Monday, April 28, 2008

Workin' for the man! Part One

A couple days ago my mother wrote this post about her deep knowledge of fast food french fries, and the run in she had with a disgruntled french fry technician at McDonalds. After leaving my comment on the matter, I began to look back at not only my fast food career, but the myriad of jobs that I have had in general.

Here is something to give you a good idea of how many different jobs I have had. In 1997, I had 7 different W-2 forms that I had to file with. Also in that year I had a period of about 3 weeks where I was working 3 jobs at once. It was also the year where I started what I consider my first "real" job. The job that made me realize that there was more to life than working 14 hours a week at the information booth in the middle of the mall.

So let me take you back on a trip down employment memory lane. The lame times of working, the fun times of working, and the just plain "what were you thinking Sorenson!" times of working. We shall start in my early years.

I acquired a love of money at an early age. When I was around 10-11 years old, I would ride my bike to an Apricot tree that was next to the canal. I would pick them, and sell them in the little green plastic boxes that strawberries came in for a buck a piece. And that wasn't the only thing that I would sell. There was also a cherry tree in the backyard of a house that was vacant. I would sneak back there, pick cherries, and then sell them to the neighborhood kids. Two cherries, one penny. Or I would make paper airplanes and sell them for 10 cents each.

When I was way into baseball cards, I would take all of my doubles, put them in groups of 5, and sell grab bags for a quarter. I would always put a card worth at least a dollar in the bags, and tell the other kids in the neighborhood that they would have a chance to get a good card. And with incentive like that, the bags would be gone, and I would have 3 or 4 bucks in my pocket. I would then take that money up to Red Apple Market, (Which was called The Family Grocer back then) or to Nob Hill Market, and buy candy that I would sell to the kids at a marked up price. And there were other times when I was a little bit older when my mother would go buy candy at Costco, and my sister Heidi and I would sell it out of our house.

This is what I did for money until I was about 12 years old. That is when I started as an independent contractor for the Tri Citiy Herald. If I had my way, I would have been delivering several years earlier. When I was 9 or 10, this nice lady named Iva Julson drove into our neighborhood, and came up to a group of us boys riding our bikes on the BMX track we made. She asked if any boy would like to start a paper route. I of course raised my hand. I went with her to my house, where my mom said that I was too young for a route. So every year from that point on, Iva would call my house to see if I was old enough. When I turned 12, my Mom finally relented.

I delivered that route for four years. During that time I became very skilled in the art of folding papers. Even today when I get my paper in the morning, I critique the job that the carrier does. In fact, there has been times when I go out to get the paper, and upon discovering the job that he/she has done folding it, I have wanted to wake up early the next morning, and show them the better way to do it. But of course that would be treading on "grumpy old man" status, and I am not ready for that title.

I had some great adventures on my route. There was the time in either 1990 or 91 when there was a massive wind storm that blew through town. I have not seen a windstorm like it since then. It blew down trees, knocked out power to some places, and even delayed school. Heck, it even knocked my Dad's 1961 Buick LeSabre out of gear, and blew it down the driveway into the road. At least that is what I have heard. I slept through the whole thing.

When I awoke that morning, I had a hard time delivering papers. There was one road that was completely blocked off by a felled tree. Of course, I thought that it was the coolest thing in the world that I had to climb over it to deliver my final 4 papers. And to this day, when I drive down 8Th avenue, I look to that spot where the tree once stood.

Since this was an older part of town, I had a lot of seniors living on my route. I got to know all of them very well. I didn't really have a choice in the matter. After all, the only way they were going to pay me on collection day was if I went in and talked to them for a while. And I do not regret it at all spending the time in their homes. Besides all the goodies they would give me, I also received knowledge from them that I still dwell on today.

One of the "lessons" that I received from these wonderful people is something that I have been crusading for ever since I walked out of this person's house. The lesson came from a man who happened to be in my ward growing up. His name was Lee Rose. Now Lee, out of all the people on my paper route, had the most knowledge to impose on me. Every month he would have something new to talk about. And he wouldn't hand me the check until I listened to every last word. Most of it I cannot remember, but there is this one thing that I got from him. And it is about licorice.

Now right now, I bet you are asking yourself what could have been so important about licorice that to this very day I still rant and rave about. It started when I went to his house to collect. He had a bag of mixed pieces of licorice. He asked me if I would like some of said licorice. I said, "Oh yes, of course! I LOVE RED LICORICE!" But before I knew it, Lee had snapped the bag away from me. He had this look on his face like I had just egged his house. He told me to sit down, that he had something VERY important to tell me.

"You, Mister, will not be allowed to leave my house until you understand one thing. Licorice is not a COLOR! It is a FLAVOR!! That red stuff is crap! It was made for the wusses who thought real licorice didn't taste good. When I was a kid, there was none of that red crap around. Then one day they came out with the red stuff, and everyone thought that since it looked like licorice, that it was. But I am here to tell you, it ISN'T!"

He made me swear that from that day forward, I would correct anyone who would desecrate the good name of licorice. That I had to correct them. It was my duty. And since that fateful day, I have kept my word. I know that it is a losing battle, but it is one that I must fight till the end of days.

Now the worst thing that happened in that four years is when I went to throw a Sunday paper onto Mrs. Winslow's front porch. It was the middle of summer time, and this wonderful old lady (who me and my sister Heidi used to call "Grandma" when we were younger and lived next door to her.) only had a swamp cooler. So she had her front door open, and one of those box fans in front of the screen door to cool off the house. I was about 20 feet back, and made a perfect arching throw. I must say it was one of my best Sunday paper throws of my career. It hit the porch....and then disaster struck. The paper then took another bounce, straight through the single plate glass part of the screen door. Glass was knocked into the house. Oh ya, remember about that box fan? It made matters worse. It sprayed the glass all through her living room.

I just stood there, not sure what to do. Should I run away, and say I had a sub that day? Or should I go and apologize? Of course, I went up to the door to apologize. I didn't have a choice. My dad was driving me on my route that day, and saw the whole thing. Now Mrs. Winslow had every right to be pissed, but instead, she came to the door with a smile on her face, and said that everything would be OK. That didn't take away the feeling of upchuck arising from my belly though. I went in, and helped clean up the best that I could. And that was the last time I attempted a majestic 20 foot paper throw. At least with the Sunday paper that is.

Well, there were many other high jinks that went on on that route, but if I write about those right now, I will lose the 3 readers that are still with me right now. So I will put it to a close. That is, right after I talk about this.

In 1991, I was named one of the Paper carriers of the year. Maybe it was the climbing through fallen trees that got me the award. Or maybe it was almost doubling the size of my route through selling subscriptions. (After all, more customers, more $) Or maybe my name was drawn out of a hat. Here is a picture of me in the paper. In it you can see the beginnings of the mullet that I had started to grow.
So there you have it. My first 5 years of makin sweet moola. Tune in later this week for part 2 of my Workin' for the man! series: The Fast Food Years.


Lisa said...

Something about that post made me feel like I was reading a Henry Huggins book. Didn't he have a paper route??? I don't recall him ever winning the prestigious 'Paper Carrier of the Year' award.
Oh yes...and my reaction when I read the word licorice..."oh it comes!"
Just so everyone knows...he isn't over exagerrating. He has sworn to educate the world. He goes on and on about red licorice not really being licorice. Beware.

Jennifer said...

nice hair

Mike Brinkerhoff said...

I've always been somewhat forgiving on the licorice thing, of course that's probably because I wasn't ordained to the sacred order of the licorice anti-defamation league... So I'll sometimes let the red stuff slide by. But then there are the people who just go too far and call Twizlers licorice. That stuff is NOT worthy of the licorice title!!

Mike Brinkerhoff said...

Oh, and it just occurred to me also, that Mad Jack's (the incredible ice cream place in my 'hood) makes a Licorice ice cream, that is one of my absolute favorite flavors. I have a pint in the freezer right now - I'll have to have some in honor of Lee Rose!

Mitchellaus Copernicus said...

Donald, Donald, Donald. I knew you were funny, but I think I broke my computer desk from pounding on it. Nice post you dweeb. Love the mullet. You've gotta do a post about all your girlfriends through the ages. You probably had as many girlfriends as you had jobs. Remember the blind date you set me up on with one of your girlfriends' friends? Dana or something? Ahhh, youth.

meohmyers said...

Wow, Donald! You're a fantastic writer! When I got to the point of the "3 readers that are still with me right now", I thought you could have kept going! I was cracking up and wanted to hear more. I can't wait for the Fast Food Years Edition.

My 9 year old is BEGGING me for a paper route. He has much of the same characteristics you had at the same age regarding money. What to do, what to do.

Love your picture in the paper! Classic!

SuzanSayz said...

I was going to do a blog on you and Heidi selling gummy worms and red[should I say it] flavored sticks that look like licorice sticks except they aren't licorice sticks because only licorice is licorice.
One thing you didn't mention about the selling of said candy is that the reason I stopped being your supplier ie; the one with the money and the Costco card. Was because of the blatant imbezzeling of product.
Oh and one thing more. I get credit too, for driving you around on Sunday mornings. In fact I think I did it more often than Dad did.
You have had quite the checkered money-making career over the years.

SuzanSayz said...

Oh P.S. you should print out a copy of this and send it to dear Sister Rose. It would make her day! And since she is one of the sweetest 80-something people I know, It would be wonderful to make her day!

SuzanSayz said...

P.P.S. Make it REALLY LARGE PRINT because she is almost blind and it would be great if she could read it for herself. I'm talking like so big it would take up at least six pages.
Love Mom

Jan said...

That picture speaks a thousand words. It looks like it could be someone that lived in a playhouse in the back of their parents house. J/K. Love the hair and the smile. So professional. The whole career story is so great. You really have made some sweet moola over the years in some very interesting ways. How come they don't have articles like that anymore? That was way colorful. You are a great verbose writer. Very funny and entertaining for sure. Part 2 better be good.

hatch said...

First of all love the hair.
You left a comment on my blog about Amy's connections blog. It is a small world. Your parents also live around the corner from my parents. My kids love to trick or treat at your mom and dads.

You are a good writer. This story is great! I cannot wait for the next part.

Bonnie said...

Don- you do write good:) I totally see you being a journalist:) Stock broker and state representative too!!!!!!!!!
Rob and I are cracking up at the picture...I cannot believe you did so many people on that paper route...That is so awesome....
Cracking up at you with your selling cards, candy!!!!!!!! SO FUNNY

Randy said...


You got WAY too much time on your hands...Hillarious post though. Nice mullett you freak...

tania said...

Love the mullet!!!! Now that's funny.

Smitty said...

I know .. this is a comment on an OLD post. But, I just discovered your blog (thanks Randy). I have to comment on this post ... only because, it turns out that you and I have some things in common. First, I knew Iva Julson (How many of your readers can claim that?) For about 3 years, she was my TC Herald "Pimp." I am impressed however, because I would never have remembered her name.

Hearing it now sends chills up my spine ... mainly because she always had to hound me for my monthly payment.

Part of the problem is that I also delivered in the old part of town ... collections took weeks since they involved long sessions with the neighborhood seniors eating cookies and listening to stories. Although, your licorice story about Lee Rose takes the cake (of course I knew him too, so I can appreciate it).

My best collection story involves Dennis Green (do you remember him?). For some reason I had him with me one day when I stopped by for a collection. It was at a house that was extremely untidy (I'll tell you the name offline .. you knew them). Anyways, she always gave me cookies with my payment ... which, I always threw in the bushes after turning the corner. However, on this day, Dennis took a huge bite out of his cookie before I could warn him. The cookie turned out to be 1 part cookie, two parts hair. Needless to say ... he ended up barfing all over the sidewalk. "Hair Cookie!" I ran into Dennis last year, and that was the story we talked about. Yuck.

Sorry for the long comment ...

BTW ... I like the mullet ... of course, I sported one that was very similar.