Tag Archives: thoughts

Hooked on a feeling

Hooked on a feelingIt was summer, and the company was getting a lot more business.

As a result, the owner, Benito, started hiring people at a frantic pace. Every morning, an unfamiliar guy would arrive at the shop while we were loading the truck, to wait for an interview.

One morning, we were in the shop sharpening lawnmower blades when a car pulled up and a man stepped out. The sunlight glinted off his arms, making me squint.

I peered at him, and I saw that instead of hands, the guy had hooks protruding from his wrists.

Crew Leader Carl appeared behind me. I glanced over and saw that he was staring at the man.

“Dude,” Carl said, as the guy walked into Benito’s office. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m wondering if we have the facilities, vehicles and tools to accommodate his disability.”

“Actually,” Carl said, “I was wondering how the guy uses the bathroom. You know what I mean? How could be possibly wipe with those things without tearing out his O-ring?”

I looked at him. “You know, Boss,” I said, shaking my head, “I don’t think you and I will ever be on the same page.”

Finding the perfect candidate

Finding the perfect candidateWe were down a guy, so the company owner, Benito, posted the open position online. Within a day, he received an application. Crew Leader Carl asked me to sit in on the interview.

We used the conference room next door to Benito’s office. By “conference room,” I mean an office furnished with a single plastic table and folding chairs on either side. The room was stuffy and reeked of stale cigar smoke.

Crew Leader Carl and I sat on one side of the table, and a man in bib overalls sat on the other. A toothpick dangled from the side of his mouth, and he sat slouched with his arms crossed.

“OK,” Crew Leader Carl said, holding a clipboard and pen like the high-level recruiter he was. “I just need to ask you some questions to determine if you’re qualified.”

“Shoot.” The man snorted as if he were going to hawk a wad of phlegm. But given the professional nature of the situation, he swallowed it, instead.

“Do you know the difference between a two-stroke and a four-stroke engine?” Carl asked.

“Nope.”

“Do you have any experience operating heavy equipment?”

“Nope.”

“Do you have a commercial driver’s license?”

“Nope.”

“Do you know the difference between an annual and a perennial?”

“Nope.”

“Can you name five shrubs that are native to the area?”

“Nope.”

“Do you have any knowledge of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides?”

“Nope.”

“Are you willing to work for minimum wage?”

The man shrugged. “Sure.”

Carl stood up and pumped the man’s hand. “Congratulations! The job is yours! You start Monday morning.”

The path of least resistance has weeds

The path of least resistance has weedsAll of us on the crew tensed as we pulled to a stop in front of our next account.

It was an otherwise normal-looking house on a nice street. The issue was that it belonged to the company’s owner, Benito. We knew that if the lawn was cut too short or if a single weed was missed, Benito would chew each of us out in Italian.

To make matters worse, Benito’s wife was a homemaker, so she was always there to glower at us through the window as we worked, and also to make sure that we didn’t tromp on her flowers or kick gravel onto the lawn.

With anxiety gripping my heart, I knelt and started deadheading flowers in the front planter. I glanced up and saw Benito’s wife standing at the window, staring me down. I shivered and focused intently on my work.

Juan ambled by with a weed eater slung over his shoulder. As he trudged along the gravel path woven through the front yard, he accidentally kicked gravel onto the lawn.

The window immediately flew open, and Benito’s wife started screaming.

“That no-good bastard no watch where he step!” she yelled, pointing at Juan. “He kick rock all over!”

“Dammit Juan!” Crew Leader Carl barked. “Watch where you’re going!”

Later, Juan and I were kneeling in the path, pulling minuscule clover-looking weeds that grew in the moss woven between the stepping stones.

Juan paused for a moment to pull a sticker from his finger.

The window flew open again. “He no pulling enough weeds!” Benito’s wife screamed, pointing at Juan. “He lazy! He just sit and stare!”

“Dammit Juan!” Crew Leader Carl barked. “Work harder!”

As we loaded the truck, Carl appeared behind me.

“Wow,” he said, his voice low. “For whatever reason, Benito’s wife does not like Juan. And when Benito’s wife doesn’t like someone, she tells Benito, and then Benito fires them.”

My eyes widened. “He’s actually fired people because she complained?”

“Of course,” Carl said. “And why not? I’m sure it’s easier to find new people than it is to argue with her!”

Don’t put all your eggs in one Dumpster

Don_t put all your eggs in one DumpsterIt was late Thursday morning, and it was already sweltering. We were working at our largest account — a shopping center anchored by a supermarket.

There were no lawns to mow or weeds to pull here. Instead, the job consisted of each of us combing the property and picking up trash.

And man, was there always a ton of trash.

We’d each lug a plastic container behind us, and by the time we’d return to the truck, it’d be overflowing with shopping bags, soda cans, beer bottles, cigarette butts, soiled diapers, used needles.

“I really need to get paid more,” I mumbled, dropping a flat, run-over cat into my container.

I was walking the perimeter of the supermarket and approaching my least-favorite area: the overflowing Dumpsters in the back alley. They always reeked of rotting food, and garbage blew everywhere in an endless whirlpool.

As I approached the nearest Dumpster, I saw a pair of legs poking out, wiggling. As I grew closer, warily clutching my trash container, I saw that they belonged to Crew Leader Carl.

“Hey!” he said, wrenching himself out of the Dumpster. He was holding a carton of eggs. “Look what I found! They must be throwing out food today. I found a whole dozen eggs, and they’ve only been expired for a week!”

My stomach turned. “Boss, it’s ninety degrees out here!”

“So what?” Carl said. “It’s not like they’re refrigerated when they pop out of the chicken. You need to learn where your food comes from, pal.”

“Well, I know where it doesn’t come from,” I said. “The supermarket Dumpster.”

A robust pinnacle of health

A robust pinnacle of healthIt was around noon, close to lunchtime. We had just finished a job and were cruising down Main Street.

As we drove, we passed a man in a jogging suit huffing along the sidewalk.

Crew Leader Carl snorted. “I’ll bet that suit cost a hundred bucks. These office-dwellers with their fancy exercise regimens. They don’t have a clue what it means to stay healthy.”

He motioned with his arm. “Take us, for example. We work outside in the bright sunshine, breathing fresh air. We get our cardio raking and mowing and pulling weeds, and we work our muscles lifting bags of fertilizer and sacks of garbage. But these jerks sit in stuffy offices all day with their recycled air, and they think jogging for twenty minutes is going to make them healthy.”

I thought his speech was over, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.

“Look at me,” Carl said, thumping his chest. “I’m as fit as a fiddle. My chest and arms are strong. Feel these biceps. Feel them!”

He flexed his arm and shoved it in Francisco’s face. Francisco nodded while edging away.

“These muscles come from actual hard work — not from an expensive gym membership,” Carl said. “I don’t need a fancy machine or a ridiculous suit to keep in shape. All I need to stay healthy is a green lawn to mow and a patch of weeds to pull. I guarantee you, because of all the hard work we do, each of us is a lot healthier than that huffing-and-puffing bastard back there in the overpriced spacesuit.”

“Isn’t it lunchtime, Boss?” I asked.

Carl looked at his watch. “Hot damn — you’re right. Let’s eat!”

And with that, he lit a cigarette and pulled into the McDonald’s drive-through.

A company-required radioactive shirt

A company-required radioactive shirtWhen we arrived at work the other morning, the shop superintendent, Shoemaker, was standing near the punch clock handing out shirts to all the guys.

“What are these?” asked Slim, as Shoemaker handed him a shirt.

“Benito just ordered them,” Shoemaker said. “They’re the new company uniform. He wants all employees to wear them while they’re working.”

“I’ll take a medium,” I said.

“Once size fits all,” Shoemaker said, thrusting an extra-large shirt at me.

I frowned, holding the shirt to my chest. “This is a dressing gown.”

Shoemaker snorted. “That’s because you’re a runt. They’re designed for men who’ve actually filled out.”

“Filled out how?” I asked. “With their beer guts? Because that describes most of the men at this company. Particularly you.”

Shoemaker glared at me, clenching his goatee.

Slim unfolded his shirt and scowled. “Why are they such a bright, neon green? They look radioactive.”

“Don’t complain,” Shoemaker said. “You’re getting a free shirt. Besides, they’re lightweight, and the neon color reflects the sunlight instead of absorbing it. Benito wants his employees to be cool and comfortable as they work.”

“Benito’s putting our comfort first and foremost?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. “That doesn’t sound right. There’s got to be more to the story.”

“There is,” Shoemaker said. “The bright neon also helps him to spy on his crews from several hundred yards away, so he can make sure they’re actually working.”

“OK,” I said, nodding. “Now that makes sense. That’s the Benito I know.”

This is a job for a professional

This is a job for a professionalIt was early Saturday afternoon, and I was at my girlfriend’s house, watching a movie on TV.

Or I was trying to, anyway. But Katrina, my girlfriend, seemed intent on assigning me household chores.

“Peter, I need you to mow the backyard lawn,” she said, standing in the living-room doorway, holding a laundry basket.

I moaned and kept my eyes on the TV, even though there was nothing on but commercials.

“C’mon Peter,” Katrina said. “You hang out here all the time, and you eat all my food. It’s the least you can do.”

“I told you I’d pay you back for that box of Tuna Helper I foraged from your pantry,” I said.

“That’s not the point. My parents own the home, and they expect me to keep up the yard. And now that you’re a landscape-maintenance professional, mowing the lawn should be right up your alley.”

“I’m not a landscape-maintenance professional,” I said. “I have a journalism degree.”

“Right,” Katrina said, “but that’s the only job you can get with a journalism degree. So by all definitions, you’re a landscape-maintenance professional.”

I frowned, staring into space. “I guess you have a point.”

Those who don’t know, teach

Those who don_t know, teachIt was Monday morning, and all of us were seated on folding chairs in the shop, facing the open bay door. Shoemaker, the shop superintendent, had called an impromptu meeting before the crews took off to go to their respective job sites.

“The owner, Benito, asked me to gather everyone together this morning to discuss something very important,” Shoemaker said, stroking his goatee and pacing back and forth. “The company has gotten a lot of complaints lately. Apparently, some team members have been whistling at women while driving company vehicles.”

I looked at Juan and Slim. Both of them were staring at their laps, examining their hands, as if they’d never catcalled in their entire lives.

“As we all should know,” Shoemaker continued, “whistling at women is inappropriate behavior. Not only that, but it’s sexual harassment. And when we make disparaging sounds at members of the general public, it reflects poorly on our company’s image.”

“Unlike our 30-year-old vehicles,” someone called out. (It might have been me.)

Shoemaker stopped grooming his goatee mid-stroke. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” He continued to pace. “Because of these complaints, we’re going to spend an hour this morning undergoing sexual-harassment training. I’m passing out pamphlets now. Please take one and pass them back.”

I raised my hand. “Can I ask a question?”

Everyone turned to look at me. Shoemaker closed his eyes and sighed. “Yes. Go ahead, Peter.”

“Are you going to be administering the training this morning?” I asked.

Shoemaker tugged at his goatee. “Yes. As the shop superintendent, it’s my responsibility to ensure all employees are appropriately trained.”

“OK,” I said. “And just so we’re clear, you’re also the one who wallpapered the shop bathroom with all those Penthouse spreads last week. Correct?”

The entire company laughed. Shoemaker’s face turned red.

“Everyone turn to page 1 in your pamphlets,” he said, casting his gaze downward. “Maybe we all can learn something this morning.”

Love this job, and love you, too

Love this job, and love you, tooWe were driving between jobs, barreling down Main Street with our overflowing trailer swinging behind us.

One of the guys, Juan, saw an attractive woman walking along the sidewalk, so he stuck his head out the window and whistled at her as we cruised past.

“OK, that crap’s got to stop!” said Crew Leader Carl, turning around with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. “We have a name on the door!”

I was in the backseat, sitting in the middle. Juan was on my right, and an overweight, acne-ridden guy named Slim was sitting on my left. He, too, was a smoker, and between every job he lit up and puffed like a maniac, filling the cab with both the scents of his smoke and his body odor.

“Hey,” he said, turning to me and elbowing me in the ribs. His breath smelled like limburger cheese and Pall Malls. “You want to know something cool? If you take a song — any song — and you replace the word ‘love’ with the F-word, it changes the entire meaning of the song.”

I looked at him, blinking.

“Seriously, try it,” he said. “Any song. Just replace the word ‘love’ with the F-word, and you’ve got yourself a whole new song. It’s hilarious.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” I said.

We passed another woman, so Juan stuck his head out the window and whistled.

“Dammit!” Crew Leader Carl said, pounding the dashboard. “I mean it!”

Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane,” Slim said, hacking on his cigarette. “Let’s change the words! C’mon, man! Sing it with me!”

I shook my head. “I’d really rather not.”

Another woman was walking up ahead. Juan glanced at Carl out of the corner of his eye, then looked out the window and let out a small chirp.

Through the rearview mirror, I saw Carl’s eyebrows rise. “I heard that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Slim was singing Somebody to Love with the perverted lyrics. Every time he changed the word “love” to the F-word, he laughed and hacked on his cigarette.

Just then, on the left side of the two-lane street, we saw a heavyset woman walking alongside the road.

“Hold on a second,” Slim said. Holding his cigarette, he stuck his double-chinned, acne-riddled face out the window and bellowed “Moo! Moo!”

“Dammit!” Carl said, slamming the dashboard. “How many times do I have to tell you guys? We have a name on the door! A name on the door!”

I sighed, closing my eyes. “These morons are loved.”

Slim looked at me. “What’s that?”

“If you change the word ‘love’ to the F-word, then it makes sense,” I said.

Redheads are notorious

Redheads are notoriousWe were driving between jobs one afternoon, cruising through town with the windows down.

As we went through an intersection, we all noticed an attractive young woman up ahead walking along the sidewalk. She was wearing high heels and a short skirt that showed off her long legs.

As we drove past, one of the guys, Juan, stuck his entire head out the window and whistled. The woman jumped, startled.

“Well, that was subtle,” I said.

Juan elbowed me in the ribs. “She was hot, no?”

I shrugged. “Yeah. She was OK.”

I didn’t want to state the obvious: that she was way out of my league.

“No,” said Crew Leader Carl, shaking his head and puffing on a cigarette as he drove. “You wouldn’t want her, Pete.”

“Why not?” I asked.

Carl looked at me in the rearview mirror. “Isn’t it obvious? Because she’s a redhead!”

We drove in silence for a moment.

“Um, OK,” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t get it. What’s the deal with redheads?”

“Oh, man,” Carl said. “Don’t you know? Redheads are the nastiest of them all! They’re gross. They’re dirty. They’re notorious!

I stared at him, blinking. “Carl, what are you talking about?”

“Well, let me explain,” Carl said. “The only reason I say that is because the first redhead I dated gave me the crabs, and the second redhead I dated gave me the clap.”

I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. “But you can’t just impugn an entire class of women based on your personal experiences!”

“Sure I can,” Carl said. “They were miserable experiences.”

“Maybe it’s not so much redheads in general as the type of women you date?” I suggested.

Carl shrugged. “Crabs and clap. I think the math speaks for itself.”