Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wally's World Of Work Part 4

Where Wally details the many places he’s toiled for. When last we met I had just quit Mazzio’s Pizza so I could attend a Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper concert. The concert was fantastic with Mojo laying down all sorts of lewd comments about Oprah Winfrey since she used to live and work in Nashville. But the fun was short lived since the next day I had to go see about getting a new job.

Ace’s Pizza was next on my list of jobs. I cooked pizzas and made deliveries, but mostly I just hung around playing paper football with the manager Trent. The place was owned by some guys from Knoxville and since the business was failing we never saw them. We were lucky if we even got the payroll check. I spent a few desultory months there; November 87 through February 88 sloshing through the snow to deliver the occasional pizza. When I wasn’t there I was hanging around with the Gonz worming my way into his rock and roll band.

I had a truck payment to make and Ace’s wasn’t doing me too good on that end so I started working full time at Cummings Signs in Murfreesboro in March. Cummings was a sign making factory that I was very familiar with since my father had worked as a guard there when I was junior high school age. He called up some people he knew there and I was hired. It was my first experience with factory work.

My job was to wash excess paint off the signs with some turpentine mixture that just about ruined my skin. Once we swabbed the sign down we’d put it on a shelf somewhere and grab another one. I’m not talking about little rinky dink signs. We’re talking the huge commercial strip ones, mainly car lot and gas station signs. I mainly dealt with Chrysler and Gulf. The Chrysler ones were a pain as the corners tended to crack. More than two cracked corners and you had to scrap the booger which was a lot of money going down the tubes. The Gulf ones were cool in one way and horrible in another. They were cool because they didn’t get the turpentine treatment. All I had to do with them was peel something called “spray-lat” off of them. The hard part came once this was finished since it took 3-4 people to carry a Gulf sign to the shelf.

It’s funny, but I was making more money than the guys helping me with the Gulf sign. Some of them had been there a year too. The reason: I was still under my 90 day probationary period and my union dues hadn’t kicked in yet. Cummings was a union shop; 100%. Now you didn’t have to join the union, but it was strongly encouraged by the thuggish union rep that had his own office. I signed on the dotted line for fear I’d never get to use a pen again if I didn’t. It was a good lesson in basic economics for me, especially when the rumored layoffs started happening.

I was a short timer so I knew I wouldn’t last long. This didn’t keep some of the chuckleheads that worked there from threatening me. “If I get layed off before you do I’m going to kick your ass.” Those were the exact words of some dork that I vaguely knew from my Riverdale days. He probably would have tried too. Many of the people that worked at Cummings used their 30 minute lunch breaks to get drunk across the street at Goff’s. If they weren’t doing that they were getting wasted in the company parking lot.

I’ll admit that I was into partying back then, but not while I was at work. Plus, most of the people at Cummings were more into Hank Williams Jr. while I was more into X and The Replacements during that time frame. So I wasn’t too keen on fitting in. It wasn’t like I’d have awhile to get know everyone. The ax began to fall after I had been there a mere month. It made me wonder why they had hired us. Perhaps they just needed to get a couple of big orders out; like perhaps for Chrysler dealers and Gulf stations.

Fear was in the air. There were a few dudes hired on after me. They lasted a month. I made it to the 2 month mark. When the end came I didn’t care. I had made up my mind to head back to college and let the truck go back. The only thing I would miss about the factory job was the hours. I liked getting off at 3:30 in the afternoon.

After this spell of labor I wouldn’t work a real job for a long time. It was a descent into a purgatory of sorts. I lived with my father. I didn’t have a car. He’d take me to college in the mornings and I’d hang out all day until he got off work. It was a weird era which I’ll document sometime later when I rehash college. But for now we’re talking work and I won’t hold a job for quite sometime. This made me miserable and happy at the same time.

Wally’s world of work part 5 will focus on the Wally Wastoid years where I worked sporadically if at all. Telephone book deliveryman, skateboard shop clerk, McDonalds (again), Sir Pizza, Demo’s, and beyond will all get their due

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