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Work Weirdos: A List

My road from unemployable teenager in Wisconsin to middle-aged, balding, crunchy yuppie in rural Massachusetts is littered with a lot of strange situations, jobs and people.

I dropped out of high school in 1990; I didn't get my GED until the mid-90s. I graduated from college with honors in 2002. In the interstitial period between dropping out of high school and graduating from college, I worked a lot of shitty, shitty jobs.

I had a bit of wanderlust that took me for stays in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Texas. In each place, I had the only minimum-wage jobs a high school dropout could get. I've probably had three-dozen or so gas station, assembly line, manufacturing plant and manual labor jobs.

Some things are the same about all crap jobs: the unlivable wages, the degrading and dangerous work, the endless cycle of poverty and wage stagnation. The other truism I found was that there was always going to be a character or two around.

Here then, are the strangest co-workers I've ever met.

1. Mr. Freeze.

We worked together at a Motorola plant together in the early '90s. He wore two or three sweatshirts every day, plus a wool hat with earflaps and thick gloves when he wasn't on the line, no matter what the temperature. He never stopped complaining about how cold he was; all shift long he would shiver and sit on his hands.

It wasn't until we had a Christmas party that we found out why; his wife explained that he had been locked in a storage freezer overnight several years ago. She told us that he was never able to get warm after that.

2. The Goblin.

Also a Motorola co-worker. He was a fiftysomething former minister from my hometown. He creepily remembered me from a Vacation Bible School trip 10 years earlier that I had no recollection of.

We called him the Goblin because he was the guy who raided the refrigerator when no one was looking, and yet would eat his foraged booty in front of everyone else. When an aggrieved party confronted him, he would shrug his shoulders and blithely claim that anything in the fridge was fair game. He drove several people to screaming madness.

There wasn't much management was willing to do about him; most people just gave up trying to bring lunch to work. But the end came for him the night he drank the breast milk a woman had been pumping for later. He was fired shortly after that.

3. Mr. 400.

The the most bitter person I've ever met. We worked the night shift together at a gas station in Lakeville, Minn. He drove 400 miles round trip every night from Ames Iowa - to work for $4.25 an hour. He said it was angry insomnia that made him do it; his wife had left him for his best friend.

So one night he climbed into his car and drove on Interstate 35 as far as one tank of gas would take him, and that was Lakeville. He stopped, filled up the tank and filled out a job application. When he got the gig, he kept doing the drive to keep himself from exploding. His car was full to the roof with old newspapers, laundry and gas station sandwich wrappers.

4. That French Canadian Kid.

We were busboys together in Ft. Lauderdale. He wasn't so much weird himself; I am including him because I spent one of the strangest nights I've ever had with a co-worker with him.

We were at a beachside bar in Lauderdale when shouting broke out on the beach. A man was drowning. The super-hot bartender vaulted over bar, ran into the water and rescued the man.

She dragged him to the bar, where he sat quietly, soaking wet, while she called the police. The police refused to come out, so she offered him a drink. He then proceeded to tell us that he was attempting suicide because he was Karen Carpenter's illegitimate son. The Carpenter family wouldn't have anything to do with him, so he was ending it all.

It was pretty obvious the soggy guy was a little off, but the French Canadian kid ate it up. He fed Mr. Carpenter cigarettes and drinks all night, while he spun more and more outlandish stories about his celebrity background. The evening finally came to a close when a drunk threw up on the bartender and she threw everyone out. I got fired the next day, and never saw the French Canadian kid again.

5. Pie.

Pie was a dreadlocked deadhead that I delivered chicken with in Libertyville. He only referred to himself in the third person, and only by the nickname Pie. No one else called him Pie, just Pie himself.

Pie wanted to know if I wanted to burn good ganja with Pie.

I got fired on my first solo delivery shift because I lied about knowing my way around Libertyville; my first delivery took two hours after I got lost.

6. Monkey Fucker.

Monkey Fucker was a short-order chef at a hotel in Rosemont. He was obsessed with the idea of having sex in a tree. Eight out of every 10 sentences out of his mouth were about how to talk his wife into screwing him in a tree. The other two sentences were inquiries into whether I had or would have sex in a tree. He made the meanest patty melt I've ever tasted.

7. The Go-Kart King.

His father owned the steel press plant we worked at in Kenosha, Wisc. Mr. Go-Kart was supposed to be the plant manager, but those duties interfered with his real job:racing souped-up go-karts. He was in his 30s and spent tens of thousands of dollars on the go-karts he kept in a semi-tractor trailer behind the plant. Instead of supervising, he was constantly working on his go-karts in the machine shop.

I went to see one of his races once; his next oldest competitor was no more than 16.

8. The Storm God.

He was the real floor manager at the steel press plant. The process we used to sinter the metal required running super hot ovens; the place was a sweltering, toxic dustbin. The south end of the building was lined with loading docks; we would keep the bay doors open to let in fresh air. Whenever a storm rolled in, he would become instantly physically agitated. He would pace back and forth hysterically, practically crawling out of his skin. You couldn't peel him away from the bay doors while he watched the storms; transfixed by the thunder and lightning, he would go stone deaf if you tried to talk to him. After the storm was gone, he would be sluggish and drained.

9. The Alcoholic Cheesehead.

Another assembly plant manager in Kenosha. He was a good-looking, good-humored, 60-year-old, raging alcoholic. Every morning, he would make a series of daily announcements on the PA. If it was the Monday after a Packers game, he would drone on endlessly about the failures and or successes of the game. Unfortunately for me, a Bears fan, this was during their Super Bowl years, so there were a lot more successes than failures. Twice during his announcements after a Packers game - and presumably a long, long drinking session - he passed out mid-sentence. I got fired from that job for accidentally running a prototype motherboard through an acid bath.

10. Me.

Somewhere out there, someone is telling the story of the really fat guy who had to watch the machine that didn't need watching.

I was working at a pre-made pasta plant in Michigan. I was grossly overweight at the time, and a little slow on the uptake because of extreme insomnia. The boss hated me and "my stupid ass, rat-tail mullet." He made me watch the wet noodle dryer for three entire days - 24 hours of my life spent watching pasta spin in an industrial dryer - because I was too fat to climb the stairs of the flour hopper. He fired me after the third day.

-

Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica



Permalink

Posted on February 19, 2010


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