Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ghosts of Jobs Past - Part 4

Part time college jobs

I am one of the few people I know who moved away to go to community college.  I wanted to study film production, and there were all the expensive schools on either coast, but being the thrifty girl that I am, when I realized that there was a community college in state (Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan) that offered an Associates Degree in Film Production, I decided that I would go there.  Credits were under $13 an hour at the time (not a typo), and rent was pretty cheap, so I saw a way to move out with the savings I had from my accounting job.
This was more than thirty years ago, so we were shooting 16mm stock, having it processed, and editing actual chunks of film.  It seemed impossibly high tech and exciting at the time, but I had not counted on how expensive even rinky-dink little films cost.  Even then I was spending about $100 a minute for a finished film, and that was using friends for actors and borrowing all the school’s camera and sound equipment.  As my seemingly vast savings dwindled quickly, I came to two conclusions.  The first was that if I wanted to make films for a living I would be spending as much of my time begging for money as I would filming, followed by the realization that I needed to get a job fast, or I’d be moving home soon.
Over the three years I went to school at LCC (I eventually ended up getting a degree in still photography because I was not well suited to begging for money) I had a wide range of part time jobs.  I babysat, photographed weddings, sat in pitch darkness and spliced together huge reels of film that became driver’s licenses (no matter how bad my photo is, I have seen much, much worse) and even cut together a training film one of my instructors made (he had done all the editing and I put the A and B rolls together from his work print).  The job that stands out in my mind though was the 6 months that I spent as a phone solicitor for a cemetery.
Monday thru Thursday from 5 pm until 9 pm, myself and four or five girls just like me would sit at folding tables and attempt to set up appointments for the sales staff who would then offer a two plots for the price of one deal.  Needless to say, since we were calling at dinner time to discuss dying, we were not exactly popular.  From this I learned to take rejection.  It has also made me more empathetic to people with crappy jobs since I was always grateful to talk with someone who was able to say “no thank you” pleasantly.
What made this job memorable (besides the fact that the crematorium was in the next room with a temporary body storage room next to that and it got really dark out at night), were the team of women I worked with.  They were all fun and interesting and ready to hang out after work.  We dubbed ourselves “The Cemetery Girls” and that was the absolute best opening line ever.  We would go to the bar or to parties and just own the place.  We used to compare bad opening lines, and wound up with a tie between "Are you a model?" and "You have the lips of a fawn."  It was the first time that I realized that the people you work with can make a crummy job better or even great.  I really enjoyed it then, but had I realized how long it would be before I’d work with such an exceptionally entertaining group again, I’d have savored it so much more.  
The Butcher

1 comment:

  1. I need some crematorium stories :) In the early 50s, my dad's shortest-term high school job was as a delivery boy for a florist. His first day, his first delivery, was to the local funeral home, which was a big old Victorian house set away on a corner. It was dusk, and he was already getting the heebie-jeebies as he parked his bike and started up the seemingly enedless old stone steps. Just as he got to the top, the big wooden door creaked open, with no one apparently standing there. My dad screamed, threw the flowers through the door with all of the awesomeness of his quarterback arm, and bolted :D