writing chapter 11.3
Nathan wished he could be a tester. But he was grounded forever. He had to race home from work (school) every day and stop all his extracurricular activities (work). For the months Dad was out of a job, he had to participate in family time in front of the TV, and do extra chores, and come up with more sports tickets. Worse, Nathan had to feign an interest in Dad’s interests, like sports and disaster shows. Dad didn’t watch CSI because he didn’t care about the how or why, he just wanted to see people being killed, and they never showed that. He didn’t like talk shows because he couldn’t follow the arguments. He wouldn’t watch sitcoms because they were always about strange people he didn’t like. Only in sports did anybody actually risk life and limb. His fantasy job was to be a journalist embedded with the Navy Seals.
And for awhile he had a lot of time to fantasize because he couldn’t find a job. There were no lateral moves possible. He couldn’t find another retail store to manage, he couldn’t use his experience and connections to move up to a better job in some other industry’s corporate offices. If he’d known somebody and had a business degree he might have been hired on as a consultant. But Dad didn’t tend to have contacts with people on his level, or kiss up to the higher ups in hope of promotion. He really only associated with his inferiors, the crew of workers he managed and the customers, most of whom he wouldn’t care to know any better.
His experience couldn’t get him a job at McDonald’s except as a burger flipper, and even Walmart declined to make him an offer. UPS and Kroger probably thought he was too old, because he filled out a form and never heard back from either of them. Of course he didn’t have an email address, but nobody told him he needed one. (Damn that Nuthin, he should have known, he’s got an email address.)
Which meant Dad sat in his chair drinking beer all day for a long time. Trying to make friends with his son, to talk like two adults. But the brat was always in his room studying. Dad never caught him out once. It wasn’t right for a kid to sit himself in his room like that. So what he was making straight As, that’s what he was supposed to do.
Everyone celebrated the day Dad got hired to work at Big Behemoth Inc. It was a temp job, with no benefits, no insurance (which was bad because Cobra payments were breaking them), but it was work, so he took it. He became a picker, working in an enormous half-million square foot warehouse, running as fast as he could from shelved item to conveyor belt going to the mailroom to the next shelved item maybe half a mile away.
At first he couldn’t do it. His fat old butt just couldn’t run for 10 hours straight. With Xmas coming up the load kept getting bigger, and the counselors kept yelling at him to go faster. Then the workday got longer as Xmas got closer. 11 hours. 12 hours. Bending over, reaching up, crouching down as fast as possible. No drill sergeant ever demanded this much. And still they told him what a piece of shit he was, and warned him he had to improve drastically or he’d be fired. He’d already found out that he had to say, “Sure, Boss, whatever you want, I’ll grow wings, Boss,” because if he said he was giving them all he had, they’d hear “Won’t” and find someone else. Three million orders a week. 14 hours. Five more weeks before Xmas.
Xgiving? He missed it, he had to work. Black Friday? Pulled a double. And he took so many aspirin that his stomach was soured by the end of the day. Then he went home and took twice the usual dose of real pain pills, pounded back a few beers to try and make up for lost time, and was groggy the next morning when he had to be out of the house before dawn.
He could feeling himself failing. It was too much, it was too hard, he was too old. He was cut out for a different life, not to be some tiny little cog making ten bucks an hour. And for his cog on his wheel at ten bucks, the smaller wheel it turned paid its cogs a hundred bucks an hour, and they turned a smaller wheel making a thousand bucks an hour. The cog on the smallest wheel of all made a million bucks an hour, and it turned the wheels of progress. The wheels of history, of government, of wars for profit and dominance.
The wheels that ran over guys like poor miserable Dad. But Dad sucked it up and jogged 15 miles a day on aching feet, because that was his lot in life. His real job was to provide for his family, and here he was doing it with every ounce of energy he had, 70 hours a week at half what he’d made running the parts store. He hoped somebody in Management would notice him. This motivated him for some time, fantasizing how easy it would be for him to pump up the numbers. But they told him he was no longer needed right after Xmas, along with the other 5,000 temp pickers, and he was back to sitting around drinking all day while Mom had two jobs.
Mom had found a part time job calling people who were delinquent on their students loans. The work was dispiriting because everybody had a good reason to be late on their loans. and the amount they owed was immense, and the payments were frightening. And most of them were unemployed, or worked for minimum wage in a place that didn’t require a degree.
She worried for Nathan. Bright as he was, there were so many others with greater advantages vying for any career he might choose. But at least he was going to college.
It looked like Sis was going to drift for awhile. She had no interest in going to college, she seemed to think she was destined for a fairytale life of fame and fortune. And she might well have been, except that she was allergic to work. If she could have gotten someone else to do all the hard work for her, then she could take all the glory – that was what Sis was like. Where did she get it from? Not from Mom, Nathan was more like she was. Sis got it from being Daddy’s little girl, that was the problem, and Mom couldn’t hope to counteract such an influence.
In the end, the kids would go their own ways. Mom should be thinking more of herself. She found she liked working two jobs. It kept her out of the house, which was good, and it gave her a lot of confidence to be the major, and sometimes the only breadwinner. She wouldn’t say anything to Dad (or Sis) of course, but she was proud to be supporting her family, giving Dad a break while he recouped. He’d worked hard all his life, it was her turn to shoulder the burden. Okay it was a pittance, and it was distasteful work, and nothing she wanted to do as a career. But the extra demands gave her more energy. She was more lively and interested in what went on around her.
Dad wondered if she’d found a boyfriend and increased his efforts to check up on her.