ADVERTISEMENT

Withering Glance: Working hard for the money

  • Article by: Rick Nelson and Claude Peck
  • Star Tribune
  • September 3, 2011 - 3:10 PM

CP: Journalism is a great job and all.

RN: Says who?

CP: But when the hour is wee and the drinks half-empty, my rapt listeners don't want to hear about the fourth estate. I regale them instead about driving cab, swabbing decks and delivering mail.

RN: Those blue-collar jobs were just your way of rebelling against your country-club background, weren't they?

CP: You and your piercing commentaries. I seem to recall that before you got your MBA, you were a tattoo artist for a while. 

RN: Close. I put myself through school by toiling in a Super Valu warehouse. My dad got me the job, which meant that I worked. Really hard. As in, I lost 30 pounds in 14 weeks. It sure made me appreciate my cushy frat-boy life back at college. I felt like Tom Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie."

CP: Were you an actual Teamster?

RN: A card-carrying member, baby.

CP: Well, I was a Merchant Marine, so there. My job as a deckhand on a Great Lakes iron-ore carrier was also in my dad's footsteps. He had done the same thing for one summer when he was in college. I think he figured it might "man" me up or something. As if.

RN: I wasn't going to say anything.

CP: I worked hard, but also read my way through Dostoevsky, to refine my already oversensitive nature.

RN: I hit rock bottom when, working as a substitute teacher -- truly, the worst job, ever -- I took an industrial-arts assignment at an Edina middle school. By the end of the day, I was nearly suicidal.

CP: I like the image of you in a classroom full of rambunctious suburban sixth-graders yelling "Mr. Nelson! Mr. Nelson!"

RN: Stop it, you're killing me.

CP: When I drove nights for St. Paul Yellow Cab, I was practically pimping for a particular "sauna" that promised me a $5 tip any time I brought them out-of-town clients. I started dressing like I was in a Dolemite movie.

RN: When I was punching a time clock at Dayton's in the late 1970s, a favored practice among my colleagues was removing our name badges and taking a break, midshift, in the bar at the Oak Grill. I'd get slightly sloshed, although I can't recall if I used my employee discount.

CP: Neither you nor readers want to know about the after-work parties at Frank's house when we all were stockboys at Jewel Foods in Hubbard Woods. For Frank, after work was no different from at work. We had to cover for him on a regular basis, when we found him nearly passed out on top of the cardboard- baling machine.

RN: My role model. He's probably running a hedge fund by now, right? Whereas me, the goody two-shoes, is still typing for a living.

CP: What you do is so much more than mere typing.

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com

Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

© 2014 Star Tribune