Bizarre Jobs

Entrepreneur:

We didn’t stay in California long. It was my first semester of kindergarten, and Stephen was in second grade. We came up with the idea of having a “plant sale” on the front lawn. We gathered containers and put plants from the yard in them. Stephen made a sign. One woman drove by, saw us, and gave us two nickels for a plant. That was a lot of money to a kid back then.

Austin Underpass

Austin, 1983

Sole Proprietorship:

#1: The public golf course in Austin was next to the airport. Somehow, I got the idea to go around the golf course on my ten-speed and pick up stray golf balls to sell. I found a couple dozen over a couple of weeks. Some were fancy, and I sold most of them at our yard sale.

#2: Every day, on the way to Pearce junior high, I would stop at Safeway and buy a bag of lollipops. I sold them to fellow students for a quarter each—making a decent profit. Of course, there were the complimentary lollipops for the kids who could easily kick my ass.

Independent Contractor:

Fast forward to me at twenty-two. I had three (sometimes four) roommates in an apartment with a red front door on which someone had scratched, “Cinder Hippie 666.” The upstairs bathroom door would sometimes lock itself, requiring a good swift kick. El John was the cat.

My painting buddy, Butch, was a good many years older than I was. We had some fun drunken and hilariously misogynistic times. He started delivering newspapers and worked with this odd man, Alan. Butch got me a gig painting the interior of Alan’s house. I did a crummy job. Anyhow, Alan got me a gig with Pro-Steam, cleaning carpets.

It was horrible. I got the big map book of Greater Richmond. Once I located the customer’s home, I had no idea what the job would be like until they opened the door. Sometimes it was sloppy, sometimes it was neat, and sometimes there was furniture to move. The equipment was heavy and awkward—I was in the best shape I’ve ever been.

When I went into people’s houses, the first thing I’d try to sell was deodorizer—it came in either cinnamon or cherry. People who say that there aren’t cultural differences between white people and black people may find this tidbit interesting: 100% of the time—regardless of income level—regardless of gender—inner city or suburb… Black people always chose cherry, and white people always chose cinnamon. Always. No exceptions.

Nashville Fourth

Nashville, 2000

(Un) Professional Temp:

First, they had me stuffing envelopes, then they had me doing data entry. I had a terrible cold the whole week I worked at EDS, a Medicaid contractor located in downtown Nashville. I stayed home on the Monday. Tuesday, they put me with a nice caucasian woman named Breena in the microfilm lab. It was a small room filled with equipment. Nobody could come into the room without knocking because sometimes the room needed to be dark to process film. On our first cigarette break, she told me that she takes her nap around two. She was often heard to say, “If I don’t feel like working, I don’t work.”

The bastards at Kelly Services sent a disgusting and insulting letter about calling in sick. It was Thursday evening, and I smoked a bit of reefer. I concocted the most vile and crazy scheme—involving Breena lying to the supervisor. She was hurt to hear it.

The numbers weren’t too good in the microfilm lab (so I presumed), I stuffed envelopes on the Friday, and my numbers weren’t impressive. When I got home, the woman at Kelly Services called and told me that the supervisor said that it “just wasn’t working out.” I assume that he and Breena had a chat.

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