Thursday, September 22, 2005

Working in a Coal Mine

As I read Kacy’s blog about her previous jobs, I realized I too have had many wacko job experiences. Many of you already know some of these stories but I bet most will be new to most of you. I’ll leave out the nightmare stories of babysitting between the ages of 11 and 16 and skip right to the good stuff of 1991 and 1992.

The summer before my Senior year of high school I went to Oregon for the summer to work. I stayed with the Hesters—a family I had previously babysat for for many, many years. No, there wasn’t a shortage of jobs in California but this was supposed to be a really good opportunity that didn’t require frying hamburgers. I was a speed demon at typing and the job was for data entry at a dentist’s office. They were changing software programs and needed someone to transfer all the data. Unfortunately, this job fell through once I got to Oregon. I decided to stay in Oregon anyway and find a job elsewhere. The Bishop in the Hesters’ ward owned a berry plant in the city of Boring, Oregon. I am not making that up—the city really was named Boring. Google it. Red Flag #1—the name of the city alone should’ve clued me in to how bad this job would be. My job was to pick all the gross and smooshed raspberries off of the conveyer belt as they headed to Berry Heaven. Brain cells at their best. Oh, and the occasional larvae was to be picked off too. I couldn’t bear to touch the larvae so I let those go by. Oops.

Red Flag #2—I was the only English speaker working in a sea of Latino workers. Yes, I am Mexican also, but I hardly speak Spanish. This made for a lot of silence on the conveyer line. Oh wait, there was a young man also from church who worked there. Gosh, what was his name? Well, anyway, since he was the only other English speaker there we were forced into a bizarre-o friendship. REM’s Out of Time album had just come out so we would have very intellectual conversations, like, what the song, “Losing My Religion” really meant. Deep. (I finally learned it is a southern phrase meaning to lose one’s temper. So don’t blog me about what it means.) This kid also confessed to me all sorts of weird sins he had committed. I’ll say no more.

While I had this job I apparently attracted the attention of a 27-year old man—let’s call him Jose. There's a stretch. I was 17. Isn’t that illegal? Jose didn’t speak English but he did ask me out in Spanish one time to go dancing. “Quieres bailar?” My reply, “Um no. No quiero bailar.” Later that day he got in a fist fight with some of the other guys. I found out it was because they thought he was a homesexual. Great—only gay guys ask me out. I worked there a whopping 4 weeks. Four weeks too long. I didn’t eat raspberries for at least five years though. Oh the trauma.

Once I went back to California I applied for a job at a new eating establishment (I can't bear to call it a restaurant) in the Chino Towne Square called Cajun Joe’s Chicken. I got the job because I had a 4.0 and the owner was all kinds of impressed. Apparently you need a 4.0 to fry chicken. Or was it rotisserie? Anyway, before I even had time to start that job I got a better job (hard to believe) as a receptionist. So I called the manager, Mr. Cajun, and told him I changed my mind. He was ticked. The next day I started getting perverted crank calls. These calls lasted a few weeks—and I know it was Mr. Cajun calling me! I can’t prove it, but this is how I know: One night I got one of the dirty phone calls and I screamed into the phone—“I know this is the chicken man!!” and hung up. The calls stopped. This franchise of Cajun Joe’s went out of business within a couple of years. I’m sure it was God punishing Mr. Cajun for being a pervert and freaking the heck out of a naïve 17-year old girl. But I can’t prove that either.

Now the job I got in place of Cajun Joe’s chicken was to be a receptionist at the El Dorado Plaza—a business plaza in Ontario. The owners were a young chain-smoking Chinese couple from Montebello. They paid me under the table to avoid paying Uncle Sam. They would come in once every few weeks to pay me, get the mail, shut themselves in their office and smoke like a chimney. I never saw anyone smoke that much in my whole life. The cloud of smoke would literally creep out of their office and crawl around the corners in the office--just like the angel of death in The Ten Commandments. Because I was still in school I only worked the afternoon shift. Mr. and Mrs. Marlboro asked me if I knew another girl who would want the job in the morning. The only teenager I knew who didn’t go to school in the morning that wouldn’t mind being paid an extraordinarily low wage illegally was Colleen Kinnick. She had recently dropped out of high school and took her GED. So Colleen became the morning gal and I became the afternoon one. Colleen was a Groovey Gooley, as we called them. She dressed all in black and died her hair fluorescent colors. She loved Oingo Boingo more than should be allowed. (A few years later Colleen got married and on top of her wedding cake was Jack Skellington (the pumpkin head) and the main girl (?) from The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Romantic.)

Apparently neon-haired receptionists were not what the El Dorado Plaza was looking for. Tenants started complaining to Mr. and Mrs. Marlboro. So Mrs. Marlboro called me up one day and asked me to talk to Colleen about her hair. I did. Colleen started wearing a beret to work to cover up her highlighter yellow hair. I don't think that's what Mrs. Marlboro had in mind. That job ended half way through the school year for Colleen—due to her hair—and at the end of my senior year due to my inability (once again) to speak Spanish very well on the phone. My oft used phrase on the phone was, “Mas despacio, por favor.” Translation: “Please speak slower”. Mom—why didn’t you teach us Spanish you crazy Mexican lady? Dad was fluent too!! I’ll never forgive you for that! Thus ended the horrific jobs of my high school era. Thank goodness I left for college and began a whole new era of creepy college jobs. Stay tuned for that installment........

4 comments:

paulw_cpa said...

I am looking forward to the college years and the great experiences from working at the Cannon Center.

Lori Lashley said...

Oy de mi! (Thought I'd combine some spanish and some Yiddish for effect!) What a job history!

I hope it was okay that I put the link to your blogs on my site. I truly enjoy each and every entry you post.

Thanks for getting me into this and please don't get mad if I touch on a topic you may have. (I'm thinking I may need to blog about the music since my response to you was too long)

Colleen said...

wow, i'm in somebody's slave-labor blog! hey Cynthia, now i guess i'll have to read the rest of your adevntures.

i'm glad that i had that ridiculous office job, though. it was my first job, and after that i finally had something to put on my resume. it also let me buy better hair dye. cashing my checks at that creepy liquor store on Philadelphia & Pipeline was an educational experience, too.

btw, still married 11.5 years later, even if we did have jack & Sally on the cake. ;)

cyn the win said...

Colleen--
Glad you found my blog! There is no way I could leave you out of my job description at the El Dorado Plaza. You were the only interesting part of that very dull job. Ah, to be unique!

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