Thursday, August 26, 2010

work I've done

I can't remember not working. Dad, who grew up on a small farm, believed kids should work. We swept and mopped and mowed and raked and washed dishes and did all of the things that need doing in any household. But that's not work. Those are just chores.

This is the work I remember, beginning around the summer of third grade when Dad paid me a quarter an hour at Dog Land:
  • Hosing out dog pens.
  • Using a riding mower to mow an acre or two of ground.
  • Cleaning the grounds: picking up litter, raking, etc.
  • Waiting on people in Dog Land's restaurant.
  • Guiding tourists around the dog pens.
  • Stocking shelves in the gift shop.
  • Installing fiberglass insulation in a hot attic.
Starting around sixth grade:
  • Selling Charles Chips, a door-to-door potato chip business.
  • Selling magazine subscriptions.
  • Mowing other people's lawns.
  • Babysitting.
  • Working in a head shop.
During college:
  • Washing dishes at Howard Johnsons. (Only for a semester. Then I had enough money from my grandparents to finish college without working, so long as I lived very cheaply. That was an easy trade-off.)
In New York, after college:
  • Apartment manager.
  • Editorial assistant at Ace Books.
  • Production aide at John Wiley.
  • Busboy (briefly) at Tavern on the Green. (I quit because I could. In a fair hierarchical world, waiters and busfolk would earn far more than CEOs. But then, who wouldn't?)
  • Actor (off-off-Broadway) and model (for romance magazines).
After New York:
  • Working for my family at a trading post in northern Ontario near an Ojibwe community. The work included hauling 100-pound bags of wild rice and drying wild rice, an astonishingly hot and smokey business that I should describe someday. I also did the family's accounting and helped in the store. (If you think working for my family meant I had it easy, you really need to meet my dad. Dad was never happy unless everyone else was working.)
After Emma and I married:
  • Running a small press.
  • Writing.
  • Editing.
  • Teaching writing.
After our writing no longer supported us, caretaking a place near Tucson, which includes:
  • Bookkeeping.
  • Gardening.
  • Housekeeping.
  • Replacing a toilet.
  • Re-coating the roof.
  • Re-sheathing a wall of a shed whose outer boards had warped in the sun.
  • Painting the eaves.
  • Plumbing. (The worst so far had more to do with digging than plumbing: four feet of Arizona clay is hard going.)
  • Rebuilding the driveway when it washes out during monsoon season. (Usually, a day or two of hard shoveling.)
Okay, if there's a theme, I'm not seeing it. But then, work is just stuff you do because someone has to do it.