Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Things We Do for Money

After I waxed nostalgic about my fishing lake job yesterday, I started thinking about all pre-“real job” careers we all have.

Entertainment Company
Between the ages of 13 and 18, I worked for a neighbor who owned an entertainment company.  We dressed up as costumed characters from children’s shows  and worked kids’ birthday parties, parades, carnivals, and company parties.  It was terrible, but the hourly rate we got paid was awesome…. no matter that we only worked a few hours a month.  In those 5 years I was:  a Rugrat (ugh), “The Purple Dinosaur” (apparently “Barney” is copywrited.  Man, I got punched a lot in that costume), the Easter Bunny, Winnie the Pooh, Minnie Mouse (as the only teenage girl working for this dude, I was the only one who fit in the costume.  I got in trouble once at a carnival when I was about 16 or 17, because – while in costume – I was spending my time flirting with some firemen instead of taking pictures with snotty and screaming little kids), Baby Bop (Barney’s friend), and the yellow Power Ranger (one time, at a company picnic, I actually had to have a security escort because of the gangs of junior high age kids who wanted to see me “fight” and would therefore try to karate kick me.  Apparently, power rangers fighting back against the kids is discouraged).  That job was a nightmare.  But no one else around us was hiring kids under 16.

Burger King
After I decided I wanted more reliable work than being a Power Ranger, the only two options in my town for people under the age of 18 were fast food or housekeeping in the hotel next to the truck stop.  My parents nixed the hotel idea, so I was stuck with Burger King.  It was terrible.

IT Maintenance
For 4 summers, I worked for my dad setting up computer labs in a school and providing tech maintenance.  The first summer, I worked nights after my shift in the Burger King was over.  the next two summers, I worked during other jobs.  The last summer, I worked full-time.  All those summers I was the only girl working, and also the only one small enough to fit up in the ceiling to pull cable.  The worst time was when I spent over an hour crouching and balancing on thin metal strips, with a bandana over my face to fend off insulation and dust.  When I finally got down, I just laid on my back on the floor while my muscles spasmed out of control for over ten minutes.

The Embroidery Factory
At the same time I was working for my dad, I was also working at a small factory, bent over embroidery machines all day before I spent 5 hours at night on ladders and stretching into the ceiling.  That was the year my lower back started hurting all the time….

The Forest Preserve
Also worked here at the same time as the IT job.  It was lovely. 🙂

College Jobs
Dishwasher/Caf Worker
Track & Field Manager
German office helper
Health/Physical Ed office assistant
Babysitter (okay, this one wasn’t through the school, but I emailed all the profs I knew who had kids and begged them to hire me when I stopped being able to afford to do my laundry).

What’s the most random job you’ve ever had?

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Early Morning

In the summer of 2001, one of my jobs when I was home from college was working for the local forest preserve at a fishing lake in my county.  There were two shifts, opening and closing… and since they overlapped for only two hours, you ended up working 6 hours by yourself.

Generally, I’m not a morning person.  I’m not super sunshiney or chipper.  I’ll communicate before 7 am if I have to… but I prefer not to have to.  But friends, I tell you, I loved that opening shift at the lake.  The concession/bait/boat rental stand – where I worked – opened at 6, so you had to get there by 5:30 to unlock everything, start the coffee for the early fishermen (it was all men at that time of day), put out the bait, get the window opened, etc.  There was a dedicated group of guys who would be there every morning waiting patiently for the forest preserve employee to open the gates, ready to get in their hour or so of fishing before work.  And if there was someone new that day who expressed impatience with the 30 minutes it took to get everything opened, they would step in and set that guy straight so I wouldn’t have to.  And if they felt I was rushing myself at all, they’d tell me to take my time.  Early morning fishing is not supposed to be about rushing, you know.

After that initial group of men, no one else would come up for at least an hour or so.  The stand smelled of coffee, the sawdust we used to pack mealworms, and the minnow tanks; it was almost totally silent except for the birds waking up, the hum of those tanks, and the occasional voice drifting across the lake toward me.  Even in August, the air was so cool I would have to wear a sweatshirt those first couple hours.

There are times when I really miss that job.  I miss the simplicity of renting boats and writing fishing licenses, of packing bait and handing out life jackets, of hauling the boats back up onto the shore at the end of the day and driving  on the back roads while my windows down and radio blaring.  I miss grossing little kids out by the fact that catfish blood bait was kept in a fridge just like their Gatorade was.  I miss the junior high boys who came to fish and, once they found out I was from the same small town they were, would stand around and talk to me about how tough the local high school could be sometimes for kids from our town. 

There was no pressure then.   I was working to pay for school, which seemed stressful at the time, but in retrospect is a lot less stressful than working to pay my rent and my electric bill.  My job was to sell things, to answer questions, and to chat with people and make them feel comfortable coming to the lake…. and get them to come back again.  Getting ready in the morning involved rolling out of bed, brushing my teeth, and pulling on my jeans and forest preserve polo shirt.  No point in showering before work when you’re going to end up smelling like bait and fish anyway, right?  (side note: until I renewed my driver’s license last year, it had a picture on it that had been taken right after my shift at the lake.  I was wearing my forest preserve sweatshirt and every time I looked at that picture, I knew I smelled like fish that day).

It’s hard to get that early morning feeling here in the city… but sometimes I get a similar one when I walk around on my second job’s “lunch break”, between 5 and 6 in the morning.  There aren’t as many birds, and it doesn’t usually smell like bait, but there’s that same sense of newness in the day.  When the predominant sound is delivery trucks being unloaded, and there are no crowds yet on the sidewalk, and even Michigan Ave feels a little bit peaceful.  When I can still take a deep breath without feeling stifled, the air is clear and clean feeling, and while the sky is light, the sun isn’t up far enough to be seen. 

There aren’t a lot of easily accessible wide open spaces in the Big City, but at 5 am – for a few brief minutes – I can regain a little bit of the calm, the anticipation of the day to come, the newness from those early mornings at the lake.

Confession

I’m an intelligent, educated, confident, professional, socially-conscious woman… and I watch crap tv.

Well really, I watch one crap tv show.  The Bachelor/Bachelorette.  Yes, it’s a trainwreck.  Yes, it’s terrible.  It’s a terrible, terrible trainwreck and I watch the damn thing every week.  Other, intelligent, educated, confident, professional, socially-conscious women I know watch it too.  And then we all talk about how terrible it is.

Maybe I watch it because it kind of reminds me that no matter how awkward I am, no matter how many times I’m completely oblivious to someone flirting with me or trying to pick me up, I’m not that bad.  That at least I’m not on some television show, displaying all my insecurities for the entire world to see, as I pretend to date a bunch of dudes in the hopes that one will still like me in the end, before our relationship meets its inevitable end and we just stay together as long as we are contractually obligated.  I’m not that bad.

Or maybe it’s just a hugely entertaining trainwreck and I’m a huge fan of Schadenfreude.  Perhaps we’ll never know. 

Sorry this is so short.  I work tonight, so it’s off to bed for a little nap for me.

On Being an Adult

I just had to reach out to my Facebook network to ask if I could match a sweater to a pair of pants.  See, a congresswoman is coming to my office on Wednesday, and I’m part of “giving out directions to visitors” committee.  So I definitely need to look like a responsible adult.

Facebook is awesome.  I can get my friends to tell me how long to boil beans, what shirts match what pants, and if I should be concerned about flaking bricks on my building.  I honestly don’t think I could live on my own if not for online help from people who are more adult than I am… or from support from people who are just as clueless as I am. 🙂

Anyway, apparently grey pants and a brown cardigan are totally acceptable together.  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  This is why I need help doing hard grown-up things like “dressing myself”.  Otherwise I would look kind of like a jobless hippie most of the time.

Next up, I’m totally learning how to put on make-up.  That should make for some exciting blog posts.

I guess I really am that short

I went to the Green Music Festival here in Chicago last night.  Great bands, overly expensive beer, and more fedoras than I could count.

Now, I’m not usually the kind of person who needs to see the band who’s playing.  I just need to be close enough to hear, and I usually find a place out of the way off to the side where I won’t get run into if I happen to close my eyes (usually, at some point, I will close my eyes).  Last night, at the headliner (Yo La Tengo), all those spots were filled with people who appeared to come just to get drunk and talk to each other.  Here’s a tip for those people:  the beer is a lot cheaper at the grocery store, and you can just as easily talk someplace else where everyone around you isn’t trying to listen.  Maybe you should go there.  (Overheard: “I don’t really care about this next band, Tango Sur”.)

So last night I had to move up a little closer to the front than I usually do, and get right in the crowd… where I discovered I really am that short.

A little background:  I am 5’4.25″ inches tall.  In college, a group of my friends started a private club for short people, I was actually too tall (by that quarter-inch) to be a member.  Many of my friends today are actually shorter than me, so I frequently am tricked into thinking I’m on the tall side.

Last night was my rude awakening.  I swear I was surrounded by the tallest people in the world.  Like I said, I don’t mind not seeing the band, necessarily, but when I’m below armpit level of every person around me and all I see are torsos, it can be a little overwhelming. 

I finally asked the 8-foot tall dude and his 7-foot tall girlfriend in front of me if we could switch places… at which point they actually apologized for being tall and in front of me.  After I got the dude’s attention of course, since he couldn’t hear me from way up where he was.

Lesson: get there early enough to be close and not have to feel like an 8-year-old surrounded by grown-ups.

Apparently, I’m lazier than I thought…

Remember that 7 posts in 7 days thing?  Yeah, that’s workin’ out really well, isn’t it?  Looks like I’ll have to double post one of these days. 

On to other things:

A list (because I’m writing this in about 15 minutes before I head out to more live music that I’m paying for instead of groceries (it’s my new thing this summer).

1. I heart new music… not even brand new, necessarily, but new to me.  I bought a few new albums this week and I’m probably garnering my share of stares on the bus because I listen with my eyes closed and probably bob my head a lot. 

2. I spent all day with my nieces today… not even all day, like 5 hours.  A is about a month old and C is 2.5.  I’m exhausted…. I don’t even know how parents do this all day every day.  Also, I love those little red-headed girls more than I though it was even possible to love another person.  At one point today, I was sitting in an easy chair, under a pile of nieces, and I thought my heart might burst.

3. No matter what time I plan on taking the Metra down to the homestead, I will inevitably be late enough that I am sprinting down the street to the station.  Today I was lucky enough that the conductor opened the doors for me.  Maybe because I was having a mini cussing fit outside the door when I realized I didn’t make it.

4. I love summer in Chicago… there’s so much music and street fests and awesome stuff going on.  It’s already made up for that nasty blizzard that shut most of the city down for a day this winter.

5.  This might be the most boring blog post I’ve ever written.  Probably no one is even reading it at this point.

6. I am also writing the whole thing without wearing my glasses.  Things are pretty fuzzy right now.

7. Did you go listen to my former classmate’s music yet?  Because you should.

8.  I probably could’ve stopped at 4 or even 3.  Well.  Now there’s 8.  I’ll go out and try to do something socially awkward tonight to tell you about.  Don’t worry, I’m sure it will happen.

9.  I’m so sorry for this crappy post.  I’m tired, apparently blind, and haven’t eaten in a really long time.  Time to carb up for some festival-going!

7 posts… 7 days

So this one time, I was like, “Hey, really ridiculous things happen to me on a regular basis.  What if I write them all down in a web-log-type format so other people can read it and laugh, thus bringing me fame and prestige?!!?”  And so I wrote some posts… some were funny, some were not.  One was REALLY popular because it was about the CTA and everyone loves to hate public transit.

And then, inexplicably, I stopped writing.  And I’m sure my fan was all, “WHAT?!!?”  And the truth is, there’s no real reason except 1) I am sometimes kind of lazy and 2) no, there’s really no #2.  I’m just sort of lazy sometimes.

So.  Here we are.  And you’re reading this and probably thinking, “Dammit, can’t she at least draw us a poorly assembled stick figure?”  And the truth is, no.  Not today I can’t.  But good news!  My dad (who is awesome) got me a little mini mouse for my laptop (it is seriously adorable) and I think that will make for much easier picture drawing.  Not better, mind you, just easier for me.

But you get no pictures today… today is my first of 7 posts in 7 days.  Because it’s been so long since I’ve written anything, I’m going to write something every day for a week.  Mostly it will probably suck and you can feel free to skim it.  Just don’t leave mean comments.  I’ll just delete them.  Free speech doesn’t exist here.

And now, for your reading pleasure:
What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Writing a Blog

1)  I went on vacation.  WOOOO!  At the end of May, I drove up to visit college friends in the Twin Cities, MN.  It was lovely and I’d love to share pictures with you, but I’m the kind of person who always has a camera and forgets to use it… so I literally have less than 10 pictures of my entire 3 days there.  And most of them are of weird stuff I saw on the way up from Chicago.  I was lucky enough to show up the day a former classmate of mine, Adam Svec, was having a show for the release of his 3rd album.  Adam and I took a music composition class together 10 years ago in college… obviously he’s doing way better than I am now.  Anyway, I highly recommend you go here: http://www.myspace.com/389706157 and listen to his latest album and then go here: http://drawfirerecords.com/store.php and buy his music.  (except that 2nd link doesn’t work… but he’s on iTunes, I’ve heard). 

2. I worked.  A lot.  At both jobs.  And am super tired all the time.

3.  I met my newest niece, A.  She is about a month old, beautiful and I can already tell she’s very intelligent.  🙂  And of course, I also played with little C, who loves her auntie and just might be a genius.

4.  I decided tickets for music festivals were more important than groceries this summer.

And…. that’s about it.  Hopefully something fun will happen to me tonight so I have something to talk about.