First Job, Worst Job, Dream Job
My morning commute. Description is under the "Dream Job" section.
Inspired by the Sunday Scribblings prompt.
I originally wrote this as a post on the listserv for John Dewey High School alumni in response to the question, "What did you do between 11th and 12th grades?"....
For me there was no "between 11th and 12th grades" because I'd spent my other Dewey summers in summer school. That way I could graduate early (I started college at 16).
The atmosphere on campus was very relaxed and it was a fun way to get course credit. I particularly enjoyed classes like Consumer Economics (Norflus), which had me going through the shelves at Key Food on Ave. M and checking the math on all the labels.
During what would have been my summer between 11th & 12th grades (1975) I held my first salaried job, as a clerk-typist at MOTBR (Military Ocean Terminal, Brooklyn). The facility was switching its operations to Bayonne, so much of my activity involved keeping track of inventory and making other transfer preparations.
It was a neat place to work. Guys in the neighborhood told me which streets a young woman should avoid. The facility itself was enormous, with high ceilings and walls thick enough to garner a recommendation that the place be turned into a prison. I believe the elevator was built with the capacity to lift a tank.
The transfer also left the place with a skeleton crew, which made an already large place downright cavernous, with an occasional soldier in uniform showing up in a hallway that looked more like an avenue. If I remember right, my first paycheck came to $108 for a week's work, or $2.70/hr -- but oh, how magical it was!
The memories inspired me to do a Web search...
The Save Brooklyn's Industrial Heritage site says that MOTBR was taken out of service as a military facility in 1960, but the location still housed the U.S. Army 12th Military Police Group, Criminal Investigations Detachment in 1970 according to testimony by Steve Noetzel on the treatment of Americans in the hands of the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. (Source: http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Primary/Winter_Soldier/WS_23_POW.html)
The Army's Historical Summary for FY 1974 (http://www.army.mil/CMH/books/DAHSUM/1974/ch09.htm) reported that MOTBR's closure, originally announced in fiscal year 1965, was reconfirmed.
MOTBR was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 (http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/NY/Kings/vacant.html).
The Save Brooklyn's Industrial Heritage site has a good shot of one of MOTBR's 11 buildings (it's not the one I worked in) at http://www.saveindustrialbrooklyn.org/brooklyn_army.html.
(end of listserv post)
My worst job was a two-day temp stint at a real-estate firm. One of my tasks was to call renters in an apartment complex the firm was making into a co-op, to ask them if they wanted to buy their residence.
The responses I got informed me what my task was really all about. These people were in danger of losing their homes. Some tenants were angry. Some started to cry. When I began the work I naively thought I was asking an innocent question, but soon I realized how awful it was.
I remembered that incident when, several years later, the apartment complex in which I lived started to turn co-op. That blossomed into a two-year battle, thanks to a group of tenants who banded together to fight back.
After more than 30 years in the workforce, I've just about got it. :-)
Ever since I was a kid, I knew that whatever job I had was there to support my writing. My degrees are in psychology, though I've never worked as a professional psychologist. I fall into the "generalist" category -- as the saying goes (or a variant thereof), a specialist knows everything about nothing and a generalist knows nothing about everything.
I try to know at least an iota about "everything" (trust me, I don't come close) -- so that I can play around with the knowledge and ideas to generate story material and then support it with believable detail.
The jobs that come closest to my "dream job" not only support my writing, but they help me add to my knowledge base. The corporate writing and editing I do has exposed me to fascinating projects. My transcription work has been a motherlode of information, involving interviews, conferences, expert elicitations, radio shows, roundtable discussions, and lectures. As I've said here before, it's better than a free education -- it's an education I get paid for.
I work out of my home and interact with my clients by the grace of the Internet. Having that flex time has freed me in myriad ways. When I'm on a roll with my own writing, I don't have to look at the clock. When I was without air conditioning for a month this past summer -- in tropical Florida -- I took my siestas during the day and worked in the middle of the night.
And there's no dress code. Except that, when I go to meetings or to teach, I really do need to get dressed.
Even the unpleasant jobs have been learning experiences that inform my writing, often in indirect ways. Writing lets me use everything as potential material. This is why I heartily agree with this excellent post by science fiction author and teacher Crawford Kilian.
Last year I participated in November Journaling Month (NoJoMo) over at Open Diary. I wrote the following for the NoJoMo prompt "Morning Commute," corresponding to the image up top:
1. The first stop on my commute is the facilities. No, I don't go in the catbox. Though in 2001, Mary and I spent two weeks in an AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) cabin, which had no electricity and no running water. We filled a 5-gallon, plastic-toilet-seat-topped bucket with clumping kitty litter and had our own private, scoopable bathroom. It saved us a fair walk to the outhouse, which we especially appreciated in the middle of the night. PS: We had a fabulous time "roughing it" -- and our "peoplebox" was sheer luxury.
I do clean the catbox in the morning, sometimes even before I go for my coffee.
2. We don't mess around; we brew industrial amounts of java at a time. That 45-cup coffee pot looks shiny and new because it is. Our 35-cup, which is at least a quarter-century old, finally bit the dust.
The pint plastic containers to the left of the pot collect bits of compost that we transfer to our compost bin in the back yard. The bottle of red stuff to the right is Texas Pete hot sauce, which I use quite liberally, though not in my coffee. The silver stuff behind the silver pot is mylar covering the kitchen window, which reflected heat away from us during the summer.
3. Undress for success! My work clothes nowadays are either thermals (if I'm staying in) or street clothes (if I'm going out). My foot is usually not this swollen, but I took this shot after I'd been up for 17 hours straight (flex time!). As you can see, my office supplies also wear clothes.
4. The hub of my home office. My desk currently suffers from piles. It's not always this bad, but after two conventions and a flurry of emails and contract review I need to set aside some clean-up time. Generally I clean when the clutter reaches critical mass, meaning I have no place to put my coffee cup.
And a heads up...
Monday, October 15, is Blog Action Day, in which bloggers are encouraged to write for that day on a single topic. This year the topic is "the environment." You can learn more about the event here.
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