After my dramatic and exultant exit from Canadian Tire, I had a stint with Venger Electrostatic Paint co. It was completely unremarkable. I ended with them when summer ended. It was a summer-student job and it ended. I felt the pull to the south and university, but I’d decided I was done with that, so I started looking for work.
Thing is, there was this girl. This girl and I had a history. Not a good history, but a long one, all the way back to 1995. When I’d gotten back from my first year of university, I’d reconnected with her, and we hung out. She ended up getting me a job at the University of Alberta, where her mom ran a division of the Department of Extensions.
The job started out fairly casual, and it played to a couple of my strengths. They needed someone to help out transcribing interviews. Their regular transcriptionist was unable to keep up with the backlog of work and they needed the interviews in much more quickly than they were getting them. I had two things going for me on that work. I am a pretty good typist. That obviously helps when typing. Also, though, I had a high capacity for brainless work. And beyond looking up the occasional word — platelets? WTF? — that’s what that transcription was. Just turn your brain off and go.
I don’t know just how much the other transcriptionist was sand-bagging, because I caught up and ran out of interviews in a couple of weeks. After the transcribing was over, they had me process rejections for academic papers, and format abstracts that were sent in for a conference that was going to take place.
They seemed to appreciate the work I was doing and they wanted me to keep working, so they kept throwing work at me. But the tone of the work had changed. I’d been happily typing away, then I had to remember process and follow established steps. And do it quick. I fell behind, but they kept giving me work. I think it’s because of the girl. I think she wanted me to do well and so she pestered her mom.
Completely swamped under by work, I was putting in a lot of overtime but I still had time to start dating the girl. Things on that front ended disastrously, though, and all the history between us came up, and I blew up. The next morning, I went into the office, packed up my keyboard, and quit. On the way home, I stopped at the bleach factory and asked for my old job back. The boss there said he’d have to get back to me. By the time I got home, I learned that he’d called, and that I started on Monday.
I learned later that there was some blame passed around the office about my leaving. I never really explained why I was leaving, and I did leave them with a mountain of work to be done leading up to an important conference they were hosting, but I was done. I didn’t see any way I could stay there.
Category Archives: Writing
After my dramatic and exultant exit from Canadian Tire, I had a stint with Venger Electrostatic Paint co. It was completely unremarkable. I ended with them when summer ended. It was a summer-student job and it ended. I felt the pull to the south and university, but I’d decided I was done with that, so I started looking for work.
My first year was a mixed bag. I had some big successes, but toward the end of the year, I lost my way a little bit. After that year, I actually quit school.
Without plans to return to school in the fall, I returned to Hire-A-Student in the hopes that I’d recapture a little bit more of the magic I’d found the previous summer. They hooked me up with Canadian Tire as a part of the fill crew, stocking shelves from 5 am to 1 in the afternoon.
I’ve learned, in the interim, that taking jobs with hours like this doesn’t generally work out for me. I had a little bit of trouble with this job, trying to juggle sleeping, working, and a social life. Eventually, I got that sorted out, I figured out the work involved, and even got some time in, breaking stuff.
Breaking stuff was the best part of any job that I’ve ever had. With a sledge hammer, I got to render things that were moderately unsellable completely busted to discourage people from dumpster diving. After all, they might go in for a planter that was cracked on one side, but it was a desperate person indeed who would jump in for ceramic shards. That jack-all that probably would drop a car on you because the hydraulics were faulty? Well, if it was just random dented metal pipes? Nobody would be suing Canadian Tire for damages caused by those. This isn’t the States, after all. My favourite breaking stuff story comes from the time I was breaking a leaf-blower. I don’t honestly know what was wrong with it, but they needed it broken, so they called on me.
With my trusty sledge hammer, I started in, but a stray bit flew up and hit me in the forehead. I’d taken off my work shirt and worked in a sleeveless t-shirt. It was hot in the back in the middle of summer. This bit of the leaf-blower, Canadian Tire’s last attempt at revenge, busted open the middle of my forehead. I didn’t realize it right away, and went out onto the floor to help with something that needed carrying. I can only imagine the sight some people had of me, sledgehammer over my shoulder, breathing heavily, drenched in sweat, with blood trickling down my face. Yeah, that’s a customer service agent right there.
I spent more time in the back than the rest of the fill crew. I helped the warehouse crew when they needed a hand. They’d hired someone but he wasn’t working out, so I emptied trucks onto rollers. I had a little experience with that at Sears, and they seemed to appreciate the help.
I didn’t know that it would be the end for me, but the boss asked if I could stay an extra five or six hours that day to help unload a truck. The whole fill crew had cut their hours and I asked if they could help out too, so we could get done sooner and I wouldn’t be the only one getting more hours. You wouldn’t think it, but this prompted a very angry reaction from the boss who yelled at us that he was the one who made the decisions, and if we thought that we could make decisions like this, we could just think again. It pissed me off. Granted, I wasn’t sleeping as well at that point as I could have been, and I’m a bit of a bastard when I’m tired. The rest of the crew helped out, and we finished in about an hour, and after the shift, I told the boss that I quit. I told him that I didn’t think that he had treated us very well and I didn’t want to work for a boss like that.
It felt good, taking a stand, but it felt even better reclaiming my evenings and having a social life again.
If Tim Horton’s and Kuny’s were deflating to my ego, because of insufficient training or inflated expectations, or whether it was just something wrong with me and the way I went about my work, FloPak was the perfect cure for that.
On the first day of yet another job my dad had gotten me, I guess I distinguished myself enough. Wayne, the boss, came to me partway through the day and said that he’d decided to pay me more than some of the other people on the floor. The reason being that I was going to be working the end of the main line — basically the most physically-demanding job in the plant. Toward the end of that day, I was tired and ready to go home, but the people there were very welcoming and easy to get along with. They needed someone to stay twenty or so minutes late, and I volunteered. I was always willing to put in a little bit more work at the end of the day.
It struck a chord with me, at the end of the day, when one of the supervisors asked me if I’d be coming in the next day. Apparently, that was a bit of a problem there. People would come the first day, see that there was actual work going on, and never come back again. I said that of course I’d be back. It wasn’t as if I had any better prospects on the horizon.
The next couple of weeks exhausted me. I mean, I went home and I went to bed. I got up and I came to work. It was very cathartic. I’d been a bit of an emotional wreck over a girl for about a year previous, and it was good to just shut all that off and get down to work.
There was a lot of work to be done, too. I honestly don’t know who was buying that much bleach, but we shipped something like 30 pallets of bleach every day — and that only because that was as much as we could bottle in a day.
Eventually, I figured out how to do the job right, I got in shape — better shape than I’d been in before or than I’ve been in since — and I was having a good time.
There was as little mental expenditure on that job as you could have and still be alive, I think now. The bottles came through the fill station, the capper, and the torque machine. I tested them by tipping them over and pushing on the sides to make sure there was no leak and did a quick eyeball test on the cap to make sure it wasn’t cross-threaded. After that, I shoved the bottles in the box. When the box was full, I closed it and shoved it through the taper. When there were three boxes on the rollers, I left and threw the boxes on the pallet. I had to hurry in order to get back before the bottles backed the torque machine up and bottles got crushed. When the pallet was full, the shipper would swing by on his forklift and take the pallet away. Then, when I went out to palletize the next set of boxes, I would drop a new pallet on the floor from a stack beside my work area.
There was a lot to the job, I suppose, when I look at that, but after a week or so, it became wash, rinse, repeat. There was so much going into the work physically that I had nearly no time for self-pity.
Sometime before October, they decided that they liked me and that someone with my certain something was wasted on the end of the line or something. They threw me in a lab and gave me beakers. I blended the industrial-strength bleach with water and tested it for strength. Let me tell you, I sucked at that job. I tried for three months at that crap. I flooded the floor more than once by overflowing the tanks. People were always waiting on me for bleach. And then there was night shift.
Night shift sucked for so many reasons. I was blending. I was working the end of the line. I was driving forklift to get the finished pallets off the floor. I was even working the fill area, another part that I really struggled at. And yet I loved night shift. It was my first half-assed supervisory assignment and it didn’t go especially well, considering we were half-staffed, but I was working with Dan, a guy I’d gone to high school with, and Angela, a girl I got along with. We didn’t do great work, but we did good enough work and had a good time.
Night shift ended when Dan quit. I went back to blending during the day. Dale, the guy who was training me on blending, was planning on leaving. He wanted to go to school. I think, mostly, he wanted not to be at the bleach factory anymore, but I told him and I told Wayne, as catastrophe continued to strike, that I wasn’t up for the job of blending bleach. I didn’t want it anymore and, if it was okay with them, I wanted to go back to the end of the line.
Wayne wasn’t happy with it. Dale, I think, thought of it as a rejection of him personally. I didn’t want him to think it was that. I just wanted the job to be fun again, even if it was way more physically demanding. Sometime around Christmas, I went back to the main line.
It was while I was working at Flo Pak that I decided I was going to go to university. I don’t know exactly what the thing was that flipped the switch. I’d been talking to my friend Sean. My back had been giving me problems and I guess I was starting to get more time to think. I didn’t think that the job I was doing at the bleach factory was sustainable — not from a physical standpoint and not from a mental stimulation standpoint. I didn’t want to be thirty, making eight bucks an hour at a bleach factory, with no marketable skills beyond “turn brain off” and “lift things.”
Toward the end of April, Sean came back to town. I’d talked to Wayne about bringing him on for the summer. He knew I was done at the end of the summer and, while I don’t like to think negatively of people too much, I’m pretty sure that was why, when Sean made it back, there was nothing for him.
I said, at the time, that Sean was the reason that I quit. I doubt it was only that. As I said, my back hurt bad a lot of the time. I’d go home every night and fill the tub on all hot. I’d soak in that tub and thank my lucky stars that that removed most of the knots. I’d wake up every morning just as sore as I’d been before the bath and I wouldn’t loosen up until I’d been working an hour or more. Beyond that, I don’t even want to go into what that job did to my hands. I’d had blisters, weakened by the sweat from inside my gloves, broken so many times that the skin on my hands and fingers was like the heels of a marathon runner. Opening my hands too far, stretching my fingers back, could break my skin and start my hands bleeding.
I quit in May and had no intention of looking for another full-time job. I was going to school in the fall, after all. I took odd jobs for the rest of the summer, through hire-a-student, and even managed to get my name in the paper as Hire-a-Student’s Student of the Month. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t technically a student yet.
Leaving Tim Horton’s wasn’t particularly traumatic. It had had some of the same problems that the Sears Warehouse had, in that the hours sucked, and I wasn’t very good at my job. It sucked in divergent ways, as well. For example, it wasn’t as hard on my body as the Sears job had been, but it paid less. It wasn’t as long a commute as the Sears job, but I had to stick around longer because I had to be there until the bake was done. I didn’t have to clean the dust from the cardboard boxes out of my nose, but I had to clean the grease from the fryer out of there.
I was ready to settle down with another job at this point. Something that didn’t involve food, and had reasonably good hours, to boot. Enter Kuny’s Leather manufacturing.
I don’t want to call Kuny’s a sweatshop. I really don’t. But it felt like one. I worked my ass off there, using a press-cutter to make forms that others would assemble using rivet guns. I tried hard, and I felt like I was making good progress, but the boss didn’t think so. Or at least, that’s what he told me. He told me I was going about half as fast as was required. I tried harder, and I paid special attention to using up as much of the leather as I could. But I still wasn’t fast enough. That was what the boss said, but other workers told me that he said that about everyone. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy there. But it was a job. And it had the distinction of ending at 3:00 every day. That was better than 9AM after an all-nighter, and it was even better than the 5:00 that Miller offered. I had two more hours added to the end of my day after work and that was sweet.
I don’t know what I did with that time. I don’t think I actually did anything. I was pretty heavily into BBSes at the time, so I’d imagine I did that.
In the end, though, the job just sucked. I don’t say that lightly, because I’ve stuck through a couple of real stinkers. Was it the worst job I’ve ever had? I don’t know. It wasn’t dirty, it didn’t make me feel like I was ripped off, and the pay was better than some, but there wasn’t really anything that made me want to stay.
Yes, yes, this was another short stay. At this point, I’d learned how to identify a crappy job pretty quickly and move on without any sort of remorse. My metre went off within the first couple of weeks and I hit the pavement in search of another job at that point.
This was also the time that my friend, Sean, was starting out at University. I don’t think I was convinced, by this time, to give it a shot. I was still pretty interested in just working — carpentry was a goal of mine throughout my childhood — but I think Sean leaving made me start thinking it was possible to do something else.
Anyway, I don’t think the boss at Kuny’s held it against me too much, leaving. They had really high turnover. And if you’re disappointed that the job at Kuny’s ended so quickly, don’t worry. The next job went on far too long.
Coming off the job at Miller Oilfield Hauling, I spent three or four months on EI while my ankle healed up. I moved out of my house and in with Jake. But when they said that my disability-style EI was over and my ankle was feeling better, it was time to start looking for a job again. Especially since I had to pay rent.
Eventually, and funny enough, since I was now living in the city, I found a job at the Tim Horton’s in Leduc. No, don’t ask me which one. In my day, they only had one Tim Horton’s in Leduc. THE Tim Horton’s. Pardon me while I pull my pants up to my armpits and swap out my teeth.
I don’t know what the work demand was in that Tim Horton’s. I knew that my brother and my friend Rob had worked there. They hadn’t liked their boss. I didn’t have a problem with mine. It was a different guy, though.
Still, my brother, when he worked there, had had training for something like two weeks before he was baking on his own. I got two shifts and then was left to my own less-than-stellar devices.
Now, when I tell you I only worked there for a month, you’ll probably roll your eyes and say, “Liam, we already knew that. It’s a job you had.” And that’s deserved. But let me tell you, in that time, I dumped the grease out of the fryer all over the floor twice. And that’s not what you’d call a pleasurable thing to clean up.
In fact, it wasn’t pleasant to even stand over it for a day. That stuff was nasty and got into everything. My ears, my nose, and under my fingernails. I don’t like slimy things, and my hands were constantly greasy. I think I probably washed my hands more while working there than I did between the ages of eight and ten.
Still, I persisted. But I never got any better. I could make all the excuses you’d want to hear about it, but the fact of the matter is, I was a bad baker. I followed the required steps, I ended up with decent donuts, but it took me probably twice as long as it should have. And I didn’t get paid by the hour. I got paid by the pound. So, if we were to take my rate for a bake and extrapolate it over the time it took me, I was making $3.75 an hour.
I came in one Sunday morning, and my boss, Frank, told me that the over-night shift had covered the bakes for the day, and that I only had to clean the kitchen. I didn’t see the writing on the wall. I don’t even know if it was there. But I knew that I was tired. I was tired of working overnight shifts, I was tired of wiping gunk out of my ears, and I was tired of sucking so bad at a job that I didn’t even really want to do. So, I quit. He didn’t cry, I didn’t cry. It was two men, recognizing that one of them didn’t have what it took. Whether that can be blamed on my lack of training or my own inability, I don’t care.
I did care. I cared for a long time. I didn’t like quitting that job because I felt like, if I’d just kept at it, some secret would have made itself known to me and I would have become a decent baker. It haunted me so much that I almost stuck around Lethbridge after the first year to work at Tim Horton’s. But that time in Leduc, it taught me that sometimes it’s all right to give up. When the money’s not good, the work isn’t rewarding, and you’re not good at the job, it’s all right to leave.
I also learned that it’s all right to leave a bad living situation. By the time I quit at Tim Horton’s I’d already moved out of Jake’s apartment and back in with my parents. I’d paid two months of rent, since Jake had “lost” his job when I moved in. I felt like a second-class citizen in that place, and moving back home felt like the right decision. It’s hard to believe just how far off the decision to go to university still was at this point, but I was unemployed, living at home, and not sure what I was going to do next.
Hot on the heels of the job at the Sears Warehouse, where I’d been employed for a month of graveyard-shift truck-unloading, I took a job with Miller Oilfield Hauling. My mom had a friend she worked with at Reco-Chem. This woman had a husband, Larry, who was looking for a yard labourer and a swamper. Initially, I was interested in the swamper position because I’d always liked going on trips with my dad. They filled that position before I started, and it was probably for the best. I ended up not liking most of the drivers.
I was jazzed about the job at Miller. Something about working from 8:30 to 5 every day, Monday to Friday, made sense. It made a lot more sense than the alternating 3-11, 7-3 shifts that I was working at Sears.
The job itself was simple. Store pipe on racks when it comes in on the truck or train. Take the pipe off the racks and put it on the trucks when they came to get it. The pipe was carried by forklift.
During my orientation at Miller, Grant, the foreman, walked me through the process and talked to me about the size of the forklifts they used. He wanted to make sure I wouldn’t startle. I told him I thought I would be ok, and I was. I found it a little odd that he had enough people spook over the size of the machines that it had to be part of the spiel.
I’ve talked before about my first day on the job, the prank that a couple of them played. And I’m sure I’ve told you about the broken nose I delivered to a co-worker. If I haven’t, be sure to ask. I like that story.
There are too many anecdotes to go into in a single blog post. I could probably do an entire 20-day series on stories from that period. The fact is, it was an exciting time. I was free from the shackles of school. Work hadn’t started feeling like a chore yet. The group of guys were pretty cool when they weren’t coming up with nicknames for me, or mocking the way I ate. And I had a lot of fun there. It was a very raw time in my life. I wasn’t a scabbed-over crabby bastard like I am nowadays.
I broke my wrist while I was working at Miller. I didn’t claim WCB, against the advice of some co-workers. I didn’t work for a month, which, living with my parents, didn’t hurt too bad. It didn’t hurt my work situation either. I stayed on after I got back from that.
I worked at Miller for just over a year. In the end, it was my ankle that got me out of there.
I had hurt my ankle a couple of times. It started with stepping on Tim’s stick at street hockey the year before. That had hurt and had me in a cast for a couple of weeks. Then, throughout the year, my ankle got easier and easier to sprain. The straw was one day, I was walking across Cliff’s lawn when I hit maybe a minor divot. I slumped to the ground. Cliff’s dad told Cliff to take me to the hospital and that was the end of it.
I tried light duties at Miller but that was so boring. The two days I did it felt like two months. The two months it was going to take to recover from the surgery would have felt like two years. I didn’t need the money that desperately, I suppose, and I asked to be laid off while I convalesced. Larry accepted that, though he wasn’t too happy about it. I didn’t go back after I was recovered, and I doubt there would have been anything for me if I had.
The only thing I miss about that time was just how intense everything was. Things just felt completely unfiltered. Guys mocking me felt like the end of the world. Seeing a pretty girl was like being struck by lightning. I guess feelings like that can’t last forever and I spent a lot of time miserably over-thinking things back then, but looking back, goddamn I had a lot of fun.
After graduating high school, I wasn’t really sure what to do. I took the summer off, because that was what I was used to. But, toward the end of the summer, my dad got me a loan, took me to Wetaskiwin, and got me a car. Playtime was over and it was time to join the work force. That was fine with me because I was ready. I was ready to get out there and tackle my first job and kick its ass.
My dad got me my first full-time job. He didn’t really want me working there but I was adamant. So, he called in some favours and I started at the Sears warehouse in August, 1994.
I showed up that Thursday night, wearing my brother’s steel-toed boots, since I had none of my own, and ready to work. I showed up a little late, because I got lost, but they didn’t mind so much.
That first shift went from 3 am to 11 am on Friday morning. I was tired and my feet hurt. My feet hurt so much, in fact, that my dad took me out that same day and bought me a pair of my own work boots.
That whole day, I was keyed up and I wanted to get back to work. Good thing, since I had another shift that night. Bad thing, since I was so keyed up, I couldn’t fall asleep. So I stayed up.
That’s right. I stayed up between the first and second shifts of a job that was intensely physical and had incredibly odd hours.
I arrived early that night and asked to be given something to do. So I swept until it was time to get started. Then, thankfully, the shift ended at 7 am. I was stupid-tired. I remember following a semi down the highway because I figured he probably wouldn’t hit the ditch.
I got home, said hi to my mom and hit the sack at around 7:30.
I am absolutely positive that this played out the way I remember because of the sheer amount of confusion I felt.
I woke up at 11:30 am and I was disappointed because I’d been so tired and had only managed a 4-hour sleep. I’d thought that my inner-clock would adjust better than that.
Thing was, it was 11:30, Sunday morning. Football was on the TV. I’d slept 28 hours. I guess my body had rejected the notion that it was all right to double-shift like that.
Over the next month, my sleep adapted but nothing else did. The job continued to kick my ass in new and interesting ways, and when my mom mentioned an opening at Miller Oilfield Hauling, I jumped at the chance. My back and my neck continue to thank me, to this day, and, though it felt bad to walk away from an unfinished job, and one that I wasn’t that great at, it sure felt good to go back to a semi-regular sleep schedule, and actually see my friends.
Probably, in the world of sports, the most dangerous officiating job is Soccer Referee. I mean, some of those people out there are just crazy for soccer — rabid, even.
But for my money, the most crapped-on official has to be the baseball umpire. It’s become accepted, even encouraged, to hurl abuse at the umpire, whether it comes from the players, the coaches, or the fans.
In the early nineties, I was an umpire. I did a training course with Rob’s brother Cameron, and I was in.
I never enjoyed being an umpire, and I’ll explain why, and also why I think people feel it’s okay to punish the umpire
Every single play starts with a pitch. The success or failure of every pitch is based on the umpire’s discretion. That is, every pitch that isn’t swung on. I believe there’s a lack of understanding about the actual size of the strike zone, and everybody feels like they know better. Even the fan placed directly behind the umpire, who couldn’t possibly see the last five feet of the pitch.
I don’t handle confrontation especially well, but I got reasonably good at blocking out the cat-calls, accusations, offers of a pair of glasses. Still, it felt bad to be at the focal point of such senseless petulance.
We’re not talking about the big leagues. We’re not even talking something as high-stakes as rep-league. Seven-year-old boys and girls, walking runs in non-stop. The occasional strike-out on someone who actually wanted to hit the ball. Home runs off a walk because of a comedy of errors in the infield.
I understand a parent’s desire to see their child do well, and I get that parents are hard-wired to protect their children from disappointment and failure. But to heap abuse on a teenager who is doing his best sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
I didn’t mind working the tournaments so much. They paid better and it was a two-umpire system which meant that I could usually negotiate my way into being the base umpire. that was way less stressful.
I decided, at the end of my first season, to quit umpiring. I’d given it a season and it hadn’t ever gotten any easier — not the calls, and not the cat-calls.
I have a fantasy world where every parent who wants to sign their kid up to play sports should have to endure a season of officiating before they are allowed to watch any games. I want to think that it would give them some perspective and appreciation for the job and make it easier on the other officials, but I get the feeling that they would feel as though that gave them the right to complain even louder.
My babysitting adventures started with my neighbour, Murray. I’d have him over for a couple hours every Wednesday. We’d play Nintendo, usually culminating with him getting excited at the worst possible minute, kicking the Nintendo, and sticking us with the blinking title screen that was so common to NES owners.
I figured that babysitting would always be that simple. Turns out, I was wrong. When I took the babysitting job in the pink house, my illusions were destroyed quicker than a Karnov high score by Murray’s right foot.
The first difference was bed time. Morgan, Kyle, and Crystal were tough to get to bed. Lori obviously knew this, and I think it’s why she had me do it. The majority of my shifts were on Saturday nights, and, having a decade of getting kids to bed under my belt at this point, I can imagine that her evenings out would have started several hours later than they were if she’d been the one getting them to sleep.
Then there was Morgan. Morgan was born with, I think, muscular dystrophy. He was a happy-go-lucky kid. He spent his days in a wheelchair and his life couldn’t have been very easy, but he always had a smile for me. Until bed time. Morgan would cry in his bed after Crystal had gotten him ready. Lori had told me this would happen, and to let him do it. So I did. He would cry in his bed while I sat downstairs and tried to read. It was uncomfortable, but it was part of the job.
Last, there was Kyle. I have a little experience with the life of a middle child, and I know the feeling of being ignored. I’d imagine that coupling that with a brother with special needs would create an attention vacuum. And it was apparent with Kyle. Acting out, acting up, being bad, crying for attention. Put whatever label you want on it, but Kyle went out of his way to be noticed and he never seemed to care what kind of attention fell on him. Things would break, Crystal and Morgan would cry, my stuff would go missing. Did I mention that things would break?
All of this was more than I could take in junior high, and I worked the last month of that job wanting but not having the guts to quit.
I showed up an hour late one day, to find that I’d been replaced. I guess that my dissatisfaction had probably been showing up in my work and I’d become less reliable. Thank god.
For a boy who was never much interested in housework in general or dishes specifically, in hindsight, taking a job as a dishwasher was probably not the best idea. But my brother’s friend and my erstwhile room mate, Simon, was working at the Waldorf Restaurant, and they were looking for a dishwasher. My options, at that point, were pretty limited, so I took the job and became the newest dishwasher at the Waldorf Hotel restaurant in Downtown Leduc.
I don’t know how a Chinese kitchen compares to a regular restaurant. My only other experience was at Humpty’s, which was mostly dead since it was in the middle of the night.
The Waldorf was hectic. It was non-stop, frenzied dish-washing action until the end of the rush. Then it was kitchen prep. I primarily remember peeling onions.
There’s not a whole lot of glory for a dishwasher. Aside from the pleasing sight of clean dishes coming out the other side, there wasn’t really much in the way of job satisfaction, either. Still, they say that a job well done is its own reward. Not that my job was that well done.
The bosses, Man and Ken, were pretty impenetrable. They would mutter to each other in Chinese, which made me nervous, and when they talked to me, it was very harsh and, while the things they said weren’t necessarily angry or mean, it sure came across that way.
Seeing it from their side, I guess there probably wasn’t much to smile about , with some 14-year-old school kid who sucked at his job. But they didn’t really fill me with desire to come to work and give it my best effort. Still, rinse, wash, repeat.
I managed to hold out for a pay period. Two weeks of K.P. duty. Another note on my bosses is that they knew my first name, but nothing more about me. When I got paid, I had to get them to change the cheque to put my last name on it. That was a nice piece of frustration because I made it to the bank and they made me go back and get the bosses to initial it. Not easy when I didn’t even have a bike. Still, the cheque cashed eventually.
I ended up calling in sick one day and that was the last I heard from them. I was fine with that. Kitchen duty wasn’t for me and they were probably just as happy to employ someone with some idea of what they were doing.
For my time, my mom took me to Consumer’s Distributing and I bought myself a typewriter and a Nintendo game — Gemfire, if I remember correctly. I still have the typewriter. I’d imagine the ribbon has gone dry, but it got me writing. Sure, I’d written some smaller things by hand, but that typewriter — it was the kind that let you type out the whole line before printing it out — got me thinking about writing. I wrote a mystery story on it — some cheesy PI story in the vein of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade without any of the… well, without any of the ambience, atmosphere, writing ability, or any real mystery, but I wrote it.
In this case, a job well done may not have been my reward, but the typewriter was worth it.