David's Employment History

My first job was in a china importer’s warehouse. I shipped orders to stores that sold imported china. All four of us working in the warehouse broke a good deal of china. There was a mouse that had been sneaking into the makeshift kitchen and tearing the corners off of various packages of food and then eating the contents. Mark put out a mousetrap that had a real sticky gel on its surface, and placed a dollop of peanut butter in the middle of the trap. It was designed to be more humane. Once you caught the living mouse you could take it off of the trap and release it into the wild, or throw it in the trash, or flush it down the toilet. The next morning Mark came to the workbench to find the mouse struggling on the trap. He was going to throw it in the trash (I think) but then he changed his mind and he hit it with a sledgehammer. When I arrived at work there was blood and pieces of bone splattered across the workbench. He had thrown away the body and the trap, though. I got pretty mad at him. I simmered down after a while. A few weeks later we were eating lunch and a big, upside down cardboard box came around the corner. It appeared to be just shuffling across the floor by itself, but since everyone was standing watching the box but Mark we felt it was reasonable to assume that he was crouched underneath it, walking along. I thought it would be funny to knock over the box, so I sprinted towards it, lowered my shoulder, and knocked it over. I was running pretty fast, and I sent it onto its side, and then sliding across the slick cement floor. Mark came out of the overturned box slowly and when I looked at him I felt guilty because his face was red (probably from rubbing against the cardboard) and his eyes were welling up with tears.

My next job was at Adventure 16. It was an outdoor retail store. On Christmas eve, 1997 I sold 3,050 dollars worth of merchandise. It was a tremendous achievement, equaled, on their best days, by only a few of the staff there. That day there was a competition for which employee could sell the most items. The winner got a pair of walking poles. You use them when you’re hiking over uneven terrain. They help you balance. I lost to Troy, who sold 42 items, while I only sold 30 or so. I sold a lot of expensive items, enough to add up to 3,000 dollars, but not enough to win those poles. My accomplishment was made even more surprising by the fact that I did not know anything about the items that I was selling. Everyone else working in the store was somewhat of an expert in rock climbing, camping, hiking, kayaking, etc. I had only been camping once up to that point, and I was too young to remember it. Usually people who asked me for help would end up asking me to find someone else to help them, but in their Christmas Eve desperation, people generally trusted what I told them. My final sale of the day was made when an old Korean lady came in and was trying on a fleece pullover. It was purple and pink and blue, with dots and zig-zag stripes. She asked me if it looked good on her and I said “It’s okay” but the pitch of my voice went up at the end of the word “okay” to make it sound more optimistic. When the last syllable you utter goes up in pitch it makes the sentence you said sound more optimistic. Try it sometime. The lady bought the fleece pullover.

The next job I had was at Boston Market. I began as a meat cutter. It was awkward because everyone else that worked there was either an adult Mexican man or a white teenage girl. The Mexicans worked in back and the girls worked the register and the sides. The only exception was the meat cutter. This was always a Mexican man. There was one white teenage boy who dished out sides, but shortly after I began there he called the manager an asshole and he was fired. I was hired as a meat cutter. The manager would always glare at me and say things like “You’ve got two speeds, slow and slower” and “Will you wake up?!?!” because I cut meat slower than the Mexican guys. I just did everything more slowly than they did. I had trouble cutting myself, too. I would slice all the way through a piece of bread rather than just partway through and I would cut the palm of my hand. This happened several times. Once, I was making a sandwich for someone who was watching me through the glass in front. I sliced through the bread and cut my palm. I must have hit a little artery or something, because blood burst out of the cut, all over the inside of the clear plastic sanitary gloves that I had to wear. I stood there holding the bloody bread looking at the bloody glove on my hand and the guy watching said “Could I get a different piece of bread?” I had to go bandage my hand up and someone else made him the sandwich with a new piece of bread. Later on I quit cutting meat and worked as a dishwasher. This was great. There was a big tub that swirled the water around, and the people in front would bring me the containers of side dishes to be washed. Many times, there would still be some cinnamon apples or macaroni and cheese or broccoli at the bottom of the containers, and I would use the big serving spoons to help myself to it while I washed dishes. The other good thing was the cornbread dough.

The next place I worked was in the Valencia Gardens housing project in San Francisco. I ran the art club, and I organized a mural project for the kids that lived there. They painted their bodies on the wall, and I painted their faces. I mostly did a good job, but a few of the kids had funny looking faces (in the mural). One afternoon I was working by myself on the background for the mural, a man yelled down from the balcony “Hey, you like rock music?” and I looked up at him and didn’t really know what to say. At that point I kind of didn’t like rock music, but I figured I ought to put things in perspective. I thought of some of the musical groups and singers whose songs I liked and many of them, in fact, played “rock music,” so I said “Yeah.” He threw three cd’s at me. One was the sublime album that was real popular after the singer died, the other was a computer game called “bust-out” or “out-break” or something like that. I played it once, and it involved racing spaceships. The other cd was a demo by some metal band I’d never heard of. I listened to it and I didn’t like it so I threw it in the trash. The sublime cd was in a Busta Rhymes case. I threw that game in the trash, too. I didn’t try playing it, but I had no computer so I figured it wouldn’t do me any good. One girl named Taja whose picture was on the mural asked me to paint her with curlers in her hair. I did it and she was ecstatic. A boy named Anthony asked me to paint him wearing a wrestling leotard and a belt. He was satisfied with the results as well. Aside from another boy in a Jerry Rice uniform, everyone else just stuck with solid colored pants and a shirt.

My next job was working at an art gallery. It was the university union gallery. I actually worked at two galleries; the university gallery and the university union gallery, but I worked at the university union gallery more often. I curated an art show there. Most of the artists in the show used found objects in their work. There was a guest book in the front of the gallery and I was looking inside it after the show and someone had taped a small, crumpled piece of notebook paper to one of the book’s pages. They circled it and then drew an arrow pointing to it, writing next to the arrow, “Look…art. You guys suck.” It was really funny. When you write something and send it out into the world you never know how funny it really is. Maybe whoever wrote that in the book will eventually read this and know that what they said was really funny.

The next job I had was as design intern at an advertising and design company. It was in Newport Beach. There was a painting of my boss, the guy who ran the company, on the wall above the Xerox machine. He painted it himself. It showed him surfing wearing a shirt, tie, and dress pants. His tie was whipping up around his face. I think he was holding a pallet and a paintbrush in his hands. The computer I was using stopped working and they stopped having me come in until they moved their offices. Then they hired me to come in and pack things into boxes and then carry the boxes to the new office. It was in the same office park, but just upstairs from the old office.

The next job I had was writing practice SAT questions. It was for a company that created an online SAT preparation course. Real SAT questions from past SATs can only be used if the user pays about 40 dollars per question to the College Board, or whoever it is that makes that test. This company didn’t want to pay 40 dollars per question, so they decided to have people write questions that corresponded exactly to questions on a real SAT test from the past. I was one of those people. I only wrote verbal questions. Looking back, it may have been easier to write the math questions, but they needed more verbal question writers than math question writers. I got paid 10 dollars per question. This is an example of how it worked. Say I had to write an analogy question. I would be given a question from a real SAT that was several years old.
Say this was the question:

Horse : Jockey

A) Surfer : Surfboard
B) Astronaut : Space
C) Ball : Thrower
D) Car : Driver
E) Student : Test

I would have to come up with another question that had the same relationship, and each answer option would have to keep the same relationship as the answers in the question. I would put something like this:

Airplane : Pilot

A) Skater : Skates
B) Swimmer : Ocean
C) Hammer : Carpenter
D) Boat : Sailor
E) Surgeon : Operation

It was important that the incorrect options (a,b,c, and e) in the question I would write had the same relationships as the incorrect options in the real SAT question. I would also have to list why each option was wrong. These are the reasons that it took longer than I thought it would to write the questions. The most difficult were the essay questions. I had to write essays that followed the structure and story line (if there was one) of the essays in the old SATs. One essay was about a biologist who lived among wolves, and I changed the protagonist into a tree-dwelling botanist. An essay about Captain Cook was changed into one about Magellan. He was the only other explorer I knew of that died before he finished exploring. Exploring the earth, that is.

My next job was graphic designing. I mainly designed web pages, but I also animated and designed printed matter. I worked for an interactive company. I suspect that when they hired me they thought that I was a young, hot designer, but I think I disappointed them. The president of the company’s name was Ziggy, like the cartoon character. He was the singer in a rap metal band and he had lots of tattoos. He spoke exceptionally quickly. The vice president had the company’s logo tattooed on his calf. He played the bass in the band. He approached me one day with an idea. He told me that the band was making a video for one of their songs and everyone in the group agreed that they would like me to star in the video. He told me that before I answered him, I ought to listen to the premise of the video.
It would open on me waking up in bed. I would be sleeping in some sort of cot, or a mattress on the floor. He was unclear on this point. I would wake up and sit on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands, obviously anguished. As I went about my morning routine, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, making myself some breakfast, I would become increasingly distressed. By the time I got to work I would be stoic, but my stoicism would be thin mask for the rage that everyone (hopefully) could tell was boiling inside me. There would be a shot of me at the desk, again with my head in my hands, and all of a sudden I would stand up, furious and distraught. I would stride forcefully down the hallway, knocking aside my fellow office workers. One of them would have a thick stack of files that would fly all over the hall as I shoulder-checked him. I would get in the elevator and hit the button that said ‘roof.’ I would get up to the roof and walk out to the edge of the building. It would be some sort of skyscraper. I would stand on the edge looking down, and then walk away from the side. As the song built to a thrilling climax I would run towards the edge of the building and stop at the last second, throwing a handful of torn papers off of the building. As they settled to the ground, a close-up shot would reveal that they were pictures of my recently deceased father.
“I’m not much of an actor,” I told him. He reassured me that this was fine, and that they were all sure that I could pull this off. He told me that if I did it, they would take me out to dinner at the best shrimp restaurant in town. After my initial disgust I realized that this would be a real boon for my career and I agreed to do it. They never got around to filming the video, though, and then the company went out of business. I think we all can be certain that their professional failures obviously had nothing to do with a general lack of creativity.

My next job was as an actor. I had a friend who acted in commercials and since I could not find another job he told me to try and act in commercials. The first commercial that I was for washing machines. The commercial attempted to coerce people to buy washing machines at Sears. I played a Sears salesperson. I had to be at a Sears in Van Nuys or someplace like that at 4 o’clock in the morning. The food was great. They had fresh grilled salmon at lunch, but I couldn’t eat much because I wasn’t hungry. Lunch was at 8 o clock in the morning because we started so early. I think that was part of the reason that I wasn’t prepared to eat much.

My next job was in the Brand Assurance department at Warner Brothers. My responsibilities included filing, pulling backup, scanning, taking digital photographs, logging in submissions, and little extras here and there. I had to proofread a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets trivia game. I had to read each question and make sure that it was approved. I had to find the questions in the book and check them against the text. It took two weeks, but now I am an expert on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I may be the world’s only expert on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets who did not actually read this book.

-dm 2004

(Ed. Note: David's employment circumstances have changed since he delivered this tear-stained missive to us, but he has neither the desire or strength of will to share with us his more recent professional fortunes.)

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