My boss at the Painter (pop. 246) Experiment Station had tried to get me to quit for weeks. He had taken a fellow employee to a Crab Festival a few days earlier while leaving me to put thousands of beans in little styrofoam cups filled with dirt. But I was either too stubborn or too dumb to quit, so finally he had to fire me. I remember it vividly, him saying that there were going to be some changes and my help was no longer needed. I was bitter, because the year before I had worked at the same place for a different boss, and it had gone swell. In fact, if you ever come home with me, I can show you where I helped build a well, the only manly thing I’ve ever done in my life. One of the perks of the job had also been working with the delightfully eccentric and beautiful Robyn (below), as we would get together and hang out on Saturday nights, listening to Choppy’s Goodtime Oldies on WESR 103.9 FM. So needless to say, I was bummed about getting canned.
It was late June, and I still had another month and a half before school started back, so I needed to find a new job. Where I’m from, jobs for college students aren’t exactly plentiful, so my dad (who is a farmer) told me he could use some help selling produce in a parking lot. So I loaded up my dads old Ford pickup with cantaloupe, watermelon, and sweet corn, and headed down to R&C Seafood in Cheriton (pop. 499). And I stood in their parking lot for the next month, hollering, “Get your fresh cantaloupe!” to people coming out of the store. That was July of 1995, which you might remember as the month where hundreds of people in the US died because it was go unforgivably hot. Over 90 degrees for 28 straight days, if I remember correctly, and I was standing out on asphalt, raising watermelons into the air to motorists zooming by on Route 13. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, Johnny, you’re like a superhero, risking your life to help humanity. Whereas Batman puts it all on the line to fight evil, you put it all on the line to provide people with sweet corn.” And it’s true. To add to the grumpy old man portion of the story, I was getting paid minimum wage and it was like $4.25 back then. So after an 8 hour day in the baking sun I was driving the pickup home with a cool $34 in my pocket (before taxes). But on Saturday nights I would head down the road to Robyn’s house and we’d hang out and listen to Choppy, in his slow Southern Twang, call out, “I hope y’aller ready fer a lil’ Motown, cause here comes Diana Ross and the Supreeeemes.” Life was good. But the job sucked.
P.S. I just started using my scanner, and since nothing interesting happens in summer, I’m probably just going to regale you with a lot more long, boring stories about the Good Ol’ Days. You’ve been warned.