Friday, May 09, 2008


When I was a bairn on the farm, my grandfather would give me jobs. He would always pay me a dime no matter how long the job took or how hard it was. He also gave me math problems to work out. "If you have eight acres to fence and a post at every eight feet, and posts cost $1,25 each, what will be your total cost for posts?" Looking back, I think he might have been trying to get rid of me.

My first job outside the family was working for a man who made stair treads from scrap carpet. I would ride my bike across the ridge and gather up scraps from the scrap into big heaps and tie them together with twine. I also got to cut some treads with a device that was pretty dangerous in retrospect. I was thirteen years old. The stair tread guy became a millionaire. He was the same guy who would get drunk and ride his daughter's Shetland pony down the road. Go figure. Dalton was a town of opportunity in those days. Damn my father for not becoming a textile millionaire!

Anyway, I gave up that job when I went to high school. Then I got a job at the new McDonalds on Interstate 75. I did a little of everything but mostly worked as a cashier because I could do all the sums in my head. In those days, we had a pad and a pencil and had to add the items together before ringing them up. It took a genius or an idiot savant to get it right. I was a whiz. The only thing that messed up my rhythm was special orders. Those were hard for McDonalds in those days. A burger without a pickle would throw a wrench in the works, let me tell you. The menu was simple then. No breakfast, no nuggets. Just burgers, the Big Mac the Quarter Pounder and the Filet O' Fish. Also pies and fries plus soda pop, coffee and milkshakes. I knew the price of everything and every conceivable combo. There was no reward for competence, so the gig was short lived. I moved on to the new Burger King for a brief stint.

I mowed many a lawn and hauled hay and did ad hoc and odd jobs throughout high school.

I worked at a bookstore and Hallmark card shop for a while. I got fired because I called in sick during the XMas rush. I got a work study job in the AV department of my community college.

I was a shipping clerk in a carpet factory. I was a night watchman many times. I was a substitute teacher for a few months.

My first real job after college was for an employment agency for teachers. All the company did was call school districts and find out what jobs were available. Then we'd refer clueless would be teachers to those jobs for ten percent of their first year's salary if they got the job. It seemed a lot like grifting, so I quit after a few weeks. I was an usher at a movie theater at night and quickly rose to become a relief manager. By day, I tried to sell expensive calculators for Monroe. I was a terrible salesman, so I decided after six months to give that up and go to law school. I kept the movie theatre gig, though. I also joined the Army Reserve and got an enlistment bonus. I spent the summer of 1981 in Basic Training and MP School.

In my second year of law school, I became a campus cop and left the movie business. That job got me tuition remission benefits and all the pot I could confiscate. It was a night job and involved very little in the way of actual police work. We didn't like to bust the students for anything what with their tuition payments being so important to the school, but we made quite a few arrests of intruders from the city. I had keys to everything. Some Arab guys offered me a bribe to steal an exam for them from a prof's office, but I declined. I had standards. I once arrested an entire fraternity and its pledge class and all their scrogs. Good times.

In my third year of law school, I figured I had better get some experience in the legal field, so I became a law clerk in a small firm in Silver Spring. I also did some work for a lawyer in Alexandria and another guy in Rockville. Because of injuries sustained in a car accident, I had to do my last year part time, so it became a four year program for me. I continued clerking while I awaited the results of my bar exam. It was a pretty interesting job, and I got a lot of experience with pleadings and motions practice in a general business setting. I wrote briefs for several appeals and worked on a crapload of commercial closings. I conducted investigations and handled the admin work for one of the partners in his capacity as a bankruptcy trustee. I got to conduct quite a few auctions. The firm offered me a job as an associate when I was sworn in, but I didn't want to end up like the other hapless associates in the firm, so I took a job with the Court of Claims of West Virginia and moved to Charleston.

This accounts for my early years. I was still trying to live out my dream of being a drifter.

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