So when we last E Dagger, he was learning the difference between Ninjas, Juggalos, and WEEEECKID clowns working for a property management company. The journey up to this point has been interesting, and it only gets weirder from here. So take a break from your day-to-day grind and read about those from years past. We conclude the many professions of E Dagger after the jump.
Job: Salesman/installer for vehicle rack and trailer hitch retailer
Duration: 1 full year off and on during breaks from school
Wage: $8.00/hr. plus 3% commission sales, 10% commission installs
What I did: Sold vehicle accessories (i.e. ski racks, bike racks, and cargo boxes) to people who think wearing a North Face fleece no matter the time of year is a fashion statement, sold trailer hitches to people who inexplicably didn’t go to U-Haul, installed said items (poorly), and learned a staggering amount of useless information about outdoor recreational activities I have yet to successfully expunge from my brain.
Weirdo fucking lunatics I worked with: I was turned onto this job by my friend Conor who also worked there. Having no experience in retail sales, very little interest in biking, hauling shit behind my car or off-roading, and the installation/assembly ability of a developmentally-challenged kindergartner apparently means nothing if you’re good at interviews. And I am. I have yet not to be offered a job I’ve interviewed for which certainly does my two degrees proud.
Conor is one of the proudest anti-authority miscreants I’ve ever known, so watching him respond sarcastically to whatever stupid directive we received during staff meetings with a laconic response of “tight bangin” was always a treat. My boss at the Denver store was hilarious and told me a story of his upbringing when his older brother had a party where a chick passed out naked in a bathtub and he and his 12 year-old best friend just stood there and stared at her for about 45 minutes. Another guy I worked with was in his 50s, got rich off patenting the flash button on your phone and worked this stupid job just to get away from his wife during the day. He smoked incessantly. And there was my other manager who always seemed like a nice guy, but was kind of a dick when you got down to it. He chewed which made him look like an even bigger dick.
Suck factor: Moderate. When you work in a retail shop and there’s no customers, the boredom is an absolute killer. When you’re by yourself (as I often was) and there’s no internet, it’s absolute hell. And anyone who’s worked on commission can tell you how much they loathe the “stroker” with every fiber of their being. This is the guy (or gal) who comes in, chats you up about every fucking product in the store, tells you some inane story about some dumbass trail he biked last weekend that you don’t care about, has you work up a quote for them, takes at least a half hour of your time, and leaves without buying anything. Fuck this guy. Fuck him right up his nose.
When we were busy and we had a lot of installs, the day flew. And all things considered, the guys I worked with were cool. Plus, there’s something about working in a garage, assembling things, using tools that required compressed air, and bullshitting with other men, that’s just undeniably satisfying. Yes, even to a cream puff like me.
Overall: Not a bad job to have during the summer. Air conditioned store when it was hot as fuck, lawn chairs out front on nice days. The base pay always assured a minimum level of comfort, and the commission (depending on the month) could make a good month grand. I was without a doubt the worst installer in the history of this company and earned the nickname “finger tight” for one time I failed to properly tighten a Ford Explorer’s hitch down to the required 75 ft/lbs of torque. Luckily Conor caught that before they drove off, hit a pothole, and dropped the thing into traffic. I did manage to get better at putting shit together before I quit resulting in successful construction of a desk, a coffee table, and a desk chair while at college. I once again suck at these tasks.
Job: Company representative, natural gas driller, State Fair, Palmer, AK
Duration: 1 freaking awesome week in August
What I did: Senor Limon alluded to this job a bit in our Travel Sick Confessional, but it deserves expansion. Before senior year of college, I took some summer classes and failed once again to find a job. Finding a summer job in Fort Collins was not dissimilar from trying to find J.D. Salinger, and when coupled with my rampant collegiate laziness, it was basically impossible. So, when my dad told me his company needed a couple of smart young guys who work relatively cheap to fly up to Alaska to build and man their state fair booth, I grabbed Limon, and we lived the high life.
Not only did we get $1,000 for a week’s work, we got travel expenses paid, a per diem (of which, we spent approximately 75% on booze), and our own hotel rooms. And what did we have to do for this handsome sum? We built a couple of wooden platforms, erected a tent, learned the company profile, looked at a natural gas well head, and hung out and drank in Wasilla, AK. Also, we saw a thong poking out the back of some townie’s jeans that still stands as the biggest thong either of us has ever seen in person.
Weirdo fucking lunatics I worked with: First and foremost was Senor Limon who recently sent me a text message asking, “Have you ever mooed at a cow until it moos back?” So there’s him. There was the State Representative of Alaska obsessed with chocolate who looked like a shorter and pudgier version of Jeff Bagwell. There was the admin assistant whose name made her sound like a porn star. Her face indicated otherwise. And there was the fat Asian guy in charge who my dad affectionately referred to as “Buddha.” This guy was a tool and a complete mess. He was built like E Honda from Street Fighter, had a dazzling array of condiments on his shirt at all times, and he would tell you the most outrageously untrue and long stories you’ve ever heard every time you had the displeasure of talking to him (e.g. his ex-wife was a supermodel, he used to be a millionaire, he had a fully stocked bar in his basement, etc.)
Suck factor: Basically zero. Aside from Jeff Bagwell and the big fat Buddha, this was the easiest money I’ve ever earned. I was slightly emasculated when Bagwell had to correct my technique in swinging a hammer, but in my defense, I was hungover as hell and had a difficult time concentrating. The rest of the employees seemed genuinely happy they had some new young blood up there, and basically encouraged us to go and party in Anchorage. So we did, charging drinks and dinner to the room in the process.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Beach Club, though. This was Wasilla’s local strip joint, and it still stands as one of the five worst places on earth I’ve ever visited. The other four are (in no particular order): that bus from San Francisco to Fort Collins, the gypsy cab in London, Tijuana, and my friend Russell’s apartment in Boulder, CO. After looking around the room nervously at all the dark eyes of oilfield roughnecks and drunk natives, Limon and I ordered a couple beers and sat near the stage. When a seemingly semi-decent girl came onstage, I moved up to tip, and upon closer inspection I realized she had a huge back piece tattoo in the shape of some sort of demon, teeth that looked like a wood-chopping accident, and breasts that indicated she’d already had a child. Possibly several. She then moved her g-string aside revealing undercarriage that looked like an M-80 blew up inside a bag of pastrami, stuck her finger in up to her cervix, took it out, licked it, and said coyly, “I like my job.” All while looking me dead in the eyes. I smiled awkwardly, hastily threw a couple bucks on the table, yanked Limon out of the bathroom, and got the fuck out of there. This place still haunts my nightmares.
Overall: Are you kidding? I was 21 and someone paid me and my best friend to go to Alaska and party for a week. We met some townies. We ate a deep-fried Twinkie (oddly unpleasant, btw). And we visited the most beautiful state in the union. Working for the City was the best job I ever had, but this was the greatest one-off work experience of all-time. No question.
Duration: 3 freezing summer months
What I did: Typical lifeguard shit. I watched people swim, tested chemical levels of the pool, and basically sat bored out of my ass for several hours because no one ever came to these pools because it rained all fucking summer. Kind of like this summer is shaping up to do…
Weirdo fucking lunatics I worked with: Sadly, no one at this job was all that interesting. It was a bunch of high school kids, some of whom I bought beer for. I enjoyed having bosses younger than me if for no other reason than it made them uncomfortable as hell assigning me tasks I didn’t want to do. I also enjoyed going through lifeguard training and watching tough-as-nails Bronco linebacker Karl Mecklenburg’s son quit halfway through because it was too hard (Dagger’s note: It wasn’t).
Suck factor: Shockingly high, again, due to boredom. You’d think being a lifeguard at a pool no one goes to would be cush. But the reason no one went was because of the horseshit weather, which meant you got to hang out at the pool by yourself in a shitty guard shack while it rained off an on until your shift was over. One of the pools I worked at had a television, so I just started bringing my Xbox and banged out a quarter of a season of MLB 2004 in two weeks. I was so disenchanted with this job, I’d even do this while old people swam laps, standing up occasionally to peek out the window and go, “Ugh… Yeah, they’re fine out there.” The other thing you forget about being a lifeguard: Kids always want to talk to you. No matter how little you engage, you’re like a god in a young swimmer’s eyes, and they’ll never shut up about it.
Overall: This was the year before I began graduate school, so I was back home with my parents. I love my parents and we get along great, but this was the summer I knew I needed to be on my own for good. CSU was paying me to teach the next year, so this was just for extra cash. And that’s about all it amounted to because besides reading the textbook from which I was about to teach, all I accomplished was a barely there tan and a brutal case of blue balls from looking at the gorgeous felonies I worked with. Goddammit.
Job: Graduate teaching assistant – public speaking instructor
Duration: 2 years
Wage: Approximately $1,100/month plus tuition
What I did: Taught public speaking to between 24 and 48 ungrateful little shits each semester. Over the course of my two year tenure, I listened to approximately 1,200 speeches, most of them lousy, and wrote two pages of feedback for all of them. I also constructed lectures, wrote quizzes, and made a slew of terrible jokes in an effort to get uninterested undergrads who were there only because of a pre-requisite to appreciate how important public speaking, presentations, and crafting a good argument are to everything they do in life.
Weirdo fucking lunatics I worked with: There were 11 others in my program. I’m marrying one of them, so I suppose she’s alright. Another became one of my best buddies, and despite our vehement disagreements about the talents of Dakota Fanning, we had an awesome time disrupting the pretentious harmony of our department. Almost everyone else – aw, fuck ‘em. Would you want to hang out with the born-again Christian dude or the post-feminist hippy who wrote a paper about the rhetoric of tampons? How about the chick whose presentations resembled every fake newscast you’ve ever seen a nine year-old give – well-intentioned and adorable, but ultimately clueless and filled with words she doesn’t understand? Graduate school’s filled with the assholes you read on your city newspaper’s editorial page, only not quite as smart, and filled with even more smug self-satisfaction (if that’s possible).
Suck factor: Moderate. Even though this is a cliché of the highest order, teaching is one of the most fulfilling things you can do with your life. I had several students who worked their asses off to get better at public speaking and whom I coached on my own time to improve. Watching them go from abysmal presenters to more than adequate rhetoricians with my help was as close as I’ve come in my young life to watching a child learn to walk. You feel like you’ve actually accomplished something and feel good about how you spend your time and the state’s money.
However, for every one of those students, there’s at least five who resent you for having the audacity to even attempt to teach them. Sure, there was also the persistent lugubrious task of grading papers, listening to a shitty slate of speeches while you’re hungover and dealing with useless peer coaching, but below the surface, teaching scars you on a deeper level. I had several students each semester tell me they thought the class I taught was bullshit to my face, and while part of you gets used to hearing that, it always stings just a little. If you’re a good teacher with altruistic intentions (as I was), part of you always wilts when you hear a student so summarily dismiss everything you’ve worked to accomplish. But ultimately those hurtful words wash away and you’re more inclined to remember the students you did help and hope they’ve taken your lessons and used them in their lives. That’s the dream, but we all know life doesn’t always work out that way.
Overall: I enjoyed teaching. It’s not something I’d like to do full-time, but for what it was when it was, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Besides enlightening young minds and connecting with the occasional student, it gave me the opportunity to try out some comedy on an audience. Those kids are there to hear you speak for 50 minutes for better or worse, so why not work on a routine or two for use in a future comedy endeavor? Such as this one. Ahem.
In all seriousness, if teaching only involved teaching, it would be the ideal profession. But when you involve all the bureaucracy, the standardized grade curves, the prescribed day-to-day class format, and all the other bullshit, teaching is the biggest headache there is. Many of the best teachers find a way around all this bureaucratic rigmarole, but many of the best teachers also burn out in under five years.
Amazingly enough, teaching public speaking became one of the key points of my current career. I’ve prepared a multitude of executives, public relations people, and even union leaders to speak in front of audiences of thousands of people, to the editorial staff of newspapers, and to their very own supporters. So, to that end, this job has had a practical purpose, which is more than I can say for the rest of them.
I’ve never had to fill pockets in a perfect binder again, nor have I ever had to lackadaisically watch a pool while a bunch of brats swam around either. But having the bizarre breadth of experience has certainly made me more appreciative of the job I have now. And I’m even happier I don’t have to do any of these weirdo fucking jobs again either.
What did you do when you were growing up? What are you doing now? Based on my experiences, it’s obvious there’s a whole world of employment out there waiting to be explored. So whether you’re a corporate trainer, selling rooftop vehicle racks to dicks who ask you “Do you paddle?” (which is reference to kayaking I found out later), or saving lives at your local pool, remember this:
Selling shit door-to-door is the most soul crushing experience of your life…
… and everyone should do it.
Until next time…
16 Jun 2009 E Dagger