Today I’m going into work at the ol’ pizzeria for what should be the last time for a long while. This of course necessitates a “rebranding” of my blog and personal website as I am no longer “one of the most over-educated pizza cooks in the world,” but rather, a “textbook editor with just about the right amount of education, maybe a little light on experience, but with a plucky can-do attitude.” Career-wise, I’m just about where I ought to be.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing funny about that.
Previously, I was a tweed-jacketed bow-tied professor type forced to labor in a menial job for low wages, and that was hilarious because of course I’d gone to college and gotten all stuffy and was like “I say, I simply do not fathom how to go about these many and sundry labours,” and all my coworkers were all like “no, you gotta relax and be cool man, and learn how to let your hair down and dance, DANCE!” and along the way I made some friends, drank some colorful and fruity tequila drinks, and then we all rode a five-person tandem bicycle down a hill, kicking our feet out to the side and shouting “weeee.”
In short, i was alive with flavor.
I’ll never forget my time as a cook, mostly because I can never shake the feeling that I might someday have to be one again. I’ve said goodbye to restaurant work many times in the past – in high school when I went to work in the video store, when I left college to become a security guard, and then when I went to grad school. In all of those cases, some pizzeria somewhere had its door open for me when I had to come back, and for this I am genuinely and sincerely thankful. No there’s no joke there. Here, have some horse pop.
We all fantasize about quitting a job in some big dramatic fashion, like telling our bosses what we really think of them, or finally sweeping that hot girl in HR off her feet, or burning the place to the ground and dancing on the charred skeletons of those coworkers who mocked you, mocked you, for so very very long but who will never mock again because with their slaughter you have appeased Vorgoth, black lord of the east, and when you hear the siren’s wail you know that it is the dire bleating of Vorgoth’s immortal flock, his dread goats of murder who come to release you from this sickly mortal coil, yes, by the seven moons of Hadleareath, it’s working, IT’S WORKING, I CAN FEEL THE POWER! – but so few of us do.
No, mostly we hope for a good reference, or a safe port to which we can return should the need arise. I think instinctively most of us know that any job, whether it be one we despise, one we love but have to leave, or one we just tolerate, might not seem so hard, so poor, or so boring in the future. I myself spent a lot of time at the end of summer applying for help desk jobs when I would in fact rather cook – a truth reflected in the fact that I cooked rather than fix computers for the last few months. Also, I’m an MCP in Windows NT 4.0 – who even uses that anymore?
My old man has this wooden placard hanging in his office, engraved with a quotation from Elbert Hubbard and the quotation reads:
“Remember this: If you work for a man, in Heaven’s name, work for him. If he pays you wages which supply you bread and butter, work for him; speak well of him; stand by the institution he represents. If put to a pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must vilify, condemn and eternally disparage – resign your position, and when you are on the outside, damn to your heart’s content, but as long as you are part of the institution do not condemn it.”
It took me quite a while to learn what that meant, despite reading it at least once a week since I was old enough to do so. I used to think it was a lot of corporate yes-manism, a lot of “ra ra go work for the moneyed classes as they break the backs of the poor,” but that was then, and as I get older I’m sympathetic.
I think back to bashing the people at one of my old employers for being middle-class drones, to badmouthing and then quitting one company in a huff because the man the next desk over was paid more for the same work, and to numerous petty thefts against the people that basically kept me from starving, and though I’m hardly ashamed, I certainly feel like I’ve got some bad karma coming my way some day.
I don’t burn bridges. I don’t storm out. I do tell the boss what I really think, because if you don’t respect someone, if you can’t get along with them, and if you can’t vest some sort of interest in your work, then you shouldn’t be doing it. I say this pretty much every week about writing, but it’s no less true for the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick maker.
Now, I’m going to spend the remainder of my morning editing textbooks, and then I will go to make pizza – once more unto the breech! If you are in Royal Oak tonight, go ahead and drop by: Buddy’s Pizza, Woodward, just north of Normandy. I won’t “hook you up” as a matter of principal principle, but I’ll make you some good food and I’ll appreciate the thought.
Looking Back – 26 May 2021
Like yeah, kind of?
It’s 2021 and the labor market is in a weird and awful place. The minimum wage has not gone up in like 20 years, most people are struggling to make ends meet, and COVID 19 has kept people out of work for the last year. I’m not going to pretend at any point a false equivalence between geese and ganders. What I said back then was true enough in my own case, but maybe not for others – and I think it’s even less so now.
I do think overall that if you’re working for an organization, you ought to emphasize where its concerns and yours intersect. I think that if you work for an organization you ought to be interested in its well-being and you should work to that end.
That’s a two-way street, and too many employers do not give a damn right now about their employees. They don’t provide benefits, they don’t provide a living wage, they don’t even provide a regular schedule.
So what do I say to that?
I say fuck ’em. If you can’t pay an employee decently, you don’t deserve to be in business. I think that if a business is “bailed out,” the first recipients of any welfare should be the workers, and then maybe, maybe, after multiple investigations into liability & criminality, maybe the shareholders & owners & other managers etc. get a little security.
But more on that later. I know the SSS archive will have more than a few posts about labor & work and I’ll deal with these themes later.
For now I’ll mention that while I did indeed quit the pizzeria on or around November 20 of 2009…but I was right back to it within a year. I have a LOT more complaining about that particular editorial job coming up in the archives, but long story short: I wound up working at Buddy’s for at least another year after this.
However, I no longer usually feel like I may have to go back. I’m secure in my employment now, I’ve got my PhD…I just knocked on wood. This post is something of a testament to the insecurity one feels growing up poor, however. No matter how far you go and how much you accomplish, you’re reasonably sure disaster is just around the corner.