Ca­reer goals: no heavy lift­ing, no ties

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - CHUCK BROWN Chuck Brown can be reached at

Do you re­mem­ber your first job? How about your worst job?

Or do you catch your­self long­ing for your dream job? Maybe you’re still chas­ing it. Maybe you’re clos­ing in. Maybe it’s long gone.

I think I was a weird kid. Well, I’m a weird adult, so why would I not have been a weird kid? Of course I was weird. While the cool kids wore denim jack­ets with de­mon­i­cally cool patches of Ozzy or Led Zep­pelin, I wore beige khakis and Adi­das sneak­ers. I idol­ized David Let­ter­man in­stead of the rock gods of the early ’80s.

I was also weird be­cause I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I gave our guid­ance coun­sel­lor fits when I did my ca­reer as­sess­ment. The dot-ma­trix­printed re­port had me go­ing to clown col­lege.

My “dream job” was some­thing that didn’t in­volve man­ual labour or wear­ing a suit and tie.

Mis­sion ac­com­plished. I am, I guess, Cin­derella. I work in an of­fice and I can still wear beige khakis. No tie re­quired.

When I was younger I may have had a dream job: Na­tional Hockey League goal­tender. That’s a tough one, though, and I didn’t have the ded­i­ca­tion to the game un­til later in life — when beer be­came a reg­u­lar part of the post-game ex­pe­ri­ence.

I am for­tu­nate to have tried lots of dif­fer­ent things, though. My first job was pretty great. I de­liv­ered the Toronto Star door-todoor. What a gig. I started by fill­ing in for an older kid, then took over when he quit. The money was great and it felt pretty cool to sling the de­liv­ery bag over my shoul­der.

Week­ends were more in­tense. On Satur­day, I needed a hand­made pull cart to get around. Those pa­pers were huge. I re­mem­ber the New in Homes sec­tion ar­rived on Fri­day, and on Satur­day, the rest of the pa­per was dumped in stacks at the end of the drive­way. I had to haul the bun­dles in­side and as­sem­ble the pa­pers on the kitchen floor.

I’d get up early and of­ten had to wait for those pa­pers to ar­rive. I al­ways tried to get them de­liv­ered as early as I could be­cause ev­ery month of per­fect ser­vice — with no com­plaints from cus­tomers — meant I’d get a prize. I lost a lot of sleep in hopes of scor­ing a ball cap or a per­son­al­ized rub­ber stamp.

In high school, my buddy got me a job in a ware­house after school. It was awe­some. Us id­iots had the run of the place after 5 p.m., so we’d crank the mu­sic through the in­ter­com sys­tem. My job was usu­ally to sweep the ware­house floors for hours.

Or, some nights, I’d pack­age stuff in boxes for ship­ping. They were Oki brand cell­phones that the com­pany had re­paired. And I re­mem­ber hav­ing only a vague con­cept of what a cell­phone was.

From there, I spring­boarded to a cos­met­ics fac­tory and got a job mak­ing makeup. I used to mix up huge vats of pow­ders, bath for­mu­las, foun­da­tions, lip­sticks and per­fumes.

I never bought this stuff in stores and had no idea that the vol­umes I was work­ing with were worth thou­sands of dol­lars. Tens of thou­sands, prob­a­bly.

I did get a sense of the value one night when I spilled a large pot of foun­da­tion on the floor. My bosses seemed to be tak­ing this lit­tle mishap pretty se­ri­ously.

I’m grate­ful to have rounded out my pre-ca­reer ca­reer as a waiter and bar­tender at a ho­tel. Ev­ery­one should be a server at least once. It’ll teach you how to deal with the pub­lic and with some­times dif­fi­cult col­leagues and man­agers.

As a bonus, I learned how to cut limes. Or, how not to cut limes. I cut my­self open, prompt­ing some lessons from a chef (after some first aid treat­ment).

The ho­tel bar was some­thing else. I served lots of day­time rye and gin­gers, then tran­si­tioned into the evening sin­gles dances in the lounge. Both scenes were in­ter­est­ing and eye-open­ing.

I don’t ever re­mem­ber lov­ing those jobs at the time but I am get­ting a lit­tle nos­tal­gic. And, for­tu­nately, things worked out OK, I guess. I’m still work­ing. I’m still not lift­ing any­thing heavy. I’m still putting on my khakis ev­ery day and get­ting things done.

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