Names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me.
All through university, I maintained one summer job. My cousin told me wondrous stories of easy work, plentiful tips, hilariously lax management, and abundant sunshine. I was wooed, and though I couldn’t hold down her exact job (lacking the necessary secondary sex characteristics to drive a golf cart, open cans of beer, and look pretty), I could certainly hold down a different bummer job at a decent wage.
Working at a golf course was exactly the kind of thing I needed—sophomoric, low-impact, simple. I needed a vacation from thought, the long, drudging months of study and commuting to school, the deadlines and the textbooks. If I earned money while being completely vacant and not working terribly hard, all the better. I sometimes fantasized my sun-dappled months on the greens might fuel the teenaged summer job film that constantly reeled in my head or, failing that, an amusing chapter in my eventual best-selling autobiography. “Caddy Calamity would be the chapter title, or alternatively, “Songs of the Hotdogsmith.”
I was rarely paid well, but then I never really rose to the occasion that would call for it. Skating by was ludicrously easy when most of the other people who held my position were vastly incompetent or actively stealing, and as the least objectionable indoor staff member I was afforded a wide berth of acceptance. I could place a stool behind the cash register and read all the live-long day, I could and would regularly tune the television to the Simpsons and gaze dolefully into its glow. If I ever felt the particular need, I probably could have rolled down the security gate, curled up behind the meat freezer, and taken a long nap, and been commended for being well-rested for my job. Such was the relative horror of my compatriots, most of home I suspected wore tinfoil hats at night or inhaled solvents in the women’s toilets.
Really, though, I had no choice but to be competent, as the work was so deliriously simple I felt sometimes certain that I was on hidden camera reality television. Transactions were simple and required basic math only when the cash register was broken. Serving involved walking the metre distance to the fridge and occasionally opening a bottle of beer or plugging a feculent tube of processed meat log into an over-cooked wedge of bun. To say a trained ape could do it was an assault upon the character of the ape family. I could not have been bad at my job if I tried.
My bosses the first two years had problems running deep in their lives, which left them largely bereft of managerial skills. It also left them, vitally, without any interest in either micromanaging or managing me at all. While they would regularly come to check on me high as kites or paranoid and vacant, they were rarely capable of doing any work or offering even the vaguest criticisms of my pitifully simple and thus immaculately finished work. Their presences were like gentle, idiot winds casually drifting through open doors and drafty windows, barely noticeable and easy to evade.
Dave, my manager the first year, had nepotized his way into his position. Some found his pot-addled, lackadaisical style to be annoying, petulant, and childish, but I found it charming. Sure, I had to regularly follow him around the stockroom, recording whatever items he decided to take for himself or his chronically hungry, idiotic cronies (during that time, there was a specific glyph, a stylized “D,” that I indicated in the stock logs next to whatever items Dave decided to raid). Sure, he was terrible with money, and had problems with even the simplest addition, and maybe didn’t have the brain capacity to drive a car or respirate. But he also left me completely, blissfully alone. He regularly gifted me various items from the store room and left me ludicrous tips and let me leave early and also didn’t really know my name. “Great work tonight, Alex,” he would say, a pillar of smoke emerging from his nostrils as if summoned from the beyond. “Have a Gatorade on me.” His whims were many and capricious, and formed my only entertainment late in the evening.
The second year saw a different boss, a distant relative with rumoured run-ins with the law. People whispered about his addictions, his debts, his desperate neediness. In contrast to Dave, Peter was constantly on edge, twitchy and anxious, checking money over and over again before disappearing into the night. With the number of things on his plate, with his constant nervous energy, with the effervescent tinge of anguish and frenzy about him, a halo of worry.
Under both of these regimes I flourished in laziness and wanton abandonment of the idea of “employment.” At my workplace I did most of the things I would have been doing at home during the summer holidays: watching TV, reading books, playing on my laptop. My cellphone bills would skyrocket in those months as the outgoing texts detailing the minutiae of my tedious, humdrum job spread to every person I had ever known. No one would ever dare question my commitment or capability because several of my relatives also worked there, and we were the only people who had never been suspected or confirmed users of methamphetamines. By comparison, my blasé disregard for anything approaching commitment or engagement with my work was still a staggering tower of efficiency. That I wasn’t regularly found stuffing frozen hot dogs into my shorts or pouring dish soap into the coffee meant I was candidate for employee of the month.
And thus these halcyon days were an Elysian paradise on earth. A time of utter lack, a time of effortless existence in which I was paid a government stipulated mandatory minimum wage plus tips from people when I pretended to like golf. It seemed like such a land could never be tarnished, could never diminish from its perfect, expectation-free cocoon of laziness.
Alas, a storm was on the horizon.