Saturday, October 11, 2014


I'm not a manly man. I tend to steer clear from the usual macho bullshit. However, I did have a pretty masculine job once upon a time. I worked for the City of Elmhurst as a parts driver. To be honest, I shouldn't have gotten that job. I didn't know shit about it. I had to carry the original part with me just so I could match it up in the parts store. I was great with directions, but I barely knew my ass from an alternator back then.

But there was something truly satisfying about that job. I got to drive around for four hours every morning (if I was lucky; if I wasn't, I was stuck being a janitor around the garage). Best of all, there was a great camaraderie at that job. If you've ever seen RESCUE ME or SIRENS or even THE JOB, you understand what I mean by that.

The job required strength and resilience from me, and I always delivered. It also required a lot of ball-busting, which I also delivered (although as the probie, I mostly had to take the ball-busting that happened at this job).

But there was a tender side to that job that I and I alone enjoyed. You see, I had a routine every morning. I'd punch in, and then I'd fill in the rag bins and the oil absorbent granules barrels. Then, I'd pump all the oil drains out to make sure the guys had fresh canisters to use throughout the day. (I would always check the pump in the back room to make sure it wasn't full. If it was, or the used oil filter bins were full, I'd call the disposal company to come out and take care of the mess.) I'd also fill up the gas tank of the parts truck and make sure there wasn't anything else that needed replenishing.

The last thing I did before checking with my boss to see if I had any parts runs was emptying the recycling bins. I'd roll out the cardboard bin to the dumpster out back, and I'd throw the big chunks in by hand. When it came down to the little things at the bottom, I'd lift that heavy fucker up and turn it upside down in the dumpster until it was empty.

It was not very romantic work, but I will say that the cardboard dumpster was out by a patch of fairly thick woods. If you cut through them, you'd eventually come out at a recreational pond with a fountain in it. But immediately, you'd see a bunch of trees (and an abandoned cabin with an odd past that once won me a college journalism award; a story for another day).  Sometimes, the patch would be inundated with fog. On some mornings, it was incredibly beautiful, which was odd, considering my masculine and blue collar job duties.

One morning, however, I was disposing of the cardboard recyclables when I saw something odd among the trees. I squinted my eyes and realized there was a deer back there. I paused, watching it watching me. Neither of us did anything. It was a magical moment, and I watched as its graceful movements brought it closer to me, step by step. It got so close to me that I wondered if it would let me pet it. I don't think I would have ever done something so audacious, but the idea that it might let me do that kind of excited me.

And then some guy drove by with an end loader, bent on getting rid of steel recyclables, and the deer sprinted off into the woods, where I would never see it again.

I love peaceful moments, and the most masculine job I've ever had gave me one, even if it was pretty fleeting. I still remember it to this very day, and I morn its quick passing.

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