Dreams are the darndest things. They bring back memories that long ago got snowed under in your subconscious.
I had an odd one last night. The dream involved an old employer from 25 years ago. It was the type of job that you know won’t last very long, but you’re thankful for it until something better comes along.
At the time, the only experience I had in the work world were summer jobs and the two jobs I had while working in Indiana—security guard and med tech at a medium security prison. Oh, and I had done some direct care at the old Pineland Center after washing out as a college baseball player and waiting on God to send me to the middle of the desert, aka, Northwest Indiana; but I digress—back to the dream.
I landed a job working at a box distributor in Portland. Actually, I was told we didn’t sell boxes; we sold corrugated packing material. They were boxes to me, but I wasn’t going to split hairs.
It was located in an industrial area off Presumpscot Street and my job was in shipping and receiving. It was a small operation owned by a wealthy businessman who lived in Falmouth. Like most wealthy businessmen, the owner was diversified—he owned several similar small businesses and paid just a bit above minimum wage. With my young family and living with my in-laws, I was anxious to be onto something bigger and better.
Actually, this was job #2 for me after getting off the boat back here in Maine; the first one was a temp job that I found through Manpower at another box factory (what’s with the boxes?) where they had me humping around large paper cores on a hand truck that weighed about 700 pounds and grinding them up. When I tried to use the fork lift, the mental midget that was my boss yelled at me for daring to take the easy way out. Apparently I was unqualified to drive the fork lift. When I looked around and surveyed my co-workers, who by-the-way were qualified to drive the fork lift, I didn’t think they had anything on me, so I thought I’d take a better approach. Doing things differently wasn’t what they had contracted with Manpower for, apparently. The monosyllabic clowns passing as my co-workers on this assignment used to cash their checks on Friday and all gather around the latest porn mags they picked up at lunch. Needless to say, I was happy to leave that box factory in Auburn and move to a better one in Portland.
My dream made me remember being told by Bill, my manager that the owner needed some work done at his house in Falmouth. This was 1987 and pre-Interwebs, so he handwrote directions to the bossman’s house. I knew when I was driving over and turned onto Route 88 and began noting the houses getting larger that my duties as houseboy were going to be done at one of those kinds of places in Falmouth that guys like me don’t go to—unless they’re performing some menial task for the owner of some small-scale box warehouse.
Upon arrival, his attractive wife directed me to the garage and told me that “Peter wants you to trim the hedges.”
“Son of a bitch.” I knew nothing about trimming hedges. Where I grew up, we had a few lilac bushes and that was it.
This neighborhood was lush with greenery and some damn fine looking hedges. Did this trophy wife not know that I wasn’t a trained gardener? Apparently not.
Not wanting to seem stupid and trusting Bill the manager, I found an electric hedge trimmer and a power cord and set out trimming the long line of bushes.
Settling for a strategy of minimal trim and following the previous cut, I managed not to mangle this guy’s greenery. About halfway through the job, Mrs. Bossman brought me out a glass of lemonade—by that time I was sweating profusely, partly from the heat and partly from the stress of damaging some rich guy’s shrubs in Falmouth’s high rent district.
“Oh, they look great.” Was she talking about my guns or the hedges? I guess I’d passed the test and should have embarked on a career as an arborist.
Thinking back on those days makes me laugh (now). What kind of idiot gets high-end hedges trimmed by his shipping and receiving lackey? Oh, rich idiots do. It also makes me realize how little things have changed. There are still plenty of guys like this previous owner, living large and trying to cut corners at the same time. Some of them don’t even pay any taxes.
I’m just glad I’m no longer being asked to trim their hedges.