Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Work”

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Please don’t say I didn’t try. I really did. But the only thing I ever got was a headache, which is just as well as it saved me from becoming addicted to a substance that is at least said to be harder to kick than heroin. Although I’m not a fan of tobacco or tobacco companies, which have a sorry history of lying about their product, and as a non-smoker the last thing I want is my lungs to be filled with something that causes cancer (though let’s face it Joe Jackson was on to something), it’s still hard to see the photo below and not think it reeks of  the isolation connected both to contagious diseases and unruly prisoners:

800px-Airport_Munich_innen_2009_PD_20090404_026(Photographer: Politikaner)

I wasn’t aware until very recently that there were employees who were actually being tested for nicotine or that people were being turned down for employment because they smoked. Which of course raises the question, Whose Life Is It Anyway?

For those who have never heard it, why not have a listen to Sixteen Tons:

The Prodigy

Although I sat in the back of my 10th grade typing class and in no way resembled whatever image if any is conjured up when the word typist comes to mind, my teacher was absolutely delighted to discover there was a prodigy in her midst.

I’ve always felt it some sort of cruel twist of fate to be so gifted at something that is valued so little.

Like so many others, I worked my way through university. (For some reason we have to pay for our education. Of course, every society has its priorities, and ours happens to be this.)  Anyway, I had any number of jobs throughout the many years from start to finish – a decade in total – one of the most frequent of which was as a typist. Every job interview began with disbelief and ended in wonder.

The IBM Selectric was the Stradivarius of typewriters (though I had great respect for the Olivetti).  A picture of my instrument:

Selectric(Photographer: Oliver Kurmis)

It was not my first typewriter. In fact it was never my typewriter. My dad had his own business, much of the time operating out of our basement, so I had access to it. In grad school I was fortunate to be able to rent one from the library.

 My first typewriter was a Smith Corona. It was as cheap as the Selectric was expensive so it’s probably not fair to complain that the keyboard was like playing

696px-Ksylofon_ubt_0053(Photographer: Tomasz Sienicki)

instead of

Vibes_joelocke_koeln2007(Photographer: Nadja von Massow)

And while I always loved the sound of a typewriter forming words, others might prefer hearing the vibraphone, which I should add is a favorite instrument of mine.

Maggie’s Farm

As Dylan put it, “I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin’ me insane/It’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor.”

I’ve scrubbed floors. It’s back-breaking work. (Caillebotte’s painting is of floor scraping, but one gets the idea.)

I’ve also worked on a farm and will confess it’s very hard work. Waking up early, one finds oneself in the back of a pickup driven down long dirt roads with others who are as half asleep as you are. As dawn breaks, fields appear in all directions. You’re handed a hoe and given brief instructions. At that time of the day, my head was hardly full of ideas, but I can say that my runny nose, itchy eyes, and constant sneezing nearly drove me insane. Years later when I subjected my back to a tic-tac-toe of pinpricks to see what I was allergic to, it ended up being just about everything. Jokingly, the allergy specialist remarked, “I hope you’re not interested in a job in the outdoors.”

Working on a farm is only one of many jobs I’ve had. When in the mood I might just list them like Whitman did but without so much panache.

During high school I was a dishwasher at a restaurant. Considering I could have asked my parents for money, and they would have happily obliged, it appears I was properly imbued with the work ethic. When I wasn’t slaving away rinsing plates or loading them into the huge machine that belched out steam, I had free rein of the soda pop dispenser, which meant I was constantly wired with all that sugar and caffeine running through my veins. I thought it was a great deal, but then again I was being paid $2.20 an hour. Please take my age into consideration.

One evening while waiting for the waitresses to bring me more plates, I was fooling around with the radio dial and chanced upon a silver-smooth voice introducing The Modern Jazz Quartet. Jazz was found in the most unlikely of places.

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