Eight hours of standing with no breaks; no food. My back hurts; arms and fingers are sore, but, almost incomprehensibly, I feel better. It’s work. It’s not sitting for hours in front of a computer screen adding commas to a report redressing the scientific classification of one moss species through scanning electron microscopy. It isn’t weeding my way through a 12 page, byzantine style sheet—the chronicle of a particular production editor’s grammatical peccadilloes—in order to make some scientist look like a writer. It’s sweat, and it’s grease. It smells alternately like active yeast, garlic, and french fries. And considering I’m not getting enough hours with my freelance copyediting job, which requires a college degree but only pays a couple bucks more an hour, it’s mandatory.
I’d forgotten what it’s like to work with other people, and while I go through my first shift without striking up a personal conversation with anyone, it’s nice to know that I could. Sitting in front of a computer all day with no one else around, I lost the one thing I liked about all the crappy service jobs I’ve had: my co-workers. As much as I could complain to friends about my “professional” job, there’s no one I can commiserate with. You can’t really gripe about the boss when they’re your only co-worker, so I mostly talk to her about the weather.
Through the years I’ve made a number of good friends through some really shitty jobs. I don’t know if I will make any new ones working at this particular pizzeria (though one of my friends works there already), but at least it’s not adding commas to meaningless crap. People dig pizza. I dig pizza. And we make some damn good pizza.
It’s also nice to have my mind back to myself. At least a few hours of every shift are slow enough that my mind can wander. You don’t need to concentrate to chop celery, mop floors or roll dough into fist-sized balls. Also, I carry around a little notebook stealing snippets of conversations between co-workers or customers. I mull over lines in a poem I’m working on or ideas for short stories. I can’t really do that with my “professional” job. I have to stay focused or I’ll forget to fix someone else’s errors. It’s sort of amazing to think about how for only a couple dollars more an hour someone can buy such control. It feels as though I’m selling off my imagination or at very least control over it for a few hours.