Friday, December 25, 2009
Do you ever have memories which are so dire, so embarrassing, so bad that they bury themselves deep within the oceans of your mind to hopefully never see the light of the sun again (i.e. too many awkward first dates to count, a piggy back ride which turned into a bloody muddy mess, considering to actually vote Republican, etc.).
Well, this year when I thought of getting a Christmas tree (actually it was Roz who inspired me to get one), I had one of those flashbacks to one of those deep dark memories: my first "job".
It was the winter of 1987. I was 15 (10th Grade). One of my best friends in the world (Jay Yoon Lee) and I were in Mr. Roehler's Biology class. I can't remember how it came up, but I remember the topic of Mr. Roehler's Christmas Tree Farm came up. In fact, he had job openings! Now I was boyish 15 verging on manhood, and one of those coming-of-age acts is to get a J-O-B! (C'mon, you need money for that Intellivision video game you just have to have, tickets to a movie, or the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. Ummm, yeah, girls weren't exactly in the picture at this point. Let's be honest. I was too much of a skinny little nerd, so people of the female persuasion just saw me as "Mr. Help-For-Homework".)
So on one winter eve after school, Jay and I drove all the way to Highland from Rialto and found Mr. Roehler's tree farm. We were given our saws & our orders, "When you see a customer eyeing a tree, ask to help 'em, cut their tree, lug it to their car and load it for 'em. Simple as that. Have 'em pay at the office, and if you get a tip, that's yours to keep."
Jay and I teamed up. I was glad for that. I was a shy & skinny (have I mentioned that before?!) little kid, and I was too scared to make small talk with strangers. Jay was a shmoozer and good with people even back then.
Within minutes, we had our FIRST customers. I remember following them to their tree. Now since I was the weakling of the duo, I was given the simple job: hold tree while Jay cut it. Simple enough, right? Jay started cutting down the tree....well, let's be real here, it was actually a redwood. This tree was a green skyscraper to my 15-yr old newly-employed eyes! I stood there and I held that tree with all my might.
My might wasn't enough.
Just before the tree was cut, I felt a *CRACK!* The once-solid tree shifted and then gravity began to pull the tree down towards me, of course. I blinked once. I held my breath. I blinked again. The tree was falling toward me, and I was powerless against it. Within 2-seconds, I was consumed by the tree. Pine needles cut into me. I imagine maybe a limb or two could be seen sticking out from underneath the tree...or maybe I appeared to have vanished to those who saw the tree fall.
At any rate, Jay picked up the tree with one hand--probably with one finger of one hand. "You ok?" he asked.
"Yeah," I replied. At about this point, I wanted to disappear. This was my job, and I just got squashed by it!
Jay carried the tree to the customer's car (I think I held on to the tip of the tree to look like I was helping, but I know I wasn't).
Jay received a tip, and I tried to hide in the shadows. Honestly, the rest of the evening was a blur. I don't remember any trees after that one. I don't know, maybe I went to hide in the car while Jay finished off the night.
The next day in Biology class was uncomfortable.
"Corey, can I speak to ya in the back?" Mr Roehler asked. "I heard ya had a tough night on the farm." (It wasn't a farm, it was just a lot in the city which somehow was able to produce trees--amongst the smog, and 100+degree summers!) "Well, some people just aren't cut out for certain type of work. I think you might be just a tad small for this job--maybe next year. No hard feelings?"
"Ummm....", what could I say.
"Ok, let's go cut some frogs open!" Mr. Roehler gave me something like $5-10, and that was that.
This memory floated above my head. Floated above Eisenhower High School in Rialto, CA. Floated above a cloud...wait, actually it's a cloud of smog. And disappeared into my subconscious. It would revisit me from time to time, but it had been years, until last week.
Last week, I wanted a tree. The dogs and I would be alone for Christmas (I was working 10 days straight over the holidays), but I still wanted a tree. I went to a local shop, and picked a tree. The tree was under four feet ($29).
This tree fit inside my MINI Cooper.
This tree I could handle.
And off to work I go.
Posted by corey g. at 1:45 PM