Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Killing Two … um… In The Bush… With The …Um…The Birds With The Rock Thing

Gerard Van Der Leun at American Digest hit me with one of those Internet chain-letter chores the other day. As is my wont, I’m late in responding and refuse to cooperate. I’m supposed to list all the jobs I’ve had. I’m not sure I could if I wanted to and I don’t.

I’m afraid of Gerard, so I have to say something. Gerard is one of the very few people that are actual writers on the Intertunnel. Between quixotic ramblings and bizarre pictures of women not always wearing all their clothes, he’ll toss off an essay, which in my narcissism I assume is done simply to remind the web that Sippican Cottage is the second-best writer in the world, and no better. He is, as my father calls it: Full of life.

I’m full of other things. But if I wrote down all the things I’ve done for work no one would believe me so there’s no point. I’ve chopped sugar cane in Central America and taught Frisbee in Framingham and many points between. If I exaggerated one iota you’d think I was Baron Munchausen.

Another person who writes things I want to read is the Barrister at Maggie’s Farm. He writes in a spare, avuncular style I like, like many of his co-bloggers there. They are calm people and I like calm because I am mercurial.

The Barrister displays a hallmark of the truly intelligent. He is curious about quotidian things. He wrote about the lowly thermocouple today, because a problem with his water heater caused him to discover it.

I think he’s misdiagnosing his problem, or had it explained imperfectly to him; if the thermocouple breaks it never tells the machinery that the water has gone cold, or tells it it’s magma hot and turns it off even though it isn’t. The pilot light goes out out of boredom, I guess. But the detail is not important.

So I’ll respond to Gerard who’s no doubt lost interest, and to the Barrister though no response was asked for: You two can’t name a job I haven’t done. I’ve made thermocouples. Thousands and thousands of them. I’ll describe one job I had, instead of listing all of them.

I needed a job, bad, in LA, 1980-ish. I moved there with next to no money and no plan. I was only old enough to drink because they hadn’t changed the law yet. I’d had a dozen jobs or more already. No one was hiring nobody for nothing nohow. If I see another person compare today’s economy to the Depression I’m going to show them a picture of 1979. When a mortgage on a house reaches 17%, unemployment is right around 30% in the construction industry, and inflation looks like it’s going to touch 20, you get back to me. Car companies did more than just talk about going bankrupt back then.

I was sleeping on the couch in an apartment shared by two girls, neither of which I knew then or know now. You can distill painful shyness into a kind of brazenness if you try real hard.

The only job opening I could find was a classified for a welder. I had welded under a microscope before, so I was prepared to say I was qualified. A ship in a bottle is still a ship, right?

I drove 66 miles dead east from LA to get there. Outside the place looked like Ingsoc owned it, and inside it looked like Beelzebub was renting it. Medieval. A metal corrugated roof in the desert. The concrete block walls could just barely hold in the amount of crazy required to be a welder in there.

It was a terrible job and the pay was about the same as begging in Calcutta or maybe a dental assistant in England. There were — I remember because they told me– 135 people there that day applying for the job. There was a person sitting on every horizontal surface you could see making out an application. I was the only one wearing a suit and holding a resume. They took me out of the scrum, up the stairs, gave me the man what are you doing here act.

I lied. I lied like a politician. I lied like an infomercial. I lied like four hundred sermons played backwards. You bet I can weld your thermocouples. They sent 135 people away that very minute.

(to be continued)

13 Responses

  1. Right now I can imagine two possible outcomes: either you excelled at this job (while learning some valuable life-lessons along the way), or you somehow managed to set fire to the open desert and were handed a sternly-worded pinkslip.

    Either way, I’m dying to read the conclusion.

  2. I have only ever had 4 jobs in my life….it seems I must live vicariously. of my ex jobs by coincidence

  3. “You two can’t name a job I haven’t done.”

    Midnight hearse driver and mortician’s daughter’s paramour in the casket display room.

  4. Slunk gilder in a Korean massage parlor.

    Dude, only them wot’s served in the 2nd Infantry Division know about that.

  5. Midnight hearse driver and mortician’s daughter’s paramour in the casket display room.

    That’s not a job, that’s an adventure.

  6. I once typed things on little yellow index cards all day. I was taking the place of someone who was on vacation and did this every day – all year long.

    The most exciting part of the day was when I got to put things in the shredder. The worst part was after I finished each stack of index cards. My supervisor (who listened to AM radio all day on her Pepsi can radio) would walk over, inspect the cards and say,”Oh, I forgot to tell you…”

    The funniest part was that they trained me for two weeks before the girl I replaced went on her honeymoon to Luray Caverns. And I still had to retype each and every one because “they forgot to tell me.”

  7. I believe that in a gas water heater and/or gas furnace of a certain vintage, the thermocouple does not control the water temperature, but "merely" reassures the controller that the pilot light is still burning. This is intended to reduce the probability of filling one's basement with combustible gas should the pilot light extinguish due to boredom, drafts, corrosion, mucus buildup, or other reason.

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