Saturday, August 08, 2009

Back In The High Life

CareerBuilder never seems to have any postings for Drug Dealer. Same for Monster and all the other usual suspects. The job never seems to turn up on those thinly veiled Yahoo features about the best way to earn $50,000 a year while working at home. Or without going to school. Or without having any interpersonal skills. But I did get an offer for such a position many years ago.

After my first year of college I took a summer gig as a roofer. I got dirty, didn’t learn any useful skills, and had to wear jeans and a long sleeve work shirt in hottest part of summer. I also wasn’t very fond of heights. However, it paid a whopping $8 an hour when minimum wage was probably about half that, and I had a killer tan and stayed in pretty good shape.

We did good work, but it wasn’t the most professional company out there. The owner, Al, who spent most of his time on the ground finding the next job, was rarely around but could be reached on his suitcase sized mobile phone if needed. Mike manned the tar kettle at ground level and seemed to spend most of his time avoiding getting dirty or breaking a sweat. I forget their names, but the two supervisor type dudes looked like Joe Elliott and Phil Collen from Def Leppard and were as good at roofing as Joe and Phil were at getting sugar poured on them. Pretty damn good. The crew they were charged with included some characters I mentioned here before. Four guys, probably in their mid-twenties, who all carpooled together in a Dodge Aspen station wagon from parts unknown. Fatboy was bleach blond and fat. How he stayed that size working on a roof in the middle of summer I have no idea, but I’m guessing he lived on blubber and motor oil in the off-season. I found out the Dodge belonged to his mother, and he was the driver because I think the was the only one of the four with a valid license. Every morning Fatboy, Hillbilly, Pat and Earl would stumble out of the wagon like a bunch of hungover circus clowns and we’d haul ourselves up the ladder to whatever roof needed tarring. Sometimes, one of them would be missing, usually due to a meeting with their probation officer.

The only rule at this company was shared on the first day – “Don’t step off the roof.” Fortunately for Al, most of the jobs were complete before OSHA ever came around. About mid-morning, and then again at lunch, since I was the rookie and had a car I was sent to the nearest McDonald’s to get food and drinks. I didn’t mind so much – it got me off the roof, into a air-conditioned McDonald’s for a few minutes and I got to take a leak in an actual bathroom instead of peeing on a rooftop. However, the downside was that I had to climb back up the ladder with an armful of Egg McMuffins and a half dozen drinks. It was a little terrifying at first, but by the end of summer I was rocking that ladder like a Denny’s waitress trained at the Ringling Brothers Circus. As I pulled up they would retreat to a shady corner of the roof and roll their first joint of the day. I was merely providing the munchies.

I don’t remember a lot of stories from them – they mostly seemed busy just trying to keep themselves out of jail and in whatever current living arrangements they secured. I’m not really sure what skeletons they had in the back of that Dodge Aspen, but they seemed like decent enough guys and were certainly friendly to the dorky college kid trying to pick up a few dollars for tuition. In fact, I had expected they might have resented me infiltrating their world for 12 weeks to make a quick buck before scuttling back to the ivy covered halls, but instead they had this romantic vision of college through which they seemed to want to live vicariously though me. University life was clearly a world where beer flowed freely (mostly true) and every guy was up to his eyeballs in pussy and banging the cast of Head of the Class (not completely true for freshman dorks like me). It seemed as if they admired me for having the opportunities before me. You’d think that would have motivated me to be grateful and inspired me to greatness. Instead I got kicked out the following semester.

But I digress. As the end of summer was approaching, “Joe Elliott” ruminated about the profits he could probably make by having a distribution channel in a college town. I’m not talking about tar paper. I never took him up on his offer. I was too much of a chicken, and in retrospect, I’m thinking that was a good thing. But I often wonder how it would have turned out if I had worked out a deal and gave a little competition to Hookah-Man in that little college town.

Probably not good. All these memories were triggered when I read the story of Featherhead.


Kristy said...

How does one manage to get a killer tan all covered up in a long sleeved shirt and jeans ?

sid said...

Ah, very observant, my little Nancy Drew....

Okay, so the legs were white. But my face was George Hamilton (no, not the guy on the $20 bill) and technically I only had to don the long sleeve shirt when the tar bucket was out, which was probably 50% of the job. I was just exaggerating so you would feel sorry for me.