That’s the problem with the job, though, if you spend any time thinking about it. No matter how you dress it up, no matter how much you talk about pulling tags, getting on a run, no matter how much you play it up like you’re bombing your way through the world and fighting the good fight, you’re doing a job that requires only A.) You can read a map & B.) Are willing to kill your car for the sake of 75 cents a mile. That’s it. Absolutely it.

When I showed up for my interview I dressed nice, y’know? Sweater, collared shirt, khakis. Not suit-and-tie, but nice. That was enough to get me the gig. I found the place and I looked presentable. Everything else would work itself out. My first day of work, my boss didn’t even know I was supposed to be starting. He found my application in his Inbox, with a handwritten ‘Good Guy’ scrawled on the back by the guy who interviewed me. Such professionalism, such a high degree of work ethic.

The whole gig, it’s a loser job. Everyone you meet is on outs from something. Busted stockbrokers, failed teachers, guys who couldn’t cut it in the shark-infested waters of Connecticut real estate. Everyone is still wearing the nice clothes from what they used to do, racking up miles on the car they bought with the good money they were making on their previous gig. Losers, fucking idiots, every one.

Me? Sure, why not. Same loser but at least I hadn’t fallen from anywhere, right? I’d plateaued at 21, and this was the easy linear streak I’d followed. Factory work and driving jobs. Work where the rules are very clearly defined, what you’re supposed to do and what you’re not supposed to do are spelled out in very large letters and very small words. Simpleton jobs. No union, no benefits, no experience necessary. Come on it, will train the Right Person. Push this button, pull that lever, ten minute break at ten o’clock and another at two-thirty. No smoking in the building. No Running. Safety Glasses to be Worn at All Times. Jobs where they’re more concerned that you’ll fling yourself into the machine you’re running than whether or not you’ll do a good job. There’s no chance to do a good job, see? The job is either done or not. The good or bad of it is cooked into the process by engineers and managers. They don’t want you thinking about your job. They want you to push and pull and prod at the right times in the process. They want you to recognize the proper moment to install rivet A into hole 1, and they want you to pull down the safety shield before you thumb the big green GO button. You get it? You see it?

And this. Messenger work. My speedometer always buried past where there’s numbers on the dial. Always trying to slip in another job, another 10 or 15 dollars in my pay at the end of the week. That’s a half-tank of gas, right? Maybe less. A quarter, in these rotten days. Or part of an oil change. A fifth of tire that’s gone bald down to the steel belts. One-twentieth of a replacement windshield. No reason to replace the tape deck or even think about upgrading to a CD player. Why bother? Spend all day dialed into AM, 1010 WINS, CBS 880, listening for traffic reports every ten minutes, trying to figure out if I should be on the Whitestone or the Tri-borough, if the Cross-Bronx is more fucked than normal, if I should take 287 up into Westchester or if the quaint old Sawmill Parkway is my better friend today.

But for all of that, this is better. Better than standing at a workstation all day long, doing your damndest to look busy and counting clock ticks till your next smoke or till lunch or till you can escape until tomorrow. At least, at the very, very least, I’m outside and can see the sun or fight the rain. I eat lunch in parks when it’s nice out. I find little hole-in-the-wall delis on Long Island run by smiling Armenian couples who give me a little extra on my sandwich because I’m friendly. No insurance, no paid days off, fuck, even have to pay all my own taxes. But this is a little better. A little less childish. A little more manly. Slightly.

And I think this and the radio goes and it’s “Davey, pickup at Schmidt & Hoover, dropoff at the courthouse” and I’ve got a twenty minute window to make five bucks and I pitch my smoke and pop the emergency brake and go screeching out onto the streets, nosing my way into underground loading docks next to the UPS trucks and FedEx vans, breezing past security, flashing my badge at secretaries and getting the right spelling for the sig before I barrel over the courthouse and trot two blocks and run through the metal detector for the third time today.

Yeah. Fuck.


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