When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.
-- Mark Twain
Some readers have asked me what the worst job was I ever had. Truth be told, as I get older my memory is not as good as it used to be, so sometimes details tend to get rearranged, blurred or outright imagined. If you had asked me what the nicest thing I ever did for someone, that would have been easier for me and kinder of you, for I remember that fairly well (as if it was yesterday). My wife would probably say it was really last year, but that would be flattery. Having reached a certain age, seasoned by experience which is also the obligatory age of discretion, I still like compliments as well as ever, but it is important not to lose my head over it as I would back when I was younger and by definition, more innocent over such verbal affirmations.
But now I have wandered off from your question, and I can see that you are curious to hear a tale of despair, woe and suffering, so in that regard I shall not disappoint you. Hopefully, there is one of you out there that will read this and think to themselves: "Well I thought my job stinks, but at least THAT never happened to me."
Go back to the summer of my 20th year of living. I had just completed my junior year of college at Florida State University, and by all accounts, things were looking outstanding. I was crushing it scholastically, had a steady girlfriend, my hair was long and flaxen, and the skin had finally cleared up. Well, I told you earlier that with time things start to blur a bit, but of these facts, I remain fairly certain. It's what follows that may be unreliable.
I needed summer work, and my older brother happened to have a connection to a dream job. He had heard of a fellow willing to pay $160 bucks a week cash for making concrete picnic tables. I knew nothing of picnic tables or concrete manufacturing, but I did know about money, so I called the number he gave me. A fellow who called himself "the Colonel" answered and verified the details. (The name alone should have been a red flag, but I digress.) He gave me an address and said show up next Monday at 8 a.m., and I was hired.
The address was an old boarded-up farmhouse (yes, another red flag) out in the country about 10 miles out of town surrounded by green fields of some type of agricultural plantings. Out in the back of the house was a small concrete mixer, a larger pile of sand, and scores of broken concrete picnic tables scattered about as in some dystopic graveyard. A small blond kid, who I made out to be about 14 years old, stood there grinning at me as he leaned on a shovel. His name was Kenny, and for the next week he was my boss, my trainer and ultimately a whistleblower of Trumpian proportions.
Using a water hose from the back of the old house, we started mixing concrete and pouring it into molds that lay on the ground. One mold was for the bench seats, the other for the round table. Most would crumble after taking them out of the mold. Our success rate hovered about 20%, but Kenny seemed not to mind. At noon, I realized I had forgotten to bring a lunch. Kenny said no problem, he would share his baloney sandwich and then we could eat peanuts. He explained those fields were planted with peanuts so all that week, fresh peanuts were our snack. So far so good. The work was in the open hot Florida sun, but the cash dream kept me going along with said innocence.
That Friday I afternoon the Colonel drove out to pay us. He counted out $40 dollars and then said, "I know you been eating my peanuts, so I deducted that out of your salary." Kenny stood there with that same grin when I first saw him. "The traitor!" I thought. Talk about working for peanuts! I started the next Monday at Walgreens. E'nut said.
NAN Our Town on 10/03/2019