of the bribe, test bullet proof vests by wearing them against when an occasional new customer shot at me thinking I was the boss or another customer cutting in line ahead of them, and pull stock, simultaneously. If Speedy had stayed another week, I would have quit to go do something less nerve-racking. I
had heard there was an opening to drive a truck hauling extremely unstable explosives, I thought the reduced stress would make me feel better.
The next three paragraphs really happened:
Speedy was the one that suggested I go to Central College, because it was a nice place to study and learn. So I did. Speedy quit working at that hardware store after two weeks, because he'd proved to himself that he could do that kind of work. He always wondered if he could handle being someone who did mundane work like ordinary people, instead of just doing work in a class or working in some technical field.
A week later I saw Speedy running a checkout counter as head cashier in a supermarket. I talked to him and found out how he had gotten the job. He had told the manager he had two years of experience, when he'd never done the job before. The manager didn't want to hire him, after having him try running a register, because he said the kid was overqualified for it. Speedy then told him the truth, that he had never worked in a grocery store, and that he was going to go two blocks down to his competitor, and tell him,
who wanted to hire him but was offering a dollar an hour less. The guy hired him anyway. He stayed five weeks, then went somewhere else.
Fourteen customers stopped coming to the grocery store after he left, they said the other clerks were too stupid to do their orders right. I saw some who would come in on Speedy's day off, look, see he wasn't there, and turn around and leave to go to another market.
I stayed at my job playing hyperactive octopus for another eight months until the cheapskate boss decided to move his business to LA, where employees were more appreciative of having someone to work for, and he could hire the Crips and the Bloods for protection and casual labor cheaper than the bribes cops wanted to look the other way when he stole a squad car to melt down for scrap or sell to drug dealers for use as a transport car.
After he really closed his business in order to retire to Florida, I saw five jobs I was interested in, so I went to look at the one offering more money. When I went there to be interviewed, I almost didn't get hired. The guy recognized me from somewhere, but couldn't remember where, and he might have suspected he saw my face on a Post Office billboard.
The place I worked at had a reputation of paying little and overworking people, so that only those who couldn't get hired elsewhere worked there. But I told the man I had come here from LA where places like that were commonplace. But let me continue my story.
When I told the man I was applying for the job where I had worked for almost a year, and for over a month without help, he told me that he had a policy of not hiring people who were taking drugs, since nobody could have done that without being on a high dose of speed. About enough to keep every resident of New York up all night. New York State, that is.
Maybe he was right; the only complaint from my old boss about the cost of having me work there was the cases of Mountain Dew I was drinking each day to get enough caffeine in my system to keep going.
I don't know why my ex-boss complained about the cost; the same people who stole tractor trailers of hardware, hospital supplies, plus relief for the starving people of Africa that he then sold as expensive gourmet meals, also stole the one or two trucks full a day of soda I needed to keep going; because he was having them steal more trucks, he got a volume discount and it cost him less. But it had to be Mountain Dew; it has the most caffeine of any soda except maybe Jolt, and I don't like colas; I can't even drink Coke; it tastes like sewer water. My old boss had to supply me with free soda as one of the "fringe benefits" I demanded to stay at his place.
I remembered where I had seen him before, as a close friend of Quinn d'Angelo: he was the one who offered to help him after that incident with the skylight. And I explained to him he was wrong, only the customers appeared on the Ten Most Wanted list. So I convinced the man I applied for the job with that he was mistaken, so he hired me and I stayed there for a couple years before quitting to take the two-week, err I mean three-week assignment.
Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating about how bad it was working for that plumber, but it wasn't a fun job until I got help, and the pay was low. But I learned a lot, and it was easier once we had two people to handle the work. And Speedy really was able to do twice as much work as I did at the store.