GET TO WORK

Work and identity are closely connected. What we do is who we are. Work is pleasure, work is pain. What have you worked at? What kind of jobs have you had? What did you do? What were your co-workers like? What kind of stuff–tools, materials, processes, activities–did the work involve? What made it satisfying? What made it unpleasant? Choose one of the jobs you did and write about it.

The fall of 1972 I turned 20 years old. I worked the morning shift in the Delta College Grill. I got up at 5:15 a.m., pulled on shirt and pants, and drove 15 miles from my house to the College. My shift started at 6:00.  When I got to the grill Jean was already there. She was a stout lady in her fifties who ran the place. Jean was moody. One morning she was cheerful and chatty, another morning she was grouchy and impatient. I know she bowled on Tuesday nights. Some Wednesday mornings she would say she’d had too many Tom Collinses the night before  She had short brown hair and a red face from a little too much to drink a little too often or from high blood pressure. 

II. Sometimes work is bad. It can be very bad. Recall a job you didn’t like, a job you quit or wanted to quit. Talk about that job.

The first time I flew commercial air , in a real “jet plane” as we called them (as Peter, Paul, and Mary sang, so mournfully, “Leaving on a Jet Plane”) was the summer of 1971. I flew United Airlines one-way, Denver Stapleton to Tri-City Airport. I was leaving a summer adventure behind.  Make that a summer misadventure. 

Dave Marolf’s parents had driven out to visit him in Breckenridge, where he and I and 4-5 others were staying. It wasn’t much of a visit. Almost everyone was working up at the Gold Camp, a construction sight near the ski hill. Bob Webster and Steve Eaton worked for Young Construction, one of the builders.  Dan Leman worked for a concrete company pouring footings. Ron Fritz worked for Ken Freund, a plumbing outfit. The Gold Camp was going to be condos for skiers who were beginning to find Breckenridge as a destination. But Breckenridge was not yet a big time resort. 

III. Dig down. If you haven’t done so already, talk about the quit. How did you arrive at your decision? What time of day? What day of the week? Did you talk to anyone about keeping the job or quitting it? Was it a dramatic moment, a take-this-job-and-shove it quit? How did it feel?

When I arrived in Breckenridge that summer, I was there for fun and games. I was there to be in the mountains, to be with my buddies. It was the first time I had lived away from home. So I was also there to prove myself, to be independent.

It was the first time I’d seen mountains, real mountains. Michigan had mountains that, to my mind, weren’t real mountains. Not even close. Apple Mountain, down the road from my house, was a man-made ski hill, derisively referred to as “the bump.” I had skied Boyne Mountain, which was significantly larger than the bump but still more hill than mountain. In sixth grade we had driven through the Porcepine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula. Again, hills, a lot of them. But not mountains. Mountains had to have rock. It was just getting to be daylight when I saw them for the first time, driving out there was Steve Eaton. The Rockies, looming on the horizon, getting bigger, greater, rockier as we got closer. 

IV. One more job. For this one, do a little informal “research.” Find out what was happening in the world and/or in the country at the time. Who was President? What was popular tv show? What important movie was made around this time? What was happening in the town or city in which you lived? What was going on in your family?  And then, the job you had. The idea is zooming in from far far out, like one of those movie devices: you see the globe from outer space, then the country, then state and county, closer closer closer, until there you are sitting at a desk…

The US went the moon twice in 1972.

In 1972 Richard Nixon ran for a second term. There were still 69,000 American troops in Vietnam, down from 550,000. That summer a group of burglars that called themselves “the plumbers” broke into the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. In Europe, where the summer Olympics was taking place, terrorists would kidnap and kill eleven Israeli athletes on September 5.

In the summer of 1972 “Deliverance” (starring Burt Reynolds) and “Daughters of Satan” (starring Tom Selleck) were popular movies in theaters. On television a “rural purge” was underway, widespread cancellation of shows with a rural theme: Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mayberry RFD.

In the summer of 1972 Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for the Summer” was getting a lot play on the radio, as was “Brandy (you’re a fine girl)” by Looking Glass and “Alone Again” by Gilbert O’Sullivan.