Saturday, June 30, 2012

Conversations May: In League With the Gainful

I should have seen the pattern coming, I guess.

What I remember is hearing, perhaps approaching summer in my junior year, that a friend of a friend was leaving his job at the independent market in Fair Oaks Village. (The store has long since become an antiquery, which somehow seemed inevitable, along with the rest of this.) He worked in the meat department, cleaning up at the end of the day. A couple of days after I heard this, I was talking to him, and we arranged to meet at the meat that Friday. I felt a slight sense of dread amid the excitement, but it wasn't the one I should have been feeling.

We both arrived on time, the butcher gone, and he began showing me what he did, at a lightning pace: here are the knives, put them in this sink right here, then take this towel and wipe down the block; you need to remove the band from the saw and clean it (screw, screw, flip, twist, somehow the band comes out); take these trays and put them here (into the walk-in refrigerator, perch several trays with some sort of meat unsteadily on some upended produce boxes); these trays go on the floor (back and forth from the refrigerator, trays now cluttering the floor and requiring a kind of terpsichore to bypass); sweep here, put some fresh sawdust here and sweep it around - and before you know it, about ninety minutes are gone and he's saying "so you're doing this Monday, right?" And I'm looking at him like an oncoming freight train, frozen in incomprehension. And he's out the door.

So Monday arrives, after school and an improbable span of time both fretting and celebrating, and I find myself again at the meat counter, the butcher again gone, completely, utterly alone despite stocking activity elsewhere in the store, perhaps someone counting money in an office, little care I. Let's see, there was the saw, that's right, now what did he do again?

I somehow managed to coerce the band out after twenty minutes or so, and moved some knives from point A to point B. Let's see, sawdust now? the hamburger trays? those boxes or these?

When all was said and done, I managed to find a home in the fridge for all specimens of meat, and got some proportion of the tools of the trade fairly clean. Sawdust was scattered everywhere, on the edges of trays, up the sides of the produce boxes, all over me. I remember going home around 9, exhausted and befuddled, expecting really nothing at all but bedtime.

Next day at school felt like a busy day, and I don't remember anyone asking about what happened on my first day, and so I lacked the appropriate trepidation when I arrived Tuesday afternoon to find the butcher beside himself, pressing money into my hand, and ensuring me my services were no longer needed. He began a litany of what was wrong, then gave up in disgust as I fixed him with the oncoming-train look.

Amazingly, I actually landed a job that sort of worked the next summer, at the still-extant Capital Nursery on Sunrise, watering, cutting cans and loading plants for customers, moving things around, finding approved hiding places if there was insufficient work. The highlight was driving the electric flatbed carts around, surely a pastime all boys would love, even with the occasional collision with a bed border. I already had taken my mother's suggestion to apply to take the federal and state civil service tests, and in the fullness of several years they would both bear fruit. But apart from the slings and arrows of a stint making Christmas decorations at Cal Expo (regards here to the dauntless Paul H.), I would be carefully protected from areas out of my depth, and really all other things save boredom, as I made my way into the employment realms of my twenties.

No comments:

Post a Comment