I remember driving to my art class in Bellevue after working 8 hours on a maintenance crew. My work pants were covered with weed pulp from 20 different kinds of grass. “You don’t get hay fever, do you?” My boss asked.
“Not that I know of,” I said.
“Good; then grab a weed eater and start whacking the tall grass on number 9. I felt like every job I had was a test of my endurance. They afflicted my body and mind until I had to quit and hide from the boss. The golf course was like a woman with every type of body hair and nail growth. Someone had to keep her beautiful; and if she went for just a week without maintenance, things started to happen. Roots grew under the sidewalks, trash filled up in the parking lot, bushes climbed chain-link fences, and the grass grew too tall in the wrong places.
I welcomed the long drive to Bellevue. I’d listen to classical music on the radio and try to get the job out of my bones. My hands were still vibrating from the weed eater and I could hear the boss’s voice in my ear. College life was a welcome change of pace. My art history class was taught in a damp dungeon by a skinny man in his mid-forties. I think he was gay, but he didn’t advertise. I liked him because he pronounced words in French with an air of superiority and he liked to talk art. His mother kept calling him in the middle of instruction and he had to step out to reassure her. He’d come back like nothing happened and begin talking about the Native Americans.
Everyone in class wore pristine clothes. Their shoes were without marks. It took effort to be that clean. My clothes looked like a seeded grass lot, watered with sprinklers and mowed by a machine that puked oil. My mother was worried that I was going to choose maintenance as a career. My boss hoped I would. It was difficult to find guys who would wake up at 3 AM to cut grass in the dark.
That morning, Dave instructed me on my career goals. “Join the fuckin military,” he said.
“Don’t listen to him Andy. The closest he got to combat was basic training. He’s just a wannabe jarhead. Hurt his back in a routine training exercise and has been taking disability ever since.” Pete spoke sense and didn’t tell the young guys what to do.
I looked over at Bill. He didn’t say anything. He was 75 years old and reading the National Inquirer with one good eye.