Sunday, April 6, 2014

Manual Labor, Family

As a young man, I worked a variety of jobs. The ones I had the most problem with and lasted the least amount of time were the physical ones that required lifting or standing for five or more hours at a time. Maybe my lack of stamina was caused by Mitral Valve Prolapse. I don't really know for sure, but I report to work early, want to work, and want to get things done in the right way. Good intentions don't account for much, however.

Life has thrown me many tests that called upon my weakest traits. I was a short-order cook for a fast food restaurant, a bag boy (they call them customer service associates now, I believe), ditch digger, delivery truck packer, and apartment maintenance technician. None of these jobs I did well in. I didn't crash and burn. I got along reasonably well with everybody, but was only mediocre in performance. I didn't seem to have enough get-up-and-go. I took to eating candy at work for extra energy, but that only went so far.

Delivery truck packing was the worst. I got up at 2:30 AM in the morning, reported to the delivery facility by 3:30 AM, and packed trucks from then to, I believe, 8:30 AM. My back was killing me all the time. One day, I called in and told the boss I quit. He seemed quite angry, but I didn't see any other options with the back pain I was experiencing. Curiously, he said that in order to pick up my last paycheck, I had to report to his office and answer a questionnaire. He said this was a corporate requirement. He explained it as a safeguard to ensure I was not going to claim discrimination or hostile working conditions. I had claimed nothing of the sort. I think the real purpose was to educate him on how to weed out applicants like me sooner. He asked me why I was quitting, whether I felt I was discriminated against, what the problem was, and so on and so forth. I think it's fairly obvious I'm thin and don't have a lot of meat on my bones, and that's about the only criteria he needed to consider during the application process. Anyone with a clear pair of eyes could see loading a truck with heavy packages was not my particular strength. Perhaps he should have adjusted his bifocals instead of playing twenty questions with my paycheck.

As a college student, I worked as a ditch digger for my uncle. He paid me $10 an hour, which was a pretty good wage for unskilled labor back in the day and, sadly, still is, twenty years later. Wages have not changed much in twenty years, although prices have. My uncle was a great guy, a smart executive. I liked him very much and wanted to please him. I did a lot of digging with a shovel and moving earth with a wheelbarrow. I also clipped hedges. But again with the back pain. After a couple weeks, I quit that job, too. My uncle said that he thought I should get some sort of job using my mind, not my body, and of course, he was right.

The last interaction I ever had with my uncle was with that job, but I think part of that is that my uncle and father never got along. The job was a highly unusual interaction with my extended family. I think my uncle perceived I had some sort of potential and for that reason extended an invitation to work. Or maybe he just really needed someone to dig those holes. His son wasn't doing it. His son drove thirty miles to pick me up to do it, and then he would drive off and I wouldn't see him again. As for my uncle, he suffered from back pain himself and didn't do any digging, either. He told me he thought I could do it because I was younger. Being younger helps, for sure, but it's not everything.

My extended family was never the "stay-in-touch" kind. Not only do we not have reunions, but it has been a good twenty years since I've seen any cousins, uncles or aunts, and I expect to go to the grave with the status quo. No sort of bond was formed early in life, so that's that. Geographical distance and my being gay are additional factors that cement the separation. Family can be pretty difficult for a gay kid. If he is very effeminate, then possibly he can bond with female cousins, but my female cousins were teenaged and only interested in hanging out with their friends and with boys their age. Anyway, I'm not very effeminate and am not the type of gay that can establish instant rapport with women. I don't think I ever had a conversation with a female cousin that lasted more than two minutes. Because I was a boy, I was expected to play with the one male cousin that was my age, but he wanted to play rough and mean and do things with guns. He got in trouble often. He wasn't interested in any of the things I was interested in, such as board games or books. The other cousins felt they were too old to associate with me, probably because they were doing illegal drugs and hanging around loose women and didn't want me to rat them out. Eventually, we lost touch altogether, and I think they were the main ones that opted for that outcome.

When I got married, it never occurred to me to suppose that any one of them would be the slightest bit interested in my life, so none received wedding invitations. This seems to be quite common in modern society, although my readings have indicated to me that the past was different, that families were closer and that they tended to help one another. But I suppose a lot depends upon the family and the people that make it up. Life's a roll of the dice. The only people who attended my wedding was the married straight couple that drove us up to the free state and a gay friend of that couple. No one related to either of us nor any of our close friends attended our wedding.

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