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It’s A 5 O’Clock World, Or: Have Tombstone, Will Travel

Daily writing prompt
What jobs have you had?

In my life I have been, among other things:

A Videomonger At What
Was Once Called A “Blockbuster”

This was, in fact, the first three jobs I had, and is still my favorite one to this day. Of course, a good chunk of that has to be that I associate it with the freedom of young adulthood, before responsibility and credit scores and back pain found out where I live, but there was genuinely something special about being a Guardian of Stories, of knowing my regular customers and what they liked, and that they knew they could rely on me to give them something that would suit them, comfort them, horrify them, or blow their friggin’ minds. I’ve often thought that if ever I should come into some truly stupid, do-whatever-I-want-for-the-rest-of-my-life money, one of the first things I would do is open and run a video store for the joy of it, for the sense of community that surrounded them, and in remembrance of a thousand Friday nights spent at the corner of L & 30th, trying to decide between Critters 2 and Gremlins 2.

A Door-To-Door Grave Salesman

Exactly what it sounds like, and I never sold a single one; in retrospect, I can see why people weren’t eager to discuss death with a 22-year-old who showed up at their door in a burnt umber leather overcoat and, as part of his sales pitch, reminded them that failing to plan for the eventual leads to “trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with G, and that stands for ‘grave’.” I am amazed that I wasn’t stabbed many times in my face and legs.
Nevertheless, this remains a pleasant memory for me; I would canvas the neighborhood reminding people of their pre-booked ticket to The Undiscovered Country, then walk to the hospital where She Who Is Now My Wife worked and read the paper until she came down for lunch, and we would do the crossword together or I would read to her.

A Man Who Made Potions In A Traveling Show, Except It Stayed In One Place, And I Didn’t Make Anything, And Also It Was Vitamin World

Now listen: I’m not going to give you some inside scoop and say vitamins are a complete scam. I take a multi every day! Does it do anything besides give me mint-burps from the mint they add to cover up the fish-oil taste? Unknowable. What I will tell you is that I once saw my boss pitch a capsicum-based supplement to a customer saying “the heat from the pepper literally melts the fat away”, so, your mileage may vary.
Another time, that same boss wouldn’t let me go to a doctor’s appointment because we didn’t have coverage for the shop, and it turned out I was VERY sick and ended up having a grand mal seizure in my ASL class and biting my teacher as he eased me to the floor; this is bad enough, but what’s worse is that he didn’t tell me this until two years later, so for that entire time I was filed in his head under That Kid Who Bit Me Once. It…really didn’t help that, being Deaf himself, and ASL being an extremely expressive language, he made sharky rawr-rawr motions when he told the story.

A Flowermonger At The Costco

Every weekend I stood at the flower-cooler and if people wanted flowers, I bundled and bagged them, and sent them on their way. “Show friends and loved ones you care! Confuse your enemies!”, I’d cry, in betwen making signs for the flowers reading “Imported From Krypton” and “Ethically Harvested By Unionized Mole-Men At The Earth’s Core” and “Fertilized By Unicorns” and “Telepathic Roses, Will Keep Your Secrets In Exchange For Water”, which Costco would immediately take down and chastise me for, on account of them being “confusing” and “lies” and “a little wordy if we’re being honest”.
It turns out everybody’s gran has a different secret-wisdom method for keeping flowers fresh after you cut their stems, and I heard them all; a penny in the water, a drop of bleach, a drop of 7-Up, a drop of vodka, and I’m not here to vouch for any of those, but I’m also definitely not about to call anybody’s old gran a liar or unversed in the Ways. The only thing I know for sure works is if you cut the stems at an angle, like penne, which increases the surface area through which water and nutrients can travel up the xylem, and that you should trim it a little every day because bacteria build up and clog that flow.
This was a super relaxo job, I got to read and practice my ASL until somebody needed flowers from me, it was always nice and cold thanks to the cooler, and I got to wear a cool green apron with tons of pockets where I kept my rubber bands for the stems and my inhaler and copy of Shogun, and I still wish I’d stolen it when I left. It’s one apron, Costco, what could it cost, seventy dollars? Although it did try to kill me once, when a rubber band wound up inside my inhaler somehow and made it halfway down my throat when I took a snootful.

A Reality Television Transcriptionist

Okay, so when you’re watching Hell’s Kitchen or Jersey Shore or whatever, and it cuts from the action to that person sitting in a little room, commenting on what’s happening?

“And now Chef Ramsay Is calling me a ****ing g***-j***ing w***ant, which is strange ’cause I don’t think my mom has ever even been to Surrey’s meatpacking district”

The cool, cool, depressing, cool truth behind these is that they take place at the end of the filming day–or sometimes the next day! Or a week later!–and they’re done in hours-long blocks where an interviewer says “Okay this is when Chef Ramsay said this thing, can you give me ‘And now Chef Ramsay is calling me…'”, and they’ll go over it as many times as is necessary until they’ve got a reaction or thought on every event in the episode from every cast member. Why every cast member? Because while I wouldn’t go so far as to say things like MasterChef Junior are ‘staged’, exactly, the production team definitely shapes the story according to things they already know because they’ve already been filmed. So if you know Kid A is going home in three episodes, you can pull a clip of Kid E saying “They’re really struggling…I don’t know if they have what it takes to stay here” to craft a more satisfying narrative where children can cook and are psychic, which is one of the universal stories found in all cultures.
Anyway, my job was to transcribe these interviews, which would be used to piece the episodes together. I actually got to work on a lot of really neat stuff; some travel documentaries, a show on world religion that Reza Aslan did (and one just on The Church Of Happyology), one about “self-made billionaires” (spoiler: in this context, ‘self made’ means ‘only started out with a million or two in liquid assets from mom and dad’), contest shows about the ‘maker’ community and people who competed by hand-forging weapons, a chilling documentary about the history of plutonium and fission in warfare (which came at the WORST FUCKING POSSIBLE TIME), some medical shows, and even some police interrogration footage, which was horrible. But mostly it was your MasterChefs and Tattoo Nightmares and Are You The Ones and, for my sins, Party Down South, Floribama, and yes, Snooki’s wedding.

An Autoglass Clerk

The only thing I did at this job worth talking about was run the Twitter; all you need to know is that we had a $100 cash-back deal:

An Urgent Care Guy

Working in healthcare during the Pandemic broke me in ways that’ll take the rest of my life to unpack! So that’s fun!
I also saw humanity at its absolute best, kindest, and most patient and merciful, and that’s not for nothing; it can be two things. The older I get, in fact, the more I realize that most things are at least two things.


Let them know you realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last

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