PyroManiac devotes Monday space to esoteric and offbeat things, in the hope that these will supply learning experiences for us all.
The worst job I ever had
I mentioned last week that my Dad was a roofing contractor and I worked for his company in my high-school and college years. I worked on a roofing crew every summer of my life from 1969-75. I also did roofing during most winter breaks throughout my college career.
Roofing paid pretty well, but it was miserable work. The hottest place to work in summer is a roof where there's no shade. The coldest place to work in winter is a roof where there's no protection from the wind. Roofing isn't prestigious work to begin with, but I was always at the bottom of the hierarchy on every crew I worked with. (Being the boss's kid is no advantage in the mind of any roofing foreman I ever knew.)
That meant my normal jobs were shoveling gravel and carrying huge buckets of hot asphalt. But the worst jobs involved tearing off old roofs. It was filthy, hot, sweaty workand some kinds of roofing-pitch are very irritating to the skin and eyes.
I used to dream of a desk job in an air-conditioned place, and to this day when my job becomes stressful with deadlines, I simply reminisce about roofing and instantly realize how much I dearly love what I do.
The easiestbut weirdestjob I ever had
After college, while I was settling into my first full-time job as a book editor, I worked a second job (for about a year and a half) as a night clerk in a downtown Chicago funeral home. It was one of the better and more interesting jobs I've have ever had. About ninety percent of the time when I was on the clock, I was also sound asleep. With my boss's blessing.
Someone had to be there at night, because Chicago's city morgue had limited space at the time, so police protocol required that bodies from police cases where murder was not suspected were delivered to the nearest funeral home. (This would include suicides, deaths by exposure, deaths of indigent people, and a whole lot of other strange situations.)
That's why the Chicago Police frequently delivered bodies without warning in the middle of the night. We received on average only one or two nighttime deliveries per week, but someone had to be there, and that was my job. I would drag myself half-awake out of bed, answer the doorbell, show the cops (with the deceased) to the embalming room, inspect the corpse and prepare it for storage, and then put it on the slabor if necessary stick it in the fridge. (We had one of those body refrigerators with long trays that rolled out. It had two compartments, but we used it only if decay had already begun.)
Then I'd sign papers, show the policemen out, and go back to bed. I slept on a rollaway bed in a room furnished with display caskets.
It sounds really creepy, and I guess it was. But the job paid well; it was low stress; it was very quiet; and it eliminated the need for me to rent an apartment.
Besides, I was still single and dating at the time. I concocted a test: If my date was too queasy to tour the funeral home (it was where I lived, remember), then I knew she wasn't the girl for me and I wouldn't date her a second time. I eliminated a few hopefuls that way.
Oddly enough, I met Darlene just after I quit working at the funeral home. She says she would have been totally repulsed by my funeral-home lifestyle, and she wouldn't have dated me if she had known I lived there, or if I had ever tried to get her to go there with me.
God is good.