Monday, September 2, 2013

If I Earned Wages for Working

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Scuba gear sounds nice. So does a weekly archery lesson. There are plenty of interesting things I'd love to try sometime. One of these days, I'll say screw it, I can recoup the loss, I just don't want to die without skydiving once, or seeing the great barrier reefs.

At least there's always enough money for used paperbacks. Two dollars for a handful of five from the bin they wheel outside the bookstore, or the same price for three at the Goodwill.

Slow day today. Well, maybe a slow week. I can't tell which one I like less, the ghosty midmorning hours or the lunchtime swarm, one just as boring as the other is frantic, but shit, I'd rather have a little of both than just stand here all day waiting for the clock to spin.

My son, at least, finds cheaper ways to have fun. I don't know what the original owner of the tire we used to make the swing payed for it, but it can't possibly have been as much as it's worth to me, and it came to me free.

It gives me something to stick my nose in, in the evening, after the kids have finally given up screaming in the next room and gone the hell to sleep. If it's a nice night, in the summer, anyway, when the crickets are chirping and the long grass sounds hushed and shaky in the wind before the dew starts to weigh it down, I'll sit outside in the creaky Adirondack chair and have a smoke while I read.

The holidays drive me crazy. Not, of course, that I can afford to look like I'm anything but busy. Elle, the girl who shares most of my hours working register and foam, is anxious as ever to tell the guy who hired me all about my “wasted time.”

My friend Sean welds at Corby's Auto, and they tear enough perfectly good tires off they could supply a whole neighborhood with swings. Except I got lucky with the only tree on my street big enough to support a dangling kid, except maybe the one in front of the Shakeley's, but they keep a nice garden and they wouldn't want kids in their lot.

The moths around the outside light make interesting shadows. Of course the kids know I smoke, but I don't just sit there making them breathe it. There's always a puddle on the seat of that goddamn Adirondack chair.

Heaven forbid I neglect to scour the filter instantly after every espresso shot. Elle's an angel, though, naturally.

My dad liked to kick a ball around with me in the dirt when I was younger, a game where you try to hit the other man's trash can, but I don't do that with my son; I don't want him running crazy in the street, the way people come around the curve like this is a highway.

There's always a puddle on the seat of the toilet next to the Chief Scientist's office, too. I wonder if he's ever aimed. That man always works late; I'd bet he's avoiding someone at home.

I'm glad I'm just a disembodied torso behind the barista counter because my shoes are totally scrapped. I'll go get new ones soon, but I keep on putting it off another pay period. Damn food is expensive.

The kid keeps talking about a game system, a Wii or a DS. I always thought the Atari was one of the best: Donkey Kong, Star Fox, Mario Paint. I bet I'll run into one of those by the road sometime after someone cleans out their old stuff.

He'd probably be embarrassed to hear me talk about him the way I do, but I don't think he even notices that the woman who cleans his restroom is the same each day, let alone gives a shit what she says. Sometimes I smile to think of leaving the “Temporarily Out of Service” cone in the men's room doorway all week. On the fifth day, maybe one of them would raise an eyebrow at me.

I'd rather get dinner with my friends, or with my girlfriend. No way do I want to pass that up for shoes, not this week, anyway. Next week. It would be nice if she'd come get a coffee tonight.

Today, I cut a copper tube to length, scraped out the black mildew from a grouted tile, helped a homeless guy find his way back out the cafe door,

argued with a homeowner about building codes I've never seen, mopped a floor, served eleven normal coffees with cream and sugar in a row out a little window,

sintered a pipe, tipped over a bucket with a mop and got screamed at, squirted chocolate sauce into a cup,

pushed a bunch of wires out of the way to make room for insulation, put a bunch of new blue sponge thingjobs in the urinals, scraped out the bin of used coffee grounds,

press-fit an end cap for soldering, flushed a toilet repeatedly until the turd broke in half, unplugged the one machine that keeps singeing the milk and switched to the other which is further away,

fastened a pipe to a wall with clasps, grabbed an orange rubber cone by the tip and swung it into place blocking the next restroom door in the hallway, wondered why people drink americanos,

went for a walk around the foundation just to unkink my back after kneeling a few hours, mopped up urine from twenty toilet seats, wished I could never smell coffee again,

held a two-by-four for another guy with a radial saw, refilled a soap dispenser, fiddled with my phone awhile,

had a smoke, thought about having a smoke but thought better of it, tried to scratch dry caramel out of a seam in my apron while the whole place stood stifling and deserted,

filled a tube with sand to bend it, went through four pairs of rubber gloves, horrified a customer when I almost grabbed a cookie without a pastry paper,

got called to fix the cooler in a programmer's drinking fountain, emptied a programmer's trashcan, frothed a $2.85 macchiato for a programmer.

I did all that today. At least the programmer said “thanks” to me, and said “Have a good night” to me, and “You too...” Still, I think it's a little weird that he earns a higher wage than me.

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