Space Mine Balladeer

I was intrigued by the story this week that some above-average billionaires are proposing to explore space for a way to accumulate even more wealth through the burgeoning not-yet-an-industry of Space Mining. The idea is to find precious metal rich asteroids, and to plunder them with robots.

These machines will then somehow deliver the spoils to Earth where already fat portfolios will swell with an infusion of Space Cash. I suppose that’s the sort of thing you dream of when you’ve already got more money than a person can comprehend – more mind-blowing wealth. But what a sad business plan – to do all this with unfeeling robots cheats the rest of us out of all the melodramatic Space Mining Songs that would be written if humans actually left the planet to do this work.

Of course we’d have to change some of the standard references.
Here’s a Merle Travis original:

And here’s a group called Ryan’s Fancy doing their version that appears to include only Merle’s chorus. But I love it that they’re performing on what looks to be the ruins of a gantry after an especially tumultuous launch from the spaceport.

One could, if one were so inclined, imagine how this classic might be adapted by the poor unfortunates who would rush to find a living by collecting silver in space.

Come all you young fellows so young and so fine
And seek not your fortune way up in the mine
Every mineral is precious and pure – unalloyed.
But it’s hell to dig deep into an asteroid.

It’s dark and it’s cold and it’s desolate too.
Where the gravity’s weak and the comforts are few.
Where the metals are rare and the air is refined.
It’s stark and its grungy way up in the mine

They will tell you at launch that you’re gonna be rich
In a spacesuit there’s no way to scratch at that itch
It’ll claw at your heart, it’ll tickle your mind.
But there’s no satisfaction way up in the mine.

It’s dark and it’s cold and it’s desolate too.
Where the gravity’s weak and the comforts are few.
Where the metals are rare and the air is refined.
It’s stark and its grungy way up in the mine

You’ll feel weightless and nauseous and all kinds of sad.
And you’ll think of your family left back on the pad.
When you total it up and they give you your leave
You will barely earn back what they charged you to breathe.

It’s dark and it’s cold and it’s desolate too.
Where the gravity’s weak and the comforts are few.
Where the metals are rare and the air is refined.
It’s stark and its grungy way up in the mine

What was the least rewarding job you ever did?

177 thoughts on “Space Mine Balladeer”

  1. Morning all. Nice start for us, Dale. I’ll have to think on this one today — I tend to value my past, even the crappy parts, as having made me what I am today. But I’m sure as the day goes on I’ll think of something!

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  2. i did lawn maintanence with raking as the primary mission , picking up leaves and stuff in the spring, i sold magazines door to door in bad neighborhoods i picked corn for a nice old man and a crabby jerk son, i picked rock at a limestone quarry one summer washed pots and pans at a bakery scraping the raspberry filling of the baking sheets i bussed tables at a deli for a week and did factory work making hand tools, drilling holes and grinding off burrs on big grinders spraying stuff down with wd40 doing simple assembly jobs like taking two parts of a putting them together and sticking a nut and bolt on it to hold them together. you also get called on to do all the grunt jobs on the planet as a guy growing up like moving pianos up stairs, tearing out walls and moving electrical boxes in basement remodels putting up sheetrock with the taping and sanding involved to get things to where they need to be. roofing is a job i wouldnt want to do too often your body hurts in such unfamiliar ways, picking up garbage at the mann france avenue drive in every day after the movie the night befor. all these were jobs that were ok as a bandaid to get to the next level and wer simple pay for the service rendered. people at the jobs made them tolerable and the short lived firendships were good distractions as i went from one task to the next. i have friends that went to alaska to build the pipeline and this sounds very similar to space mining where you would be away from home with the sole mission being to make bucks and nowhere to go but to the bars after work to dull the senses before the next day of labor. sometimes i think the idea of showing up at 8 for an 8 hour day of defined output would be a nice respite from the rat race but i doubt i wil be the wl mart greeter any time soon. working in home depot is not my desire and i am not the type of person anyone wants as an employee as i tend to stir up thought among the ranks. pointing out things otherwise unnoticed. some thingss are est left unchanged. me i in the job pool would not be a good idea. got a house to paint i could help, got a painting crew to assemble i would be one of the last guys on your call list.

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    1. tim, I have never met you, but from what I know of your personality, it boggles my mind to think of you working at Wal-Mart.

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  3. Wonderful lyrics, Dale. I have been pretty lucky with my jobs, except perhaps when i was a waitress at Mr. Steak and the time I detasseled corn for DeKalb. Daughter’s first job, that as a barista for a local coffee shop, is turning up trumps. She works Saturdays and four afternoons a week after school. She’s worked there since last August, and they promoted her yesterday, making her responsible for closing the shop at 6:00pm every night that she works and making sure the other workers get all the closing tasks done before they leave. What is really exciting to her is that she is getting a raise to $12.50 an hour plus tips. Wages are pretty inflated out here along with the cost of everything else. She really loves her job, though, and I am so happy that she has had a good first work experience.

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    1. cn she do a start up with a cantina truck being the barista in the oil fields. 5.00 a cup for a hard working group of oil guys seem like a natural. a little scone action on the side and she could have her college education in the bag

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      1. It is probably and idea whose time has come. She has some regular customers she calls “The Americano Guys” who are oilfield workers who come in a couple of times a day and order Americanos with 3-4 shots of espresso. She has yet to get her drivers license, a feat I hope will be accomplished in the next month or two. There are more and more trucks like you mentioned, bringing food right into the oil field. There are such safety concerns for women in oil country at this point that she doesn’t even feel safe going to Walmart by herself, so I don’t think we could get her out into the field.

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  4. If tim was writing this for me, he would probably say that the most unrewarding “job” for me was the one that landed me in prison, but I’m going to choose working in a laundry, the first job I had after high school.

    This laundry was in the big metropolis of 1200 in the middle of Minnesota tourist country and it did laundry for the various resorts in the area – sheets and stuff. My job was working at the Mangle, a huge set of rollers, where two people fed sheets in and two people took the sheets as they came out and folded them. This got all the wrinkles out – if you did it right. If you did it wrong, the sheet would get more wrinkled than it started. First they tried me at the output end. Unfortunately I am one of those people similar to those folk dancers or grade schoolers people mentioned on yesterday’s Trail that had no sense of rhythm…folding sheets with a second person, when it has to be folded just so and in just the right amount of time because another sheet was coming out in a few seconds, proved to be disastrous. So they tried me at the other side of the mangle – this was pretty bad, too, since you have to feed the sheet in just so or it comes out a mass of wrinkles. Eventually I got the hang of it and did okay, but a whole day and week feeding sheets through a mangle was tedious and boring to say the least. There were some people who had worked there for years. Luckily, back then, tourist season pretty much ended at the end of the summer, so it was all over for me n just a few months.

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        1. I get out occasionally for good behavior…hope to make it to PJ’s for the gardening/plant swap event and to the next book club meeting.

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    1. i have fond memories of the mangle in the basement with the coke bottle with the sprinkler on top to wet the sheets before you run them through. my mom would watch as the world turns and do the laundry smoking lark cigarettes in front of the old manavox. she did underwear , sox, tshirts and dress shirts too and some of the pant legs and stuff like that you could hald do on the mangle and finish on the ironing board stand next to it. ah the walnut paneling and the brown on brown linoleum ambiance witht eh creak of the mangle rollers opening and closing in the rhythmic motion that was suburban life in the 50’s.
      i have a mangle in the backroom of the ebay store. i was pleased to surprise the guy who brought it in by knowing what it was when he brought it in. i remember laughing with him and wondering who in the world would want this thing in the new millenium. so far no one but it brings back the memories. making lisence plates ironing sheets . keeps your mind of your troubles while putting in your time. in the slammer or the burbs. enjoyed yesterdays discussion on herding cats.

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        1. Nostalgia Manglers. I like it.
          My grandma’s basement; cast iron open burner / hot plate type thing in the middle of the floor. Next to it was the old washing machine with mangler. Steep, open, wooden stairs that you had to duck under the beam half way down… thanks for the memories!

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  5. I worked one summer at the Metrodome as “security” (really “glorified usher”). I had the privilege of wearing double-knit polyester (the red jacket was quite the look for me), a floppy bow-tie (it was the 80s…don’t get me started about why I couldn’t just wear a regular tie like the guys) so I could direct folks to their seat and make sure they weren’t smoking in the top rows of seats – and then there were the folks who would come to a baseball game and get “over-served” by the beer sellers (no, you are not more attractive or wittier when you are lit up on 3.2 beer, and I would never ever do that with you…ever)…oh, and did I mention smelling like stale beer and hot dogs at the end of every night? All for a penny over minimum wage. It was a slice. I was not a big baseball fan before that summer, though I got to know the Minnesota players and learned to appreciate parts of the game, I was less of a fan after that summer. Quit before I had to deal with the craziness of football fans (a smart move, as I was informed by more than one co-worker).

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    1. Daughter reeks of coffee at the end of her work day, which is probably better than stale beer and hot dogs.

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      1. In my bakery years the very first thing I did after getting home was to take a shower to get the bakery smell off me. I could “feel” it on me!

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      2. met a beautiful woman in florida in a favorite cigar store who laughed about how many people commented on her cigar scent at the end of the day.

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        1. I used to smoke big, cheap, black (Maduro) cigars in an old Isuzu Trooper. If your cigar store lady smelled like my Trooper, she didn’t get many dates, beautiful or not. But she probably kissed better than the Trooper.

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    2. Anna, your outfit sounds a little bit like what an organ grinder’s monkey would wear. Not a fashion statement and for sure not designed to instill fear and trembling in misbehaving hooligans. I was trying to remember any uniforms in my past and the only one I can come up with is a babydoll dress with puffy short sleeves I had to wear waitressing at Riverside Perkins back in the 70’s. The fabric had a teapot motif. Where do they come up with this stuff???

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  6. Good morning. I am a little like tim, I find something interesting in any job I do and I am willing to do all kinds of things. Most jobs I’ve done have their down side and that is usually associated with the person I am working under. I even had a problem with my boss when I worked for myself. I was not very good at running my own business. The worst boss was the one who told me he knew what was wrong with me, I was trying to be a good guy.

    You would think that the best job I had would have been the one where I worked for a non-profit doing educational work in sustainable farming. That was a good job and you would think you would be working for very good people on a job like that, but that wasn’t entirely true. The best job I had was working in a family owned auto salvage yard. The owners of this salvage yard were really good people and always treated their employees and customers well. Also, recycling old cars, like they were doing, is a good thing and can be interesting work.

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    1. There is a lot to be said for a good boss who appreciates his or her workers. Would much rather work for less money and a good boss than more money and/or prestige and a horrid boss.

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    2. i am glad to hear the auto salvage business is a possible best business. this back room foull of stuff i have to get rid of is a tough sell to the people i try to get to make it their next work task. not very enthusiastic takers but i keep hoping. i have a new one starting in the next week or so. hope he is the one. i try to make it interesting for the workers but how uch can you do with a task based job description when the task is to do this one and then do the next one. by the need of the day you have a bunch of them done and you come back tomorrow.
      sir richard branson was interviewed today as to if irt was more difficult to start up a business today than it was when he started up what turned out to be virgin records. no he said just find something that no one else is doing that you would enjoy, figure out a way to make it pay the bills along the way and you can have a fulfilled life. i

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  7. I’ve already written about the job that most fits Dale’s question, namely my summer job sucking flock off dirty sweatshirts. Like most bad jobs, it was hard, unpleasant, unrewarding and unending. The faster I worked the more flock I had to suck because they just increased my workload. No good deed goes unpunished in that kind of workplace!

    When I worked as a freshman academic adviser I signed kids up for college courses, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve had. But I remember how peaceful the U of MN was in the weeks just before students returned after summer to start fall classes. In that week or so before all the students returned, a co-worker got reflective. “You know,” he said, “this is a beautiful place without all those little bastards.” “All those little bastards?” “Yeah. Students. I don’t think there is a nicer place on earth than a college without students. If we could just figure out a way to run colleges that didn’t involve students, it would be heaven.”

    And if you ever worked in a tourist town, you can easily replace “students” with “tourists.” Customer service is a wonderful job until you have to pick up the phone and start dealing with the damned customers. I could go on.

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    1. i spent a winter in banff and the townies were all jealous of the shopkeepers that went to honduras and the likes for the winter but all commented on what a great place to hang out the town was and how it was too bad all the tourists showed up to spoil it during the tourist season.

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    2. Waterville is a tourist town in microcosm. The town calls itself “The Bullhead Capitol of the World.” The population here doubles between May and September. Last July, Del’s Resort had so many RVs that it overloaded the electrical grid for the whole community. We lost power at the other end of town for most of the day. Many of the “foreign” license plates are from Iowa – they do love their bullheads – and they really clog up the town with RVs, campers and other things which I’m not going to describe. They also buy up all the newspapers on Saturday mornings and drive slowly around the town looking for garage sales. They compliment us on how fortunate we are to live “up north.” It’s nice to have our town back when September comes.

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      1. Folks in southern Minnesota have endless jokes about those dense, clueless Iowans. And then the Iowans keep proving that they deserve to be the butt of the jokes. Krista would know that the MN DNR has spent a lot of money trying to eradicate bullheads from some southern MN lakes. And then here come the Iowans to restock bullheads in those lakes.

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        1. I had never tried bullheads before I came here. I’ve found them to be quite delicious now that I have tried them. They deep fry them and they come out a little crispy. They have firm, white meat if you catch them early enough in the season (right now). The truth about them is that their numbers here are declining due to actual improvement in the water quality. Point source pollution is better controlled. Septic systems and municipal sewage treatment plants no longer discharge directly into lakes and rivers, except in high-water events. Bullheads actually thrive in turbid, anoxic water. People don’t believe us when we tell them this. They ask us if we’ve stopped stocking bullheads (we have never stocked them). They ask us when we are planning to stock bullheads and we never will. Steve is right, the DNR has tried, without success, to eradicate them in some cases. DNR usually tries to eradicate more invasive fish, like carp, first, and if the bullheads go with the carp, all the better.

          Obviously, the topic of bullheads is interesting and amusing to me.

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  8. Morning!

    My first ‘off the farm’ job was pressing suit coats for a formal wear wholesaler. Dad got me the job through a guy he knew. Most of the basketball team from my HS worked there over the summers. I was going to be a sophomore and they were going to be seniors so we didn’t know each other. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Edith and her mangle but it was a hot steamy room with the big commercial press’. Vests, pants, the tails of coats (the coat in general went on a hanger and through a big steamer type thing with vertical mangles) and then we just pressed the tails.
    Lasted about 2 months. And then the summer wedding rush was over.
    One of the characters that worked there was probably the first actual ‘stoner’ I had ever met.

    The jobs got better after that. Measuring fields or grain bins for the Ag Department was kinda fun. Loved climbing bins and driving around the county.

    My wife sent me a story about a place for chickens to go after their productive years have passed. I think I already have that place going:

    http://tinyurl.com/6tjs2rn

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  9. Terrific filk, Dale! Could I post your lyrics on Facebook (with attribution, of course)? I’d love to hear this song out on the convention filk circuit. It also makes me think of Ann Schwader, a poet I publish regularly; she writes awesome sonnets on space exploration and settlement (and since I don’t usually like formal poetry beyond haiku, that’s saying something!).

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        1. Pretty much, Steve. “Filksinging” was a typo for “folksinging” in a convention program book probably sometime in the early 50s, and it caught on as a descriptor for original and parody songs with (usually) SF/F themes. I was amused to hear about Harry and the Potters, a “wizard rock” band, playing the Cedar recently. Filk without using (or probably even knowing) the name. These darned kids probably think they invented roleplaying games with their fancy Xboxes and all, too. Well, we played with PAPER and DICE in my day, and we LIKED it, grumble grumble…

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        2. I learn something new here almost daily. Filk, I attributed it to a typo until I saw it the second time. Glad you asked BiR, I thought I might be the only ignoramus on the trail.

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        3. crow girl never never makes a typo. she is a word geek like some others who go unmentioned here on the trail. i love that we have constant personalities. i knew it had to do with the counter culture world crow girl champions. god bless diversity and here on the trail we are the diversitiest

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  10. My best job working at the family owned auto salvage yard would not be a best job for some one who likes working for an orderly well run business. The family had many years of experience running the business and it wasn’t in danger of failing. However, getting family members, who were all good people, to work together and cooperate with each other would make cat herding seem like an easy job. I was kind of amused by their problems getting along with each other and it didn’t bother me.

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  11. I worked as a miner; well actually a refined metal extractor; really I removed staples from reports for an entire week straight. My first post-college job was with 7 other Biology majors. We were paid to analyze data on carcinogenesis in rats. The only p[roblem was that the data was lost. For weeks on end we would come to work with nothing to do. Once some data arrived in boxes all stapled together. We spent an entire week taking out the staples. After we were done we stapled everything back together and referred to ourselves as refined metal inserters.

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  12. I worked as a roofer and there were some good things about this work that I liked so I wouldn’t say it was my least rewarding job. It is hard work, as tim said, but it is nice to have a job that builds up your physical strength. You work up high where most people will not go so, usually, no one comes close enough to bother you or pick apart your work. You can see the results of your work right in front of you and feel that you have accomplished something.

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  13. I’m in the camp of folks who generally find something to like about their job. But Dale asked about “least rewarding” job, and I suppose that depends on how you define “rewarding.” While it didn’t pay well, I loved my job as an au pair for an American family stationed at the US embassy in Moscow. What’s not to like about a job that allows you to spend endless hours exploring a great city by bus or subway with three delightful kids in tow? What’s not to like about reading or telling stories, singing, playing dress up or hide-and-seek in a large old apartment with lots of nooks and crannies? I still can’t believe they actually paid me to do that!

    During my four years at SIU I worked as a secretary for a professor who ran an Endocrinology Lab. Dr. Gass and his graduate students conducted cancer research on thousands, and thousands of mice, but I got so used to the smell of the lab that I really didn’t notice it. I’m now wondering whether I picked up that smell on my clothes and just wasn’t aware of it. One aspect of the job I was not overly fond of was that I occasionally had to help castrate mice, a smelly and tedious procedure. Not a good job for someone who gets squeamish at the sight of blood.

    My least “rewarding” job, hands down, has to be my four hour stint of waitressing in a Carbondale restaurant. I had been hired around noon and told to report to work at 4 P.M. It was the night of the weekly all-the-spaghetti-you-can-eat special, and the restaurant was soon swamped with students. By eight o’clock the booths and floor were awash in spaghetti sauce and spilled beer, and patrons were clamoring for attention. The owner, drunk and incoherent, was falling off a barstool in the bar, and the other waitresses all took a cigarette break together. That’s when I decided to cut my losses. I took off my apron, and left with a splitting headache and the $6.00 I had made in tips. I never looked back.

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  14. What was the least rewarding job you ever did?
    My list could go on and on. Once worked as a companion for an intelligent, artistic, wealthy, older woman who was addicted to prescription drugs. My job was, basically, to pretend that she was not crazy or addicted. I could, sometimes, herd her into good conversations, read to her, take her on drives or shopping sprees. Other times, I would watch as she destroyed valuable Chinese art pieces by adding her touches. Once when I carefully tried to address her drug use—she did the “I don’t want to hear it” dance; in the middle of the kitchen, she jumped up and down, belted out ahh ahh ahh with her hands over her ears. A true 72 year-old tantrum.

    Funny. I once worked for an alcoholic designer, who used to pay me to be around in case he needed me to help with anything. Day long stretches with nothing to do. Any request to leave early or take a day off was met with, “No, No. I might need you.”

    Scary, how we found each other. I was very poor, needed both jobs and was adaptable.

    Almost forgot, at that time I cleaned house for a drug dealer. I’d find suitcases of money and thousands of dollars in his suits on the way to the cleaners. About 3 months after I quit, he was arrested by the FBI with a plane full of marijuana and cocaine. He had several businesses that were fronts for his dealing—the only time I worked in a suburb.

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    1. Was that last job in Princeton? Husband is remembering a drug dealer who lavished money on the town, cars for the police department, built an airport for the town, brought in full size palm trees and set them up around the courthouse. He was buddy buddy with the mayor and no one looked too closely at where the money was coming from. Turned out he was flying drugs directly to Minnesota from south of the border and bypassing the drug enforcement officials at the southern border. Oops!

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        1. I’m impressed, Steve. I remember the case well; those palm trees were such a nice exotic touch, but I would have never been able to come up with his name.

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      1. Nope, my dealer was from Bloomington—Old Shakopee Road?? Spent most money on himself for cocaine, airplanes, hot air balloons and an ex-wife and 2 year-old. I remember that Princeton guy, a real adopted-hometown “hero” until his fall.

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  15. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of “inside the Actors Studio,” interviews, and it sounds to me, Nan, as if each of those three jobs held the potential for some interesting character studies. Of course, you’d have to become an actor or a writer to ever make good use of them.

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    1. I write but lack the necessary discipline. My focus seems to be on the gathering of material—for that great imaginary day when I will put it all down. I will have tied up the loose ends of life, have endless summer days to stroll to the park to write, and have created my perfect writing nook for winter. I have even envisioned myself getting on the bus on early mornings and stepping off at a little cafe for a writing session. I did do NaNoWriMo where I wrote 50,000 words in a month. S’posed to be a novel but the emphasis was on word count—finished, loved it, but as a novel, it sucked.

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        1. PJ, WP won’t let me reply to your last comment. I don’t have cable but I see that there are full episodes online. I will try to watch responsibly : )

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  16. The most unrewarding job I’ve had I ever had was definitely waitressing. I had two different waitressing jobs. The first one was at the Country Kitchen in Faribault the summer after I turned 16. I was clumsy and I got orders confused. About half the customers were rude and most of the staff was unfriendly or unkind. The second job was at a truck stop cafe’, CJ’s, also in Faribault, the following summer. In that job, almost everyone was rude. The truck drivers were truly abusive and the other waitresses were hardened souls who would take your tips if you weren’t watching. The pay was very low – whatever minimum wage was in 1974. The most I ever made in tips was $3.82. One day I came to work for my assigned shift and found a new girl at the counter and my name erased from the schedule. I never got an honest answer from the owner about why. I whined and cried and moped there until the head waitress finally took me aside and told me that I had been replaced. PJ, you’re smarter than I am. I should have cut my losses after the first job.

    Working as a nurse in a state hospital is also a very difficult job. I think most people would find it challenging, if not impossible, on many levels. I’ve had people tell me they would never even dream of doing some of the things I have done. You are with your patients at all times when you’re on the job, whether they are throwing things at you or they are incontinent or throwing up. They sometimes refuse food, clothing and medications. They sometimes spit on you, pull your hair or bite you. They might refuse any care. They might refuse to use the bathroom, choosing to use the floor instead. You redirect; you clean it all up; you find clean clothes; you try to get time to chart; you repeat the offer of food, clothing or medication. You take a deep breath and go home exhausted. You start over the next day, leaving the old day behind. All of that said, it is very rewarding. I was paid well for my efforts. I made friends that have lasted a lifetime. Most of all, some of my patients loved me and I’ll never forget their smiles when they saw me come to work.

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    1. Wow, I was ready to say you win for the worst job, Krista, till I got to the end of your last paragraph!

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      1. I actually really loved my job there and I still miss it. Those jobs are gone. The only state hospital left in MN is St. Peter and I can’t bring myself to work there. My experiences at the Faribault Regional Center were unique. Those of us who worked there share memories and lots of complex emotions. Some people hated it and were glad to leave. I think I discovered what it means to be human and dependent upon others and the community. I appreciate the lessons learned and the friendships that I still have because of that experience.

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        1. It’s kind of a long, boring story, PJ. We knew a couple of years in advance that the state hospital was going to be taken over by a state prison and we were given some choices. In short, I chose to take a demotion to work as an administrative assistant for the DNR, a choice which I sometimes regret. I do like my job now, and they rarely hire full-time LPNs for the state anymore, so I don’t go back. Two different paths, two very different experiences. I’ve grown in ways I wouldn’t have if I had stayed where I was.

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        2. PJ, some time ago you recommended a book called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman. It was excellent. I wish I had that information when I cared for a Hmong woman, Tuon, at the Faribault Regional Center. Tuon was severely epileptic, an amputee, and had been found being used as a prostitute before she was transferred to the regional center. She didn’t speak a word of English and we didn’t have any Hmong interpreters. It’s hard for me to believe her family would have abandoned her now that I’ve read that book. She had circular scars all over her body. We assumed these were from cigarette burns. I know now that it was an attempt to exorcise the spirit which had caught her, but it was likely done with coins, not cigarettes.

          She loved me and I tried to do all I could for her. Her behavior was almost identical to the behavior described in the book, but she was a grown woman, not a little girl. Some staff refused to care for her because she was such a challenge. She hated the food and wouldn’t eat. She refused medications and had seizures. She would refuse to get dressed in the morning or go to work. She’d scream, chant and pound her left hand rhythmically on the wall in an attempt to call the ancestors. She called me something that sounded like “Lee” or “Ma Lee”. A social worker once said she thought Tuon was calling me “Little Sister.” I don’t know for sure, but I think she is in a state-operated group home. I hope she is well. Thanks for the book recommendation, PJ. I really enjoyed the read.

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        3. A reminder to anyone interested that Anne Fadiman is coming to the Highland Park Library Auditorium on Monday May 7 at 7pm. It’s free! I’m excited to go and hope I get a better vantage point than the Annie Lamott reading.

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        4. I’m thrilled that you read the book, Krista, and that you liked it. Robin, thanks for the tip that Anne Fadiman will be doing a reading on May7th. I’ll put it on my calendar. although I’m not sure what shape I’ll be in as I have three different medical appointments that day.

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    2. Krista, was this hospital in Faribault? Because when I was in school in the 60’s in Northfield, I volunteered in the Faribault state hospital for two years. We were bused over one afternoon a week; none of us had cars in those days. The hospital paired each of us with one resident and I still remember Dorothy clearly. She was hard of hearing and we did a lot of miming and laughing because she didn’t have any English or ASL (nor did I). I was never clear as to why she had no language whatsoever, but have wondered where she went after Faribault closed and whether she might have been stashed there because the system didn’t know quite what to do with her. The hospital was a physically grim place, but my time with Dorothy was not. I didn’t end up studying nursing or social work, but he nurses I met there were great and you clearly carried on in the same light wherever it is that you worked. It was an incredibly difficult job and says a lot about who you are, especially that you remember it in a positive way.

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      1. I remember the woman you describe, Robin. I think I cared for her a few times in the medical hospital. I remember a pale, quiet woman with blue eyes. I don’t know where she might have gone. By the late ’80s, some of the patients were being placed in waivered services homes and other group homes. I would guess that she might have gone to one of those.

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        1. Oh my goodness! You remember Dorothy? I’d say it’s a small world but it’s Minnesota. This happens all the time here and I never cease to be amazed. Baboondipity. We may have crossed paths way back when.

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  17. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    I have had some bug combined with out-of-control allergies this week, so I slept most of the morning.

    I think my least rewarding job was dishing out hotdogs and popcorn at the Iowa State University Arena for sports events, shows on the road, and concerts. The guy that ran it was a friend of my dad, so the guy gave me a job. Popcorn was always discarded at the end of the night, but they would keep and refridgerate or freeze leftover hotdogs and buns. The aged hotdogs were glaringly obvious–they took on a green tint. The old buns fell apart around the green hotdog. We covered the damage with carefully placed paper wrappers which disguised the carnage. I would leave the gig to return to the dorm where my GFs would ooh and ahh about how bad I smelled.

    The funniest gig was a James Gang concert. It was small–only 7,000 attendees (usual event was 40-60,000). But they were all devoted pot smokers who fogged the arena so badly that smoke would roll out of the doors as people made their munchy ways to the concession stands. They ate every kernel of popcorn, candy bar, green hotdog and bun in the place. We ran out of ketchup and mustard. There was some relish left. The management made more money per attendee than any function in two years.

    This job is where I met my wasband, as well, which was the least rewarding part of the job!

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    1. Oh-oh, I wonder of I ate one of those hot dogs when I was there (well before you, Jacque, but probably similar policies existed…)!

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    2. Stoner #1: “Oh, wow, man…. green hotdogs!”
      Stoner #2: (Giggles.) “Cool!”
      Stoner #3: “Hey, I’ve got the munchies, man, do you want one?”
      Stoner #1 “Yeah! You buyin’?”
      Stoner #3 “Naw, I bought the stuff, man. You already owe me.”
      Stoner #2 “I’ll get three. Hey, ya got any blue ketchup, man?”

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  18. I learned that I could start up in a new city by signing up with two or three temporary secretarial agencies. Sometimes I’d get a pretty interesting job for a few weeks, like at Brooks Camera in downtown San Francisco (filing bills of lading), or playing receptionist at Sawyer Cleator Lumber when it was on N. Washington in Mpls. Now that I write this, it wasn’t the work that was interesting, but the people.

    But a few of those jobs were horrible, and I’ll never forget them.
    – three entire days spent xeroxing documents. No kidding, I did not move away from the xerox machine.
    – did some kind of ad layout for a big insurance company here, also on Washington – the work wasn’t so bad, but I was there for three weeks and couldn’t get anyone to talk to me; it was kind of like being in solitary. But the worst one was:
    – making collections calls – if people had the money to pay, they would’ve paid. What a waste of my (anybody’s) time! I lasted one week.
    I’ll be forever grateful, though, to the temp companies – one (Kelly Girl?) led me to a long term afternoon job at Gilmore Envelope Co. (also San Fran.) when I had that morning kindergarten…

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      1. KG ended up getting me my first two full time jobs (after satisfying the minimum time that KG could share my pay). I still have a little appetizer fork and spoon set I won when I was employee of the month.

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  19. Maintenance assistant at summer camp–wonderful! New people, earning money for first time. Independently away from home.
    Flooding outdoor rinks–stimulating in the cold, good tales to tell. Out there in the cold with a close friend. We were a team.
    Summer school maintenance–last summer with friends before college. Working full time and taking care of farm with only my mother was very rewarding. Felt adult and responsible.
    Assistant athletic trainer–met famous athletes.
    Taconite plant–awful but great pay for summer employee. A numbing job, picking up after idiot noisy smelling machines and working with the crudest human beings on the planet.
    Research lab tech at U of M Hospital–expanded my world into new areas and learned I did not belong in science, which was a great thing to learn. Love science; just don’t have that kind of picky detail mind and no tolerance for repetitive work, which I also knew from taconite plant.
    Dairy barn at U of M–simple work, good student work. Good to be around cattle again. One terrible workmate, which taught me how to deal with stupid beastly co-workers, which you need to know to be a teacher.
    Teaching–great, awful, rewarding, unrewarding, frustrating, exhausting, stimulating, mind-opening, mind-closing. Kids great; some parents and some co-workers simply terrible. Eventual burn-out. But at its best moments, as majestic a task as humans can endeavor to do. Much more of a puzzle than non-teachers or lazy teachers can ever guess.
    Business and consulting–a mistake, but got me away from teaching and I was burned out. The joy of not correcting any more writing. But oh how I still miss the kids. There is, as consultant once told us, no such thing as a partnership.
    Best “job” I ever had was growing up on a hard-scrabble family farm. Everything you did mattered, even at the age of 6. Taught me so much. I should have done better with my life from those lessons.
    Worst “job” is retirement.

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    1. Clyde, sorry that your worst job is retirement. I suspect a lot of that has to do with your’s and your wife’s health issues. Glad that you apparently find some relief here on the trail.

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      1. No, not really. Well, in part. I was thinking of writing a blog about why my retirement is frustrating is on my own WordPress site. Fits better there and I have not posted for a couple weeks. Has to do with purpose, fulfillment, and my upbringing setting values in me I find hard to shake.
        Ars gratia artis, I wish I wish.

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        1. I think you are not alone in that frustration around purpose – when I was out of work for all of seven months the hardest part was not having purpose to my day. And not small individual things like, “today I will set up 2 informational interviews” but the larger, broader purpose of work. I hope you are able to fashion a way to create and nurture purpose (and fulfillment).

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    2. clyde those hardscrabble years did provide you with the lessons you directed yourself through life with. while you are not happy with all the frustrations you picked up along the way i can say with certainty that you affected enough people that you can call your life a success in another regard. dont take failure as the same thing as non success they are very different and i am not sure it is possible to achieve one without the other. i am sorry you had a bad experience teaching (i steered my daughter away form teaching because the only happy teachers i have ever met are saints that are way beyond my definition of mere mortals) and the business experience ( i heard richard branson speak today and say that the key to business success is to find a nitche no one else is doing that will pay the bills while you are doing it. that is the key to success. find a way to be you and eat while you are doing it. you have done an exceptional job of showing the way. celebrate that rather than wallowing in the less than total success stories. you did good clyde. you did good.

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    3. Clyde, I agree with tim. You have such a clear, strong voice here on the Trail and it has to be rooted in all the twists and turns you’ve navigated over a lifetime. Everything you’ve done DID matter. You took care of your own. You have a wealth of stories to tell. You wrote a book for goodness sake! AND you bike ride 20 miles a day?

      I’d like to hear more about your retirement thoughts/frustrations/lessons because I’m thinking the reality is almost always different than each of us imagines it will be.

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  20. Excellent description of a lifetime of work. Anyone who thinks teaching is easy has not corrected batches of student papers, not only spotting errors but trying to find the right words to point them out diplomatically so the kid actually learns from it. I’m just sorry retirement isn’t a better gig for you now. I’m tolerating it pretty well, although I’m lonely. I might be more easily amused than you.

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      1. WordPress seems dysregulated today. It is making me enter my password with each reply. I must have a suspicious presentation of some kind that I don’t have other days.

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  21. My worst job was as a pump jockey at a Clark 100 station on Seven Corners. There was no self service at that time. It was open around the clock and, as the new guy I was given mostly the 11PM to 7 AM shifts. This was when I was also going to school during the day. It was midwinter. The manager of the station would show up at the end of the shift to count the receipts. If he declared you came up “short” he would dock the difference from your pay. All of the attendants invariably were pronounced short. In defense, we would devise strategies to counteract his depredation. One was to try to sell motorists on adding a can of Heet to their gas. We would make a show of popping the cap from a can and pouring it into the tank, but when the motorist left, we would replace the cap and repeat the pantomime as often as we were able.
    One Saturday night –my last– it was about 20 below. I had the night shift and the business was especially brisk. Nobody wanted to let their tank get too low, I guess. Anyway, I was outside pumping gas for about five hours straight, until the last of the bar traffic subsided. By the time I got home to my apartment, I had been shivering so long and so hard that I found I had lost over five pounds that night.

    Many of my work-study jobs while in college were janitorial in nature. The work was routine and not objectionable, for the most part. The interesting aspect of the job was the opportunity it afforded to prowl around the buildings and offices after hours, when everyone else had gone. For one memorable period, I worked in the Bell Museum. The dioramas downstairs were genuinely creepy when most of the lights had been turned low, and the back rooms were full of taxidermy in progress. For a while I worked at the armory building, where I noticed that every desk, no matter how minor the title of its occupant, had a Top Secret stamp close at hand.

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    1. An old friend of mine did janitorial work at night at the U of M, oh maybe 35 years ago. He liked the routine and that nobody was around to bug him. Apparently it also allowed him plenty of time to do his homework.

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    2. A man I worked with in the dairy barn used to pump gas on the side back in the 60’s when you changed everything in your car from winter to summer and vice versa.He used to tell women as a joke that they had to change the air in their tires. One chilly night he pulled this joke on a woman who insisted that she had heard that and made him do it. He quit his little joke.

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    3. I haven’t mentioned yet, I think, that I was a janitor for a while, doing summer work in my dad’s new stuffed toy factory. It was educational to clean the women’s lavatory. Most of our workers were women of German ancestry, many of them farm wives or recent farm kids. I quickly lost any illusions I had about the superiority of the master race and I lost some of my tendency to romanticize women.

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  22. Right out of college,I hadn’t EXACTLY finished my senior project (I had been given a dummy diploma at graduation). While I finished that, I got a temp job (Kelly Girl 3!) working for an insurance company.
    Some power-that-was had dictated that the insurance companies give a rebate only to customers in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

    Back in the days before databases, this company’s customer insurance records were kept on little file cards.
    My job was to go through incredible numbers of boxes of these cards and pull out the ones for CT and MA customers. (it just now occurs to me that, after the rebates were given, someone would have to refile all those cards – yuck). The task took weeks.

    Besides being brain-chewingly boring, we did our work in a HUGE computer room that was freezing.
    Clearly the computer room had been created by some forward-thinking type who thought that some day computers would fill all 2000 square feet (to contain all the info on the cards and more). When I was there, the computers filled only about 100 square feet in a little island cluster of cabinets at the far end of the room with the rest of the space empty except for our 3 tables of cards. Nowadays their servers probably take up less than 100 sf.

    The room was blessed with the most obnoxious Musak that you could imagine. The music would start off in a direction that indicated some familiar tune and then it would vere off to something awful.
    The computer operators would turn on the Musak in the morning and during their lunch I’d turn it off.

    The only interesting thing about the job was that my supervisor, who was doing the same dull work, seemed to have a new coat on each day. I’d never had more than one coat at a time so that was novel.

    It was after that job that I decided to move to Minnesota so that was my silver lining.

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  23. I was going to say that I have enjoyed all my jobs, but today when I had playground duty 2 kids ran into each other playing touch football and had to go to the nurse bleeding. I didn’t like my job then. I wish I could have kept them safe.

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    1. life wacks you in the ass from time to time. a good lesson. you cant keep the world safe. do the best you can with what you can and dont take responsibility for stupid stuff.

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  24. I had a summer of strange jobs once during college in the 60’s. A friend and I took ourselves to Boston, lived in a basement room in Roxbury with bars on the windows and went through a quick succession of jobs that each lasted only two or three weeks: Warehouse assembly line making plastic Christmas lights in 100 degree temps. That was a Lucy and Ethel moment because if you stopped to wipe the sweat off your face and broke the rhythm, the entire line fell apart. For a mindnumbing job, it required unbroken focus. Then we flitted out of town for a couple weeks selling magazines door to door. The sales outfit promised us good pay, a return ticket to city of origin, but instead took all our money, packed us in vans and fleabag motels at night, and dumped us on the street in Baltimore when we quit. With no pay. Luckily we had stashed money in our shoes and made it back to Boston where I got yet another job typing up orders for baby chicks in the Sears mail order department. We did get to Fenway Park to see Eugene McCarthy and later to the Newport Folk Festival where, since we didn’t have money for tickets, we sat at a distance on a hillside overlooking the fence. My favorite performer was Mimi Farina :-) Parts of that summer were horrible, but it was kind of a coming of age time for me and I don’t regret a minute of it. We were so full of ourselves and everything we did seemed colorful and momentous at the time.

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  25. Way OT: listening to collection of the Kingston Trio. Pure nostalgia. They have slipped off the public conscious, but they did introduce folk music back into the American conscious in the 60’s

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  26. Wow, so many great stories. Plus I’ve learned about mangles, filksinging, and bullheads today, and it’s only 6 pm.

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    1. Barbara, we’re off to a friend’s retirement/birthday party in your neighborhood tonight. He’s expressed a bit of ambivalence about it all, but I bet he’ll like it. He’s a history buff and has taught himself celestial navigation, so I’m sure he’ll find something to fill those lovely long languid days. I’ll leave now before the creeping green envy takes over . . .

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  27. Spent most of the day moving sod and weeding but kept thinking about this topic. Still having trouble since I can’t think of much in my life that didn’t have SOME redeeming qualities. However I did remember what was probably the longest 4 hours ever spent working on something. When the child was still doing gymnastics on the private team, we did a fundraiser at Herbergers on one of their Community Day Sales. We were signed up for a 4-hour shitt that we spent folding clothes and putting clothes back on hangers in the Sales section. I think watching paint dry would have been more fun and the child was not enchanted. But even this had a saving grace as I was able to point out the value of a good education – it would keep you from having to fold clothes at Herbergers full time for your whole life! And, in fact, have been able to use this as an illustration a few more times over the years when discussing jobs/education!

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  28. Clyde, I’ve decided that you don’t really retire when you retire. You do things that you didn’t have time to do when you had a job, but you are still working. The work you do when you retire doesn’t include any payment in money, but it has value. Most likely retirement work includes a lot of helping your family. This could be work which they might have to hire some one to do the if you didn’t do it. Also you are probably doing things that let other people have more free time to do things they wouldn’t be able to do without your help. Some of the things you do might be adding to your quality of life or the quality of life of others and that has value.

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    1. Oh man! Can’t even begin to imagine doing that. They had better be extremely well paid. Can’t imagine you would be able to do that for very long. On the plus side, the view is great on clear days.

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