Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Dirty Job

My least favorite part of the lawn-mowing job was the isolation. Most of the time I was driving all over the Twin Cities to get to my clients' homes or doing the actual mowing and weed-whacking with headphones on (but not the kind that play audio). That got lonely, although it did give me a lot of time to think, which was nice. It was often "meditative," as people like to say nowadays.

Driving around on weekdays, I noticed all the people who were doing the same kind of work as I. They usually drove pickups with trailers hauling multiple large mowers designed for huge lawns. I came to envy them, just for the trailers, since they didn't have to lift the mowers out of their trunk like I did. I felt a little solidarity with them, but we never crossed paths except in our vehicles. I didn't think I'd have much in common with them anyway.

But I had a nice exchange with a blue-collar guy at a SuperAmerica near Hamline University in St. Paul. We were all using the facilities there, and he made some meaningless, friendly small talk with me while we were waiting for the restrooms to come available. It was a tiny gesture, but it struck me as unusual and even heartwarming. I wasn't used to that in the white-collar world.

Occasionally, I'd stop at gas stations to use the bathroom or buy a water bottle. (Strange synergy there.) That gave me a sense of being working-class, my dependence on those quasi-public facilities. The restrooms are dirty and poorly maintained, because they aren't money-makers, but I still appreciated them. They made it easier to do a job that I liked.

CorpWorld offers plush accommodations, but the soul-rot it engenders makes those luxuries hollow. Even with the heat and humidity, the sweat, the dirt, the (almost literally) back-breaking labor and the gas fumes in the car (from the portable gas tank in the trunk for the mower), I still preferred the lawn-mowing job to any of my corporate gigs. Because I was helping people in a direct, tangible way. And getting a lot of exercise and fresh air.

Maybe it's my preoccupation with appearances that kept my in the corporate world for so long. I probably figured, if it looked better than those other sectors of the economy, then it would feel better.

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