Show Column: Odd Jobs
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
I never celebrate Labor Day. Mainly because I never actually “worked.”
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m lazy or a no-good bum. It’s more like I’m inept. And unlucky.
I’m definitely not a salesman. Realized that in second grade. Our class was asked to go out and sell some bags of flower seeds. No problem. I knocked on the door of my neighbor. The lady answered. I showed her my bag of seeds and asked: “Uh, you wanna buy some seeds?”
She said “No”. So did the next neighbor, and the one after that. My seed selling ended that day. Zero sales.
I also had a paper route in grade school. Briefly. Delivered Sunday Milwaukee Journals. Huge newspaper. Lots of pages. My first day, in the winter, I carefully put all of my papers into a little red wagon. Pulled that wagon through ice and snow for about a block. Very windy out.
Then the wagon tipped over. Newspapers blowing all over the sidewalk and street. I went home, finished with the newspaper delivery business.
Then as a freshman in high school, I tried my luck at roofing. LeRoy Issacson, a friend of the family and wonderful carpenter, asked if I wanted to do some “roofing” for him. I said: “Sure. What do I have to do?” He said: “My crew of three guys and you will go to a house.
You will help shingle the roof. We’ll give you a hammer and some nails and you can pound some shingles on the roof..” It sounded pretty easy.
This might be a good time to tell you that I hate spiders, am afraid of heights, and don’t have a fondness for big dogs. So we all showed up at a house in the Goerke Park neighborhood. The boys had a big bundle of shingles set at the top of the roof. A nice flat roof? Nope.
That steep roof had two sides that went straight up and down. If you put a golf ball on the peak, it would roll right off the roof. I crawled inch by inch to the top. Took me about ten minutes to get all the way up. Then I saw a big black spider. This wasn’t going so good.
When I finally got to the top, and it was a tall roof, I peeked over the edge and looked down into the back yard. And looking straight up at me was the head of the biggest St. Bernard I’ve ever seen in my life!
Within five minutes, I was back on my bike heading for home, thankful that my roofing career was over.
Then came my first job at the Stevens Point Rec Department. Dave McDonald, the “Rec” director and a swell guy, hired me to “wax” the spiffy rec lobby. Supposed to be a piece of cake. You turned this machine on and guided it along the floor. He showed me how to operate it and left.
When Mac was gone, I turned the thing on and look out!! Instead of moving in a nice little circle, the wax machine shot right across the floor with me holding on for dear life. It went right through the front door with me hanging on. Suddenly, I was on the sidewalk outside, and the darn thing wouldn’t shut off. I waxed half of the sidewalk. I pushed it on the lawn and that ended my waxing project. The lobby floor never got waxed by me, but the rec did end up with a quite spiffy cement sidewalk.
A year later, I got hired to work at the Red Lantern, a fine pizza place near the college dorms. My first shift was for three hours. I cleaned off a bunch of grease from some stuff in the kitchen. Then came the softball game the next night when I dislocated my shoulder sliding into second base at Iverson. Never went back to Red Lantern.
Then I signed up at the rec to announce softball games. The whole first week was rained out.
I reffed city basketball games. Or more accurately, one game. Actually, about one minute. One minute in, a player yelled at me so I walked off the court.
After high school, I worked at Northside IGA as a carry-out guy and bottle sorter. That job had some promise. Until the place burned down.
I was a security guard for a local furniture plant. Loved that job. So they moved to Mexico.
I bartended at a tavern downtown for a few years. Got pretty good at it. So they tore the bar down to put up the mall.
Then they tore down the mall.
So look, please don’t ask me about Labor Day. I’ll just stick to writing this stuff.
Until my computer crashes.