There’s something about it that I miss. Flying through the empty suburban streets all night, alone and stoned. Listening to so much music. It was special, solitary and workman-like in a way that I haven’t felt since...
Wet streets under light rain beneath flickering and fading street lamps. Each corner, each stop light, each road sign was another chance to reflect on the lonely emptiness of suburbia.
Delivering pizzas is the true way…or the truer way. It’s a zen koan. Doing meaningless work brings meaning. Figure it out for yourself.
Teaching doesn’t make me feel that way. It makes me feel sort of old and pitiful. I’m not old but it feels that way sometimes. How could I be an authority figure? My own life is a mess of indecision and well intentioned, but ultimately poor judgment.
On Saturdays I would work until 1 or 2 in the morning. Some nights I’d have to clean marinara sauce off the seats of my car. Other nights it was buffalo sauce. Then I’d go home late, smoke and watch Nature on PBS. At those times, I was alone, completely alone, but I felt closer to the world.
When I come home from work now I just do more work. Work that seems to go nowhere and has no effect. I start and end a semester by correcting the same mistakes and offering the same unheeded advice.
I have no friends at work now. There are just students. When they laugh at my jokes I wonder if they actually think I’m funny or if they’re just trying to get ahead. If I like them at all I go easier on them.
In my pizza/salad days, there was always someone to dick around with. A cook missing some teeth, a grizzled veteran driver that had been working for the same store for 15 or 20 years, a lesbian with a pock marked face (80% of the women in the pizza industry are lesbians), a poor busboy from St. Louis who rapped poorly, a manager who worked 60 hours a week and hated his life…
I miss the tips too, the random ones. Not the money but everything else people would scrounge up. One time I got a mango which I promptly ate in the car. Another time a can of Tecate which I chugged mostly in their front yard but finished in the car (later I returned to the same place and was disappointed they didn’t offer me a second)…cigarettes, bowl rips, one time I smoked weed with a crack head couple in a dirt bag motel off the highway (the foil pipe was as shitty as it got), one time some lady gave me a DVD porn and said she worked at a sex shop. When I brought it back to work, my manager and I watched it in the back room but the cook working with us ran away and hid.
People would pay me to give them rides. Teenagers, drunk people. Sometimes I would deliver booze or smokes for old men. They always tipped well.
People now think it’s really prestigious that I’m a college adjunct. Most of them don’t know what the word adjunct means, but they know I teach college part time. My friends tell their acquaintances and actually ask me to tell others sometimes when we’re out.
“Tell them what you do,” Jerry says to me with a big Gomer Pyle grin on his face. He stares at me, perched on the end of a bar stool. He never went to college and he’s an alcoholic. To him I might as well be an astronaut, it’s that exotic.
I brush off his suggestion and try to avoid telling anyone anything about myself. It’s better that way. “He’s a professor!”
Fuck, then I is (spell check told me to put that instead of “I am”) in for some questions and some real shitty conversation.
“So you teach like, writing then? I really admire you.” Thanks. No matter who they are or what they do I inevitably tell them they make more money than I do. Not that it matters, but I could be delivering pizzas again and make just as much.
It’s then I become the sounding board for everybody’s English experience. What books they loved, hated, they all come up. It’s hard to avoid I guess. We could talk about punctuation or grammar, and that does come up, but that is so much more tedious and pointless. Somehow I become the punching bag for every issue they ever had with teachers in high school or community college English. And people have a lot of issues.
One time my friend’s sister asked me when you were supposed to use “whom.” I can’t remember if I knew or not, but I just told her I wasn’t sure. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “the English teacher doesn’t even know, see!” It seemed like an awkward topic to discuss when we were in a hospital room with her brother/my best friend terminally ill from leukemia in the bed next to us. Some of her immediate family was sitting around the bed as well.
I never had the heart to tell her about using whom with prepositions when I saw her again at her brother’s funeral a couple months later. Their younger brother came up to me when I walked in the church and asked me to read a Bible verse about fathers and sons. Nobody else would do it because they were too upset. I looked over at their cousin sulking and agreed to do it.
I can’t really remember what it said but everyone thought I did a real fine job up at the pulpit. They said it was because I was a professor and I knew how to speak in front of people.
When we were crowded around eating at their house after the funeral, their dad started yelling something confusing and incoherent at me. He was a big Italian man who’d come over on a boat as a kid. Sometimes he suffered from emotional outbursts. Right in front of everybody, he said he wanted me to start a charity in his son’s name and use all the money that had been given to the family. He said I was the smart one and I needed to study up on it.
I never did though. I think somebody else might’ve. I guess it doesn’t require the kind of smarts I have.