Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Fitness of Things

Once there was a beautiful city by a bay and the sea. The city was noted for generosity. Generous climate, generous opportunity and generous people. One of many, I came there to seek my fortune.
First I found a rooming house where the landlady offered me room and board in exchange for waiting tables at breakfast and dinner. "That will leave you plenty of time to look for work." The attic contained two or three cots and as many slaves. Breakfast began at 6:30 and lasted to nine when I was allowed to do up the pots in a sink in the basement. At ten I was about to sit and read the classifieds when the landlady arrived with a full cleaning kit and "just get the parlor picked up, dear, before lunch at eleven" By one I was ready to look at the paper but here she came again with dust mops and squeegees for me to clean the entry hall and stairs -- all four flights. At five thirty it was time to set the table for dinner. At 8:30 I hung the last towell to dry and placed the broom back on its hook and went off to my cot in the belief I had earned my rest.
Tomorrow proved to be much of a muchness. So on the third day I announced I was leaving for a job interview.
As indeed were several hundred others.
At the radio station that offered free training for both on and off air positions, I joined an ad hoc team of three. Our assignment was to develop a show concept and figure out how to sell ads for it. Then, if we sold enough ads, they would let us put it on air.
At The Red Hot Diner I asked to be their dish washer. "Ya gotta union card?" "Uhm, no." "Can't hire ya." So I went to the union office. "Please, I'd like to join the union." "Ya gotta job?" "Uhm, no." "Can't let ya in the union."
I went to an employment agency. The counselor was very generous with his time as he inventoried my various points. But at last he shook his head with a sigh. "I can't find you a job even if you pay the fee. Look, every employer will know that, come fall, you'll go back to college." " But I won't." "They won't believe you. Next, look, you don't fit in -- you don't even tie your tie right. Maybe a half Windsor is okay back East, here we only wear four-in-hand knots."
Everywhere I went I was either too long or too short for what they offered.
So I joined the Navy.
While waiting for orders I went to the library and borrowed "Three Soldiers" by John Dos Passos.
-- ml
nb, 2/18/2007 This is the second in a series nominated for a Koufax award. The third part is here.
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