Tag Archive: working


The Farm: Meet Emir

Sat 03.24.12

Almost six years ago, I proudly stepped away from college with a crisp, fresh college degree. I was certified educated, ready to take on the world. Almost six years ago, I ended up working on a community farm, growing squash, killing bugs, and watching over the community service volunteers. Great use of my fine arts degree.

The farm was fairly small, about 150 by 250 feet.  It had sections of squash, plots of peppers, innumerable baby tomatoes, even a row of grapes that never, ever grew. My partners in crime and grime were, Lou, Geoff, and my brother, Sam. To help us tend to the crops we had a league of volunteers. They came in all shapes and sizes; high school students trying to earn summer credits, juvies doing community service in lieu of jail time, and recovering cokeheads from halfway houses. Our finest student volunteer was “Emir”.

Meet Emir

Emir was our star volunteer. He was a symbol of everything good and right in the world. He was our little, brown beacon of hope. Emir was a high school sophomore of Middle Eastern descent, skinny as a rail, with dark black hair. He was soft spoken, which lead us to believe he must be the strong, silent type. Emir was an invaluable asset in the war on hunger. As our Food Bank boss noted, “[we] were in direct competition with migrant workers!” Despite that we were a nonprofit and also not competing with anyone, as the volunteer supervisors, we were under a lot of pressure to pick our veggies as quickly as possible. When we asked Emir to go pick green beans, he would silently saunter over to the rows and wouldn’t quit until his hands were thick with beetle blood and dirt.

This was fairly typical.

Unlike most of our “volunteers,” Emir was working at the Farm for high school credits. He was a good kid, but one day, he didn’t show up for work. We didn’t think much of it. Actually, we didn’t think much about anything, except for lunch. Sick of eating dirt or 7/11-brand chips and cola, Lou, Geoff, Sam, and myself piled into the Food Bank’s ’82 Mazda Deathtrap pick-up. We were on the hunt for a decent meal. I can’t even recall if we ever found any grub, but I do recall that we ended up by the airport. We were lost, belligerent, and each screaming different directions at Lou, who responded by jerking the wheel left and right, slamming Geoff and Sam into the headrests on the front seats.

Lou had driven across Rhode Island and back. We knew we were in the same town as our Farm, but we weren’t sure how to get back. Slowly crawling past a park in our Mazda, we look out the window to see none other than Emir, equipped with a fresh cast on his arm. We pulled up alongside Emir and friends, with the windows rolled down.

“Hey Emir!” I yelled.

He was visibly shaken – as any little, brown fellow might be when a beat up, pick-up truck full of pungent, dirty, white boys rolls up to you. He lifted his cast, and quickly blurted out “IBrokeMyArmPlayingHockey, that’s why I wasn’t at the Farm today!” We assured Emir that we only wanted directions back to the Farm, we weren’t going to drag him across Rhode Island behind the Mazda.

Unfortunately, Emir was not nearly as skilled with directions as he was at picking tomatoes. However, the following week, Emir was back at it again, picking vegetables one handed. If only all of our workers were as silent and diligent as he.

Next Week: Adolescents.


Apply Yourself

Sun 01.29.12

Partly in thanks to a series of ritualistic animal sacrifices, I began 2012 with a brand new job. I do design now. I make posters. It’s nice and it took me about 5 years to get here. I have a number of friends who are currently hunting through the thick, dank forest of the Job Market. As such, I would like to share a bit of advice about how I acquired, tied down, and killed a virgin goat applied to jobs.

In the Beginning…

In the beginning, I signed up for Twitter to track my job application progress and to make light of it. This practice made me all too aware of the process. Particularly, how many applications I would send out, when I would send them out, and how I would never, ever hear anything back from anyone, ever. This is my first piece of advice though; Keep track of everything you send. Know when you sent it, who you sent it to, and try not to apply for the same job half a dozen times.

Found a job I really want. mailed heartfelt cover letter, resume, and business card on 9/04. Sprayed envelope with cologne. Now we wait. – Excerpt from Twitter

That particular Fall, I applied for about 25 jobs. I went through different methods; I uploaded resumes through the company’s job bank websites, I emailed my resume directly to the hiring offices, I even mailed hard copies on thick-stock paper directly to the hiring manager. I followed up with phone calls to HR, emails to each department, and I even showed up at the supervisor’s home with boxes of chocolates and a dozen roses.

Called design dept of Dream Job. Left a voicemail. Feel like I am asking girl to prom. Fear rejection. Will spend another prom crying @ home.

After following all the tips, doing all the tricks, I had managed to land a single call back for a job that I discovered would pay far less than my current job. This is when I resigned that my fate for 2009 was to remain at my current job. It was also around that time that my Twitter account was used to produce garbage. However, out of the 25 jobs I applied to, 20% notified me that I was not “what they were looking for.” The other 80% did not even bother to send me so much as a confirmation email, return my calls, or follow up with me in any manner.

Over the next few years, I would continue to send out resumes sporadically.

Actual helpful advice after the jump!


My Mom Was Once a Visiting Nurse

Tue 10.04.11

While I was toiling away in high school, my mother was supporting our family as a visiting nurse. She would visit low income families, helping patients with long standing issues or who recently had surgery. While driving me through Providence on my way to school, she would leave me with casual observations; such as the inverse correlation between low income and the size of your television.

One particularly unmemorable morning, my mother decided to tell me a story about her previous day at work. Mom was visiting a patient complaining about abdominal pain. The patient, a large, large, large overweight woman, had surgery on her stomach a few days prior. When my mom entered the apartment, she knew something was a little “off.” The air was heavy and smelled faintly of almonds.

Mom inspected the hefty patient, lifting folds and searching through crevices on her torso. My mother had soon located the problem. Under the patient’s fat folds was the cut from her recent surgery. The stitches had burst days ago and the large woman’s large insides were peaking out. The patient was so fat that she did not even notice her gangrene wound.

My mother is not a visiting nurse any more.


One of the Times I Almost Killed Myself

Tue 08.24.10

Prior to graduating from college I had a fair number of pretty cruddy jobs. I’ve worked on farms, in food banks, for K-Mart, convenience stores, and the Roger Williams Park Zoo. I was a seasonal worker at the Zoo, a veteran of 3 summers. There are probably a number of stories I could tell about this job, but today’s tale is about one of the times I almost killed myself.

As a member of the Warehouse & Maintenance crew, one of my duties was to help wash up the restaurants by the elephants. One warm, summer day, there was a particular nasty spill that needed tidying. I filled my mop bucket with warm water and poured in a bit of bleach (for that extra shine). I figured the “more the merrier,” so I also grabbed a bottle of industrial strength cleaner to pour into the concoction.

The small plume of smoke rising from the bubbling bucket was my first indication that I screwed up. The burning sensation in my eyes and throat was another. I quickly realized that I had forgotten to check to see if the industrial strength cleaner had ammonia in it. As you may have ascertained, it did.

With haste, I lifted the mop bucket, held my breath, and waddled out the back of the restaurant. Thankfully, the only thing between me and the back door was a small, slippery hallway and a few wayward sleeves of plastic cups. I kicked the half-propped door open, leading me to the small fenced patch of dirt that housed the AC unit, a few trash cans, and a wasp’s nest. I poured the smoking bucket into the dirt and watched as the Earth absorbed the smoking liquid. Then I left.

Sitting on the dust coated picnic table under the big gnarled tree where the employees hang out, I was trying to remember the name of the gas I had just created. I asked my husky Samoan manager, Tone, if she knew the name.

“Death,” she said as she shrugged.

My coworker, Carter, thought for a moment and replied, “Death.”

As Carter sat pondering, our tall, rail-thin, black manager walked through the gate. Tone turned to him and shouted, “Hey ‘Mumba, what’s it called when you mix ammonia and bleach?”

Lumumba thought for a second, raising his brow as he wiped sweat from his mahogany skin. He took his hat off and replied: