I was about to write yet another long-winded ramblethon about my job, and stopped myself in the middle of the fifth paragraph.
I stopped myself, because in the middle of typing, I realized that I have become so much more like my father than I ever thought was possible. Not the unfortunate and inherently bad parts of my father – the guy I used to refer to as The Sperm Donor – but the hard-headed & dedicated parts of him. The parts that made him someone that was loved/revered/respected/feared/hated by the people who worked with him throughout his life.
I remember being a little kid and waiting for him to get home from work, just so he could pick me up and wrestle with me. Sometimes he would bring home work with him, and we would sit at the kitchen table together – me with my crayons and butcher paper, and him with his yellow legal pads filled with his handwriting that seemed like it was all some kind of alien hieroglyphics – the men of the house, getting shit done. Every now and then, he’d toss aside his work and snatch up a handful of crayons and start drawing stuff with me. These are honestly some of my favorite memories from my childhood.
I think the first time he took me to work with him, I was around four or five years old. He was working for a printing company in Manhattan, and had some work to take care of on a Saturday. I remember driving into Manhattan with him, and seeing those old-school cigarette billboards, the ones with the smoking cowboys blowing perfect smoke rings out of their fifty-foot tall mouths. I also remember my father carrying me around his facility on his shoulders, and that all the people that worked with him were very excited that I was there. One guy had an eye patch, and I asked my father is he was a pirate – that cracked everyone up.
My father was showing me all of the crazy machines they used: presses, folders, pneumatic blades that cut through hundreds of sheets of paper at once. I noticed that the gentleman who was using the cutter was missing parts of three of his fingers, and asked my father what had happened, and the semi-fingerless fella answered right away – “No matter what you do in life, Sean – ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION!”
Advice I still adhere to, to this very day.
That first trip was so amazing to me, that I found myself always asking my father to take me to work with him on Saturdays. Sometimes he would comply, but I think it was mainly to just get me to shut up. I didn’t realize until much later on, that he was taking me there with him and leaving me with the Pirates of The Bindery (where the fingerless and one-eyed fellas worked with their dangerous machines), all so that he could sneak back out of the building to ball women other than my mother.
When we moved to Arizona, he landed a job at another printing place. I was in my teens at that point, so my summer jobs were always there at the facility. One summer in particular, I worked the swing shift as a press feeder – basically the guy who keeps the machine loaded with paper, and also the guy who uses nasty solvents to clean all of the excess ink off of the rollers. The press operator I was working with hated my father, because my father was the type of guy who would break your balls if you weren’t giving 150%.
Needless to say, Paul (the press operator) hated me as well. He would go way out of his way to fuck with me every day, to see how far he could push me. I never said anything to my father, because our relationship at home was pretty strained at that point, what with me getting caught with an entire dresser full of reefer by my mother. All of my pay that summer was going toward paying for my own therapy, since my father had decided he wasn’t going to pay for it anymore.
Paul had been pushing and pushing, and one day when he was at lunch I had decided that I’d had enough of his shit, and it was time to teach him a lesson.
Paul always kept extra packs of cigarettes underneath the light table where we checked the proofs of whatever we were printing. I took one of his packs of Winstons, opened it up, and took some of his smokes with me to the gardening supply store up the block. I bought the smallest possible amount of fresh fertilizer one could buy, and set about packing the tips of his smokes. For those who do not know what that means, “packing the tips” means taking out some of the tobacco from the end of the cigarette, and the refilling it with whatever you want. I got pretty prodigious at this skill, since this was how I was smoking reefer in the back yard and not getting caught.
When Paul came back from his lunch, I made it my mission to snake his current pack of smokes, so that he would go for the loaded ones. It worked like a charm, until my father came in and asked Paul if he could bum a smoke off of him.
All three of us were out on the loading dock smoking, when my father started giving me The Eye. Paul, the fat fucking slob he was, just kept on sucking down his shit-filled stick, not even noticing the difference. He was probably coked up out of his mind anyway, and couldn’t taste anything. My father, on the other hand, sidled up next to me and asked me “What the fuck are you up to, Sean? You trying to kill him? If this is opium or something, I’m going to fucking murder you.”
At least my father never sold me out on that one.
In my current life, the one in which I am a Hebrew Slave, continually pushing mud bricks up a sandy incline for a thankless and cruel Pharaoh, I find myself thinking back to how stupidly hard-headed my old man was. He never stayed home from work, no matter how sick he was. We stopped taking family vacations once I started high school, because he was too busy to take time off from work – he always ended up selling his vacation days back to the company. He went in early. He stayed late. He worked weekends. He brought work home with him.
All of which, are the same fucking things that I do. Hell – to a degree, I even work in the same fucking industry.
I need to really re-evaluate the things that matter to me, and I really need to do it quickly. I don’t want to be so much like him that I end up working myself to death before I’m sixty. The fact that I have been working like this since I was 13 or 14 is not lost on me, either. I know this is going to be a hard thing to change, but I have no choice.
I spent a lot of my time as a young adult being angry at my father for the stupid shit he did in regards to me and my family. And now, because I myself am a workaholic, I realize I spent far too much time focusing on certain aspects of him that I didn’t want to have happen in me. When I was focused on not being an adulterous alcohol-fueled overgrown teenager, the workaholic asshole who puts working before living crept in and took hold.
Time to kick that motherfucker in the nuts.