Thursday, August 18, 2016


This was a thing on Facebook last week.

Apparently everyone was doing it. Which is usually a good reason for me to abstain. I'm not big on following the crowds.

Also, because I was raised by such an authoritarian father who placed an undue emphasis on work and because my life has been so defined by work, I thought a listicle could not do the early section of my resume any justice.

But a blog piece could.

1. Newspaper Delivery Boy -- The kid in my neighborhood who had the franchise was giving it up. Pretty sure he left to go to a Hitler Youth Camp. In any case, I took over. And by chance also snagged another adjoining neighborhood route, essentially giving me two routes. And increasing my chances by 100% that some MILF-y housewife would choose to pay her eternally-horny 14 year old newspaper delivery boy in the fashion favored by Mrs. Robinson. That never happened.

2. Jackster -- I turned 16 (legal employment age) on a February 28. On February 29th, I was hired to be a Jackster at the Spring Valley Jack in the Box on Route 59. It was the very first JIB, built on the east coast. I flipped burgers, fried tacos, swept the parking lot, scrubbed the toilets, and on several occasions donned the clown outfit for lazy parents who threw their kids birthday parties at a Jack in the Box. If I close my eyes and want to torture myself, I can still smell that polyester clown suit with its aromatic mixture of B.O., fryer grease and the tears of many scarred children.

3. College Dormitory Dishwasher -- I could've saved a whole bunch of money had I decided to go to SUNY, the State University of New York. And had acceptance letters from Buffalo, Binghampton and Albany. But my father decided I was going to Syracuse University, one of the most expensive universities in all the land. And that I was going to pay for the privilege. I spent more time in the Brockway Dining Hall dishwashing room than I did at Calculus 101, Biology and Introduction to Russian Literature. "The best four years of your life," I was told. Bullshit.

4. Bartender -- You get a little older, you get a little wiser. By my senior year in college I had managed to convince the financial aid office to subsidize my education. My streetwise father had also done me a solid. He hooked me up with two NYC guys who were in the mob. These 'mafioso' were setting up a new bar on the campus -- essentially to launder cash -- and hired me to be a bartender. They showed me how to mix drinks, though it was hardly a discerning crowd, fed me and paid me extremely well. It was a great job that put me next to the two things I loved most -- alcohol and women.

5. Forklift Driver -- Three weeks after receiving my college sheepskin, I bought a cheap one way ticket to Los Angeles. Didn't know a soul. Had no money. And not a clue what I was doing. But the company that employed my dad also had a distribution warehouse located in Gardena. And when I say Gardena, I mean Compton. Like the scenario from the movie Carwash, I was the sole white boy on the crew. A crew that was largely Crips, Bloods and future Crips and Bloods.

6. Mailroom Clerk -- Who knew that as current CEO of my own company, I'd be joining the ranks of many other CEOs who also got their start in the business world by pushing that damn mail cart around? It was the break of all big breaks. And for that I will always be grateful to the folks at Needham, Harper & Steers or as we affectionately called them Needless Hard-ons & Tears. You can learn a lot from being a grossly underpaid indentured servant. An errant boy. A slave to the wishes of anyone positioned higher on the company org. chart, which would be everyone. Mostly, you learn about Ambition and getting out of that damn mailroom.

7. Recruitment Advertising Copywriter -- Finally, and in a fitting way to close the circle on this piece about jobs, I landed my very first writing gig at Bernard Hodes Advertising. Penning Help Wanted ads. This was a lifetime ago. But there's true irony here. This was before computers, so writers and art directors had more than a day to work on an assignment. We also didn't have planners. We didn't need them. Kaiser Permanente needed nurses so we wrote ads about nurses. Similarly, Dodge has a year end sales event or Pizza Hut needs to hawk some $10 deal, you do ads about a year end sales event or some crappy $10 pizza. Why do we need insights or a briefing deck or a communications platform strategy session? Why godamnit, why?

Also, I had my own office. Writers don't get offices anymore.


george tannenbaum said...

I also resisted the listing of my life, though I'm proud that I worked my way through boyhood, my teen years, college, etc.

1. Paperboy.
2. Aluminum sider.
3. Game-room attendant at Playland.
4. Security guard at Barnard College.
5. Copywriter at Montogomery Ward.
6. Copywriter at Bloomingdale's.
7. Copywriter at Marschalk (an ad agency...finally.)


Well, neither you guys have berry picker (low yield fields, since they didn't want to waste opportunity on the slowest berry picker on the farm) at the Overtake Blueberry Farm outside of Seattle. Made a whole $40 for 3 weeks work.