Four things about one thing

It’s been interesting to watch the “four things” meme spread. It took several days between the first time I saw it and the time someone actually threw me into it, and it sort of came from LiveJournal and seemed to move from less trafficked blogs to more trafficked ones.

Anyway, I looked over the stuff and realized I could do the four things for friends of mine before I even read their responses. I’m sure any astute reader here could answer my four things for most every category. So instead, I just want to focus on the one section I’ve talked least about, and expand a bit.

Four jobs I’ve had

1. Bikeshop employee, 1989-90.

Pretty much any hobby that becomes your life’s passion ends up costing about $2,000-$3,000 a year to maintain. I’ve seen the pattern take hold during my own obsessions with hiking/backpacking, computer dorkery, and especially cycling. When you’re young, coming up with enough money to keep your bike from constantly being broken is tough to do, so working at a shop is the best way to make ends meet. Most shops are known for giving employees bike parts at cost (about 40-50% off), but the one I worked at only gave 10-20% off which I secretly hated, but I went through parts so fast it was still a good deal. It was the perfect job to have at age 17 and if you spent more than 4 hours a day on a bike, it was the perfect job for a lifetime. I frequently ran across other bikeshop workers that never left, all the way into their 40s.

2. Pizza Delivery Guy 1991-1993.

I worked at three different pizza places during my first two years of college, two of them were small unknown franchises and one was a huge national chain (rhymes with Feeza Butt). It was shit pay and added wear to your car, but you got tons of tax-free tips and it taught me a few life lessons. Avoid eating national chain pizza if you can. National chain food prep aims low — you have to keep costs down but you can’t have every customer getting e. coli, so the economic optimum is just barely above safe for eating. I also learned that smaller franchise pizza shop employees can’t be trusted. I was one of three managers of one place and years later I ran into an employee after the place folded and found out I was the only one in the shop that wasn’t skimming from the till. I never thought people got away with that stuff but two managers cooked their books and took home enough money to cause the owner to close down a year later. On the flip side, I once worked for a place that required me to wear day-glo t-shirts/hats, answer phones by saying “Hot and Tasty $brandname Pizza!”, and the owner was a lying bastard that I would argue with from the moment I entered the store until my shift was over. After six months of working there and not getting a xmas bonus or card (every other shit job I had gave me at least a $20 bill in a card at xmas), I sat down and wrote him a long letter about what a jerk he was for it, and I ended it with a giant “FUCK YOU.” The funny part was I showed up to work the next day fully expecting to work and was surprised when he thought I quit, and wouldn’t let me work. He closed the store down a few weeks later with some convoluted tales of missing several night’s profits by a series of unlikely mishaps.

3. Environmental Engineer 1997.

Having finished my BS and MS degrees, it took me about a month to find an environmental job at a consulting firm. The pay was low and I had a temporary cubicle with a 486. The office environment was close to what you see in Office Space or The Office (US Version) — mind-numbingly boring and my primary task was preparing environmental impact reports and support packages so Sprint could put up PCS cellphone poles all over Southern California. My day to day work mostly involved making copies of city hall records, faxing stuff, and sometimes delivering documents to city halls around the southland. It was glorified pencil pushing and anyone out of high school could do it. I was so happy to leave this job for my first web design job and I distinctly remember my coworkers saying the internet was just a fad that wouldn’t amount to much and I was making the wrong choice.

4. Professional Web Dork 1997-2006.

Still in progress.