Thursday, March 09, 2006


I looked at my watch as the library copy machine ate the last of my nickels. Such was the life of a student before the days of the internet. Look up all the reference articles, wander the stacks to collect the bound journals, haul armloads downstairs (but not on the elevator because it smelled like piss), copy them page by page, and leave the pile of volumes for some poor work study student to put away later.

It was Saturday night and nearly everyone else was downtown at the bars. I contented myself with the fact that all my diligence and sacrifice would be worth it in the end. I’d make something of myself. I’d make my mark on the world in some significant way. I wasn’t sure how, but for tonight, I just hoped to dig through my stack of photocopies and make sense of my biology assignment. I looked at my watch. I had 10 minutes to walk over to the Med Labs building to meet my roommate.

Breathing heavily, I leaned against the 3rd floor wall with my backpack slung over my shoulder. David was late, but I didn’t dare go looking for him. He was in the Cadaver Lab slicing on some poor dead person, trying to learn something about the living. Someday he’d be a doctor, save lives, and make the world a better place. He loved the Cadaver Lab. It gave me the creeps whenever he brought it up, but I knew better than to say anything. He’d find too much pleasure in taunting me if he knew it bothered me. It was bad enough that we had a human skeleton in our living room. We’d named him Gandi and let him eat breakfast with us because he looked so thin.

Five minutes went by before I started pacing. The hallway was empty. Everyone else was downtown at the bars having a good time. After a while a cleaning woman came by with a broom and a garbage can on wheels. She was short, fiftyish and frumpy-looking. I didn’t give her a welcoming look, but she started talking to me anyway. I suppose the Saturday night shift in the academic buildings could get pretty boring.

"I clean this whole building by myself every weekend, you know."
"Is that right?" I indulged.
"Yep. Other people have teams of two, but I guess they think I can do this all on my own." She said with a note of complaining, but mostly pride.
"You must be very good at your job."
"I suppose. I’ve been here for almost 22 years. I guess I know my way around."
"Wow. That’s a long time to be at one place." I said sincerely.
"My son just got himself a really good job."
"Oh yeah, what’s he doing?"
"He’s working for the DOT. They have him driving a truck around and picking up roadkill off the highways."
I blinked a couple times as the idea sunk in. "Huh, I guess I never thought about who did that job."
She said with more pride, "It’s a really important job, and he gets good benefits and everything."

About that time, David came walking out of the Cadaver Lab. He shouted down the hall, "I have a powerful craving for some kidney pie! How about you?" I shook my head and excused myself.

Later, as we shared a cheese pizza, I asked, "Do you ever wonder who goes around and cleans up all the roadkill off the highways? When you think about it, that’s a really important job."


At 9:27 AM, Blogger naive-no-more said...

Who determines the importance of jobs? My first reaction at reading this post was sympathy for the cleaning lady because she had such a shitty job. But it's a job that has to be done - we'd certainly notice if it wasn't.

And furthermore, it's a job that pays her bills so it's extremely important for her.

I almost went off on a different tangent when I first read this, but I'm glad I re-thought my initial instinct.

(PS: I used to absolutely love doing the type of research you described)

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Ron Southern said...

That's the kind of jobs I used to do. First, incidental to my job as backhoe/front end loader, I'd scrape the dead kitties and doggies off the roads and byways. Later, as Pest Exterminator, I'd sweep or shovel up the remains of dead rodents, cats, and dogs from wherever they happened to buy the farm. You've never seen brilliant white until you've found a dead white cat whose ass-end is being devoured by hundreds of juicy white maggots. It's another world, death, and mostly dealt with mechanically, even though it's somewhat gruesome. You just do it because it's your job and because everybody else is carrying their squeamishness to the extreme.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger ZooooM said...

Oh, taking me back before the internet. whoooooooooooooo! copy copy copy fight with machine copy copy go hunt change. *sigh*

This reminds me of that show Dirty Jobs on discovery. Sometimes, I can't even watch. And I am ALWAYS more grateful that people do those things afterward.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Blazngfyre said...

My son HATES me because I MAKE him do his papers and such the "old" way.
I do take offense to the term "old", but then I smile when I see the look of sheer misery on his cute lil face.
A mother's joy ....

(aren't I a bitch?!)

At 12:29 PM, Blogger gnightgirl said...

Hey, we're sisters in Roadkill Blogs!

This story reminds me of a cute book called "I want to Buy a Vowel" by John Welter. I guess I won't give it away, but there's roadkill there too.

And ugh, those 10-cent copy machines..,and microfiche! Remember microfiche, spinning by until you fell out of your chair? I get nauseous just thinking about it.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Shephard said...

Geez, I didn't even know it was someone's whole job. I just thought it was some task lumped in with other things... "And while you're out there, take care of this."
This job must be a much more demanding one in the midwest. I've never seen so much roadkill on roads as out there. Oy.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Laurie said...

Yep, I remember the good old days before the internet, too!

Soooo glad to see you back, T!

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Dick the Boomer said...

That was funny! Damn, I'm glad you're back. Kidney pie? What a hoot!


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