It’s Not About Now, it’s About What’s Next: a brief retrospective of my work history.

I am a man who has had quite a few jobs.

My first job was delivering newspapers on Sunday morning. After that, I worked briefly at a bagel place. Then I bagged groceries at a grocery store, but that job never went really well. One day I got caught coming back from Subway when I should have been out in the parking lot collecting empty carts. After that, I went to work at Joker’s where I manned Lazer Tag, fixed broken video games by doing one of two things- opening them up and flicking a switch or throwing tokens at fat kids, and built a mini golf course.

During summers when I was in college I made pizzas, stamped tax stickers on packs of cigarettes, and worked a register at a gas station.

In college I managed the soccer team and then went on to work at the bookstore. For one semester I signed people in and out of the science building on a night when very few people actually went into the science building and for two weeks, worked at the alumni house- bugging old people for money. I also worked briefly in the kitchen of a fondue restaurant before getting fired because I called out sick an hour before my shift started (didn’t see the problem then, I do now.) During the summer before senior year I worked for a moving company, strapping boxes and appliances \to my back and filling the role of “that funny white kid.” I liked that job and learned how to sleep in the back of a moving truck. One day we drove past a maximum security prison in rural Maryland and Drew, the large African American fella driving the truck casually mentioned that the prison was where Tank did some time. Tank was in the truck behind us. Once school started I worked at Barnes & Noble- a job that looked much better on paper. Much better.

After graduation I went to work as a deckhand at Casco Bay Lines, the ferry company that runs out of Portland, Maine to six of the islands in Casco Bay. It was initially just a summer job; a brief layover before whatever I was going to do next. But then student loan bills started showing up and four years later, I was still there. I played in a band during that time as well, but we frequently didn’t make any money- so I wouldn’t really call that a job.

I moved to Philadelphia at the end of the summer of 2006, quickly realizing that coming from Bay Lines, I had unique skill set that didn’t necessarily translate to success in the Philadelphia job market. I went on one interview at a now defunct Philly restaurant called the Striped Bass on the recommendation of a former Bay Lines’ deckhand. He said to just come in and not to even worry about bringing a resume- the interview in his mind was just a formality and more of a meet and greet. Unfortunately what was in his mind was not really what was in the restaurant manager’s mind whose first question was- “do you have a resume?” The manager’s second question was “what do you know about the Striped Bass?”

“I know it’s on Walnut Street,” I said. The manager and the assistant manager both looked at me. The restaurant was a Stephen Starr restaurant, which I would eventually learn was kind of a big deal in the city.

“In the future,” the manager said. “I would do a little research on the place you’re applying to before coming in for an interview.”

I did not work at that restaurant.

Thankfully my interview at a small sports store in Center City Philadelphia went better and I went to work there, selling high-end sports equipment. The store’s whole thing was that it would beat anyone’s price. Someone would call looking for a bomb ass new Bogner jacket and I would quickly do a Google search, seeing what prices were and then offer them the jacket for 10 to 15% cheaper. I don’t know how the owner of the place made money, but I do know that he seemed stressed a lot. When they started slashing my hours after Christmas, I walked out- the only time I had up and quit a job on the spot. At that moment, it felt great. A few moments later, it felt regrettable. Such is life I guess. I spent the rest of January looking for jobs, going to grad school and watching the Wire before going to work at a hardscaping company out in the suburbs. What’s hardscaping? Well it’s a slightly more intense version of landscaping. Oh yeah, for a while, one summer during college I worked at a landscaping company. I forgot about that. It didn’t end well, a very forgettable experience.

Well one day, as I was building a staircase out of small boulders, I decided that the job wasn’t really for me even though I liked my crew chief, a Pakistani named Faris, who had a great sense of humor and terrible teeth. A few months earlier, I had applied for a job with Mountain Sports International, an event company, but at the time, there wasn’t much work so the boss at the time told me to check back in the spring. In between boulder-moving I checked in, telling him I was ready to work. That was my last day boulder-moving. The stairs looked great.

For the next three years, I worked at MSI- by the end of the summer running their Philly office and then eventually traveling all over the country running crazy events, drinking crazy beers and working with crazy people. This was a great job, but one that ran smack into a wall. Again, such is life. The work with MSI was very much a what comes up, must come down job and without fail, when things came down, I started working on my resume and job hunting. Idle time + Ryno = nothing all that awesome.

Now I work again in the suburbs of Philadelphia, this time at Special Olympics Pennsylvania. I wear collared shirts that I tuck in and only wear jeans on Fridays- Casual Fridays. My office has windows that don’t open and I’ve traded in a warehouse for a storage unit. I never thought I’d be someone who would sit in traffic with headphones on, but that’s how I spend the delightful time of day between 4:30 and 6pm Monday through Friday. I miss flip flops and shorts and randomly spending a week in an equally random American city. I miss my favorite job, working as a deckhand at Bay Lines and spending ten hours a day outside on the water.

But, if I’ve learned only one thing from all of my jobs is that you never know what’s next in life and that trying to predict what comes next is pointless. It is not original to say that life is full of unexpected twist and turns. So here is something original you could say about life- money will keep you in place, complacency will keep you on the move, and shitty bosses will motivate you in ways they probably don’t want too.

Now if you excuse me, my coffee is cold and needs to be refilled.

Categories: Life Lessons

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