I slept a full night for the first time since, well, who knows? I've been very tired. I told you that to tell you this: I did not have a chance to write last night.
For your amusement and possible re-living -- DuWayne? Are you out there? -- I bring to you a subject on which I am something of an expert: the many ways in which to make a buck.
In two parts.
Enjoy. (And if you enjoyed, tell your friends.)
I was raised to believe in the power of the paycheck.
My father fought to instill this in me at an early age; and whether it was the fact that I was his favorite (my theory) or the fact that my brother and sister were much faster at getting on a bike the minute work threatened to rear its large sweaty head (their theory), I tended to be the only one my father approached any time the opportunity to make money did rear its large, sweaty head.
“Hey, Pearl! How’d you like to make two bits?”
My first discovery in the world of work? Contrary to the sound of it, two bits was not two of anything but rather a single, lousy quarter.
And so the ground floor of servitude was laid; and from that time forward, I was employed.
That is, until I was 32 – when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, including being fired.
The week before Christmas.
During my performance review.
I was confused and tearful. Nothing my boss had written in my review sounded anything like me or my work habits. How had I failed? How was I not a model employee?
Nancy, the smug, ostentatiously wealthy woman seated comfortably behind my walking papers, shook her head in a mock display of concern. “I’m sorry,” she said, smiling. “We could put you on a performance plan, but you’d just burn anyway.”
A week before Christmas.
During my performance review.
I was given a box and escorted out of the building. Nancy followed.
I turn around to face her as I leave the building. She had been astounded, just two months ago at the company Halloween party, by my intuition and ability to tell her things about herself, had even offered to introduce me as a psychic to her friends.
I use this now.
“I’ll never see you again,” I say ominously. “But I can tell you this: neither of your daughters will graduate high school on time.”
Nancy’s mouth falls open.
I continue. “One will drop out in the 11th grade. The other will leave in the middle of her senior year to have a baby.”
I smile at her. “You will be terribly embarrassed and will not tell your parents.”
Sure, it was childish, but the look on her face kept me from crying as I drove out of the parking lot.
It did not keep me from crying on the freeway.
The end of December, all of January, these are the worst times to be unemployed; and as January slipped into February, I started to worry.
And then I got a call from my brother.
My brother owned, at the time, a hardwood floor company: installations, patches, refinishing. Did I, he wanted to know, have a valid driver’s license?
Don’t do it! my brain screamed. Don’t do it!
"Of course I do," I said. "Why?"
And so began the worst job of my life.
When someone asks you a question like “do you have a driver’s license”, what this means is that you are soon to find yourself in the company of people for whom the answer to this question is “no”.
“Do you,” Kevin asks, “know how to drive a stick?”
“Yes, of course, I do.”
“What about drugs? You doing any drugs?”
“I’m unemployed,” I tell him curtly. “I can’t afford drugs.”
“What about young men?” he asks.
“I can’t afford those either,” I said.
“No, I mean are you okay with working with men? Men who may have criminal backgrounds, sudden meetings with their public defenders, men with various interesting dental problems?”
“OK, Kiki,” I say. “What’s going on here?”
Kevin laughs. “I’ve got the majority of my workers in the workhouse right now. They can leave for work but we have to pick them up. I got other business, so I need you to drive them to the job sites, maybe do some work, and drive them back.”
I am intrigued.
And then Kevin says something that cinches the deal.
“I’ll pay you $15 an hour. Cash.”
Come back tomorrow for Part II, wherein we find ourselves on the receiving end of a contact high and learn a valuable life lesson.