One of the things being in the National Guard reminded me of was how hard it is to get a good-paying job when you’re in your early 20s. There were a lot of soldiers who worked at McDonald’s, or someplace similar. While I never worked at Mickey D’s, I had my share of those types of jobs:
This was really one of my first jobs. When you get the Sunday newspaper, it has all these sections in it like the Arts or Style section and the coupon package. That’s what we put in the newspaper, which was the Los Angeles Times. We lined it all the sections up on a counter, right to left, and picked up each section, and put it in the last section. Then we stacked the newspaper counter to ceiling. My fingers always turned black from the ink coming off the newspaper, and the concrete room always smelled like paper dust, dry and of the ink.
The worst days where when the Sunday paper had free samples, like a spaghetti sauce mix. It made for very lopsided newspapers, and we had to watch the stacks carefully, or they’d fall on us.
This was for one of those places where you slap all these stickers on and send in the paperwork to enter a contest. What they really want is you to buy the magazines. We were supposed to open the envelopes and see if there was any checks. No checks and it went into the trash. I lasted a day at that, deemed too slow. I just couldn’t motivate myself with the dishonesty of the whole thing.
I temped at this one company where the owner jokingly told me that my motor scooter had been run over by a truck. It only went downhill from there. I spent the afternoon answering calls from creditors who wanted payment for past due bills. Needless to say, when I returned to the temp agency, I told them about this, since they might have trouble getting paid.
Cataloging Motown Music
Motown records was bought by MCA, and they needed people to inventory their immense music library. We had stacks of boxes containing enormous reels. A sticker on the reel identified what was on the reel, so my job was to type the reel number and the songs on an inventory list.
This was in a pizza restaurant, and one of the jobs I was at the longest. I just served beer (Budweiser and Coors) and wine (Burgundy, Rose, and Chablis). The hours were all over the place; you might be working lunch shift today and closing at 1:00 a.m. the following day. Every day, the general manager posted shortages of cash on the wall in the washing area, and the employees were regularly accused of theft. They even went so far as to spend $500 for lie detector tests to find out who was taking the money. They couldn’t find who was taking the money. One day, the owner came in and counted the money at closing, then locked it up. The next day, he showed up after the general manager counted the money. The till was short again, though it hadn’t been the night before. The general manager was the one stealing the money, not only from the registers, but from the change machine. He’d stolen something like $65,000 and was going to pay it back $100 a week, though I doubt if the owner ever got all the money back.
This was my last job before I enlisted in the army. I worked at a temp agency that also owned a second business the floor below selling doll house miniatures. When I wasn’t filing, I inventoried tiny plates, chairs, and tables. I remember they had an artist who did these little paintings on the plates, like the designer ones you see advertised sometimes. Every Christmas, I also ended up wrapping gifts that were sent to the companies we did business with — eel skin wallets (baby soft), executive pens, and that kind of thing.
After that job ended, the Berlin Wall fell, and the Los Angeles aerospace industry took a big hit that rippled out to other businesses. It was even harder to find a job, and that’s how I ended up looking at the army as an option.