My current struggle with returning to work after an 18 month hiatus (thank you googirl) seems to be stirring up deep feelings of nostalgia for my old retail jobs. Jobs where I got to work crummy hours for even crummier pay in the employ of slightly (sometimes very) batty folks. What is there to miss? I worked retail for a long time. Granted, it was the best kind of retail - a record store and a used book store and NOT your shiny happy mall record and book stores but independant, old school storefronts, jam packed to the rafters, grotty around the edges, hand written label kind of places where people liked to linger. I got to do mindless menial tasks like straightening shelves, pricing, vacumming, data entry, stapling posters to the wall. And I got to have long conversations with strangers about music and books. At both jobs I got to listen to music all day, usually my choice. I think that is what I am nostalgic for. Solitude and good tunes.
Here follows a list of jobs where the listening was good.
1. My first job for my Dad who was a land surveyor. I worked alone in a second floor office in a red brick building on the corner of Elizabeth and First St. The air reeked of ammonia from the blue line printer. I drafted plans while listening to CBC - Peter Gzowski in the morning and Vicky Gabereau in the afternoon. Still a CBC addict.
2. Dish pig - Camp Kitchi, Beausoleil Island. God, I loved this job. Having never been to camp as a kid I was thrilled to be there even though it meant twelve to fourteen hours of rinsing, pulling the lever down on the Hobart, getting calluses on my hands from the scorching hot melamine. It was a big old wooden kitchen with windows hinged at the top. When it got too hot we yelled "Kitchen Dip!" and ran off the end of the dock in all our clothes. We listened to Cowboy Junkies - Black Eyed Man, Crash Test Dummies - Ghosts that Haunt Me, Barenaked Ladies, Moxy Fruvous and Laurie Anderson. Pop Quiz - 10 points if you can name that year.
3. Building giant puppets. We spent the first month of the summer building and rehearsing in a little old church just north of Queen St. I ate a roti almost every day for lunch. Potato and spinach. I spent the days up to my elbows in wallpaper paste, listening to Nirvana Unplugged-Live in New York, Hildegard Von Bingen, Ani Difranco, Alanis Morrisette - Jagged Little Pill.
Pop Quiz Part B - Again, name the year for ten points.
4. Record shop. List of albums too large to type here. Okay, highlights: Black Grape, Liz Phair, Rough Guide to Hawaii and Space Capades but Phil had to be there, Wilco's first album, Diana Krall's Nat King Cole tribute album, Lou Reed, Emmylou Harris - Wrecking Ball, Fugees, Eva Cassidy, Billy Bragg, PJ Harvey-Bring You My Love, Gram Parsons, ok it goes on and on. Sigh.
I was going to include my current stint as mom-at-home but I realized that smith's job is perfectly suited to good listening. I sometimes catch the fringe benefits of it on my way past to the laundry room or as I sweep in to retrieve a too-boisterous monkey boy or goo-girl but that's it really. I did get to witness monkeyboy's searing Queen sing-along this afternoon. "Can any-bod-ee faheeeeennnd meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee sumbuddy to love!"