Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor, No Love Lost

(or, Square Peg in a Round World)

I'm ill-fitting, and self-absorbed.

Most of my writing is in the first person, and I'd never heard of Paula Deen until last month.  Even in my salad days -- or more accurately, my bacon cheeseburger (medium rare), profiterole sundae days (and late night, bad life music nights) -- I couldn't care less about popular culture.

Knee-jerkingly antipathetic toward anything "mainstream", I pointedly avoided the sardonics of "Seinfeld" ... the cloying, warm fuzziness of "Friends" ... the bilious pomposities of Rosie and Oprah, the horse jocularities of Ed and Jay Leno ...

Of course, Ed McMahon was with Johnny Carson - I stopped having time for that guy too, when he hosted the OscarsBilly Crystal, Tom Hanks, Whoopi Goldberg, forget it.  And Robin Williams ended up going the same route:  essentially abandoning all that shtick about "drugs and people passing out" ... betraying his essence, reigning himself in and joining the cloying and warm, fuzzy "mainstream".

When Howard Stern became a judge on "America's Got Talent", all bets were off.  That, more than anything, put a nail in the coffin of what I perceived to be my 'youth':  rebellious, obnoxious, enigmatic ... Outside looking in, but not wanting to be in.

My early work life, not a whole lot different.  The fake camaraderie and/or seeming pointlessness of the American "air-conditioned nightmare", as Henry Miller put it (and as it perfectly describes too many of the office work wheels I've been a cog in) provided a woefully bumpy labor ride as a young adult ... and working in restaurants, I would either stare wistfully at a couple's table, assessing their body language, watching them smile and behave with each other and wishing I had someone to do the same with;

or wistfully stare at the asses of waitresses - blithely ignoring all other needs.

I've lost jobs and had businesses fail, often through nobody's fault but mine.  I've been labeled inappropriate, apathetic, inefficient, off my game, "superior to superiors", inferior to what's needed, beyond what's acceptable ... and, almost as ludicrous as the suggestion of (I guess) arrogance or condescension in the superiority comment above, I've been called unclean.

Now as you might imagine, of all of these, the complaint about my personal hygiene stinks the most.  Then again, it was probably the most head-scratching and off the mark, in terms of not only my work ethic and job performance, but also (as anyone who knows me will attest), my person.

Simply put, I am clean.  You're welcome to smell me.  I lift up my arms, with my shirt off, and dance; I blow in your face my hot, sweet-smelling breath ... I trust you'll inspect the long middle fingernails thrust with insouciance deep into your eyeballs.  And lick me.

By all means, you can lick me.

I'm clean.

This is what ricocheted through my brain, the day I got sent home from the lakeside restaurant where I used to wash dishes -- an early foray into underemployment -- and where, just a few hours earlier, Big Katy (Boss Lady) had reprimanded me that day about not chopping up some lettuce correctly.

"Make sure you really chop it!" said she ... pushing another fingerful from the salad bar into her mouth.  "This way, the customers can really get at it!"

She left the dining area then -- and me, in my filthy dishwashing apron, standing there with a head of lettuce which she'd lobbed my way like a softball pitch, after peeling a leaf off and blowing her nose with it -- and a few hours later, I get sent home because I'm "unclean"!

This is how people roll, of course.  The dirtiest, weakest, sickest links are always the quickest to point and think, "Do (and say) unto others ... "

And thus they do ... when they fit well.

Happy Labor Day!
"Night Work", ©Jeff Glovsky