Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Odd Jobs

I order almost everything online. From a trampoline to strappy heels to zombie bowling, I can find anything I could possibly want without leaving my home. So I get very excited when I see the UPS truck turn onto my street. But often the truck will turn into a driveway a few houses away from mine, because the day’s shipment is for them and not me. “Darn,” I think to myself. “Foreskin again.”

You see, my neighbor has a job in which he has foreskin delivered to his house. If you ever get a skin graft, ask where the skin is coming from. It might not be where you expect. He assists in the operating room for the procedures, helping the doctors with the skin that he has sold them. One time he had a little old lady on the operating table moments before her skin graft, and she lifted her head and asked him, “Where does this skin come from?” “It’s human foreskin,” he told her honestly. A week later he was back at the same hospital assisting in an additional procedure on the same lady. Once again she asked where it was from and he repeated his answer. This time she had a follow up question for him. “Is it your foreskin?” she asked him.

It is not.

My neighbor has had his fair share of odd jobs. When he was younger he had work doing experiments on mice. He told us about this job one evening while we were having drinks in my kitchen with his wife. My cat was acting peculiar near the couch, and I said it was just a year ago that we had a mouse come inside and the cat tortured it until I threw them out. “That reminds me of a job I once had killing mice,” he recalled. “First we would hold them between the shoulders,” he said as he put his hand on the spot between his wife’s shoulder blades. She shrugged him off, exclaiming, “Don’t use me as your example!”

“I would put a little cotton ball inside a thimble and then put in a drop of ether,” he explained. “It had to be just the right amount to get them asleep but not kill them. If it was too much you would have to do some chest compressions to revive it for the experiment. I never lost a mouse!” he boasted. He never lost a mouse because he had to keep them alive until the second step in the experiment, when he would stick a needle into the mouse’s heart and withdraw all the blood from the mouse’s body.

We’ve all had our share of odd jobs, haven’t we? My husband has held more jobs than anyone I know. He was a UPS loader, UPS driver (probably for foreskin and he never even knew it!), pizza chef, ski lift operator, encyclopedia salesman, scissors assembler, forklift operator for a veggie canning factory, battery stuffer, ice deliveryman, and corn detassler, among others. Most of those jobs were all in one summer.

I’ve had a few odd jobs, mostly from temporary work. One of the strangest was being squished with four ladies into one office above a German restaurant. Each of us had a desk against one of the walls. I was hired to help process hundreds and hundreds of orders for Hummel figurines. The orders had been taken by telephone and mail by the other ladies who sat in that office. I had to go through boxes of these hand-written paper orders that were many months old and input them into the computer. As you may have guessed, there was a bit of a delay between the original order and when the customer actually got their porcelain statue of a baby in a rain barrel having a bath.

The women who worked there were a diverse lot, but always friendly and entertaining. I was not asked to answer the phone at all even though there was one on my desk. One day the 80-something who worked there complained how one of the other women never picked up the phone when her line was busy. I told my sister about my job and how I didn’t want to get stuck talking to any of these people and she said, “Just answer the phone and say the name of the business and then, ‘Can you please hold?’ They’ll say yes and you can then put them on hold until your coworker gets off the phone.”

So I decided to try it. The next day I answered the phone and after stating the name of the company I said, “Can you please hold?”

“No!” came the voice of an angry man on the other end of the line.

After that call I learned that I didn’t need to ask them if I could put them on hold. I would just say “Please hold” and transfer them immediately. Still, they could manage to get a few swear words in at me before I was able to press the Hold button.

The worker they had shipping out the Hummel figurines for those that had been ordered and arrived at the shop was not exactly the strongest link in this chain of orders and deliveries. He was a gang banger named Steven with a tattoo of “Blvd” (the name of his gang) on his hand below his thumb and pointer finger. He was always very nice to us, though, and I appreciated knowing someone in the ’hood in case I ever got into trouble on the mean streets. Even though he didn’t show up to work regularly, he was kind and polite and would take our lunch orders and then go down into the kitchen to bring us up our salads chilled from the fridge and plates of piping hot French fries. (No one ever partook of the free schnitzel or spatzel or sauerbraten or pork knuckles, even though we were all German.)

Not only did this company take orders for expensive yet worthless knickknacks, they also sold them in a tiny upstairs shop next to the office and overflow restaurant seating. A woman and her daughter ran the sales counter and were in charge of those of us in the office. The woman liked to talk about how she was once a model and how she was English, though I could detect no accent that anyone would ever mistake for even a British colonist. Her daughter was the reason she had the job, for the daughter was living with the owner of the restaurant. She was a young, beautiful blonde who drove a red convertible and had a monthly thousand-dollar clothing allowance from her grandparents. She would breeze in for a half an hour, chat with the ladies, and then talk on the phone with her friends, organizing their next activity, which often involved boating on the lake or shooting guns at the range. She was not married to the owner, but she had changed her name from Sheila to the feminine form of his name. (Hint: there is a famous Julie Andrews movie with the same names.)

One day when we were all in the office working away (or gossiping about the owners and the 80-something’s recent ex-husband, who had been revealed to be quite the philanderer), the little gift shop was robbed. An expensive Disney animation cel of Mickey Mouse was stolen right off the wall. The English ex-model saw a young woman grab it off the hook and sprint down the stairs and out onto the mean streets of the city with her pricey new work of art. The police were called, but I don’t believe they ever found Mickey Mouse. For all I know it ended up in a lab with a thimbleful of ether pressed to its twitchy little nose.

No comments:

Post a Comment