Next to K.O.C.N. and the photomat, this was the best fucking job I ever had--I mean DAMN, I couldn't have asked for better, really. See: at the time I was living with a friend of mine, sleeping in his living room for $100 per month and the job paid $100 dollars per week, for one shift of about 8 hours per week! DO THE MATH! For someone who is so usually plagued by poverty, this multiple of four ratio was like living high on the hog. I could smoke and eat at whim! Six days per week I would play music, write, and spend time with my son (who was about one at the time that I started) and be possessed of by a feeling of total freedom! It was great.
The job itself was incredible, strangely aligned to the misanthropic attitude a life of working public service jobs has given me: I had keys to the office and when I'd show up there would be no one there! I cannot celebrate the beauties of working alone enough! No boss peering over your shoulder, no co-workers who require conversation, and no public to placate! It's amazing.
When I'd arrive there would be these mountainous stacks of non-inserted newspaper section that had been delivered for the coming Sunday Chronicle. I'd set up a long unfinished pine board table with so many stacks of them that it would sag in the middle. Then I'd proceed to put them together with a machine-like rapidity that was meditative and truly enjoyable. It would take me roughly three-four hours to assemble these parts together, which were the entirety of the paper aside from the actual news section. The news section would come in at about 1:30am or so on Sunday morning and if I finished up early with the first set I could leave and come back then. I loved that job!
The repetition of it was truly mindless, and thus meditative--I taught my body to know the movements of inserting the paper so that I didn't have to focus at all on it. Unlike most repetitious labor jobs, this one really required NO THOUGHT whatsoever. This freed up my mind to the point that I would improv songs and poetry at the top of my lungs for hours at a stretch. I'd talk to myself in full non-stop multi-part conversations that were NOT only so revealing as to be scary, but sometimes so apart from me as to be truly unsettling on profound levels. Heh... I suppose it really didn't contribute much to my mental health, but Hell, jobs seldom do. I mean really, at least I was REALLY entertained the whole time.
My boss Joel was a man of many quirks and contradictions. He used to work in the lettuce industry of the Salinas valley... oh, excuse me, he actually 'still worked' there but was technically 'on strike' (for the last few years). He used to belong to Ceasar Chavez's union when it was still strong and he had a ravenously pro-union outlook on life. Don't get me wrong, I am pro-union, but this guy was rabid about it.
One great side effect of that, as far as I was concerned, was that he didn't believe that the employer/employee wage differential should be the enormous fucking chasm that it generally is in the world, and so he would pay me a piece rate instead of an hourly one... thus the reason that I was making $400 per month for four days of labor. Every day I worked he would invariably come in during some point of the news section and help me insert WITHOUT subtracting the papers he did from my check. A saint--a fucking saint. I worked hard for him. I worked sick. I cancelled other plans in order to help him. This is the result you get when you treat your employees well.
One evening after I'd finished the first section and left for awhile I came back to find he had arrived already and was reading yesterday's news.
"Hey Joel, how?s it--"
"MOTHERFUCKING BOSNIA CROATIA BULLSHIT!"
"No! They're just killing each other again!"
"Refugees are flooding over the border faster than the neighboring countries can keep up and so they're having to put up armed guards to keep them back!"
"Yeah that's horrible... but Hell's Belles, what can you do? I mean they've
"WHAT CAN WE DO? I'LL TELL YOU WHAT WE CAN DA: NUKE THE FUCKERS!"
"What?! What the Hell are you talking about?"
"It's like the Middle East: these motherfuckers have been fighting for so GODDAMN LONG that the only way they will EVER STOP is if they're ALL KILLED and ALL THOSE FUCKING GRUDGES are laid to rest once and for all!!"
"Uh, what! Are you suggesting that we--"
"-Clean the slate! THAT UNDIEING HATRED that exists in them IS NOT GOING TO GO AWAY!! We drop a neutron bomb and BOOM the suffering of the Human Race is lessened by that much!"
"WOW! That's so horrific that its FUNNY, man!"
I got a friend of mine, Tim, a job there. Mistake. See: Tim was a slacker, hippie, piss-and-moan kinda guy and Joel ended up really hating him. For instance I come in one time and Joel is pacing like a caged dog.
"What the fuck is wrong with your friends Sean?"
"Your friend Tim is a fucking pussy!"
"Eh... Why's that?"
"OKAY! FUCK--the other day he misses a shift and doesn't call in so I went by his house today to see what was up."
"YEAH! So I'm there saying 'So why the fuck didn't you come in yesterday?' coz I can tell he's not sick or anything and HE says 'Man you are violating my personal space, and I feel really invalidated by you right now' INVALIDATED? Is that EVEN A FUCKING WORD?!?!"
"Yeah, I think it--"
"I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK TO DO!! I'm used to dealing with people who have spines and will get back in your face if you get into theirs! 'INVALIDATED' ?!?! FUCK! I just stood there! I wanted to HIT HIM!! He just kept looking at me with that fucking pouty puppy-dog look on his face! GOD SEAN--WHAT the fuck IS WRONG with your friends?"
I worked there for about two or three years and ended up leaving when subscription rates dropped too low for me to be held on. DAMN, I relished that job! Everything from the solitude to the company! I wish I could find something like it again! I'd keep it till the day I died.