July 14th (7-14) has inadvertently become something of an official "714 Day", as people never fail to point out the date to me. In the late 1980s I wrote a novel called 714, which I then revised and expanded upon in the early 1990s. It was not a very good novel, but it did provide, in a Bukowski/Kerouac sort of semi-autobiographic manner, a look at what I was up to in the "grand productive days" of the early 1980s followed by my prolonged period of hoboing around the country.
Will it ever be republished? Oh, probably. All in time. But for now, to commemorate 714 Day, here's a brief excerpt:
"Dipsy Donut", the sign said. Well, employment is employment.
I'd hoped for a real old-school manly kind of bakery, you know, dusty with the powdered sugar of ten thousand mornings, and some Popeye-armed fellow pounding enormous globs of dough into shape while his wife delicately troweled still-hot iced cookies onto long sheets of wax paper. But it wasn't to be. The place was clean as a whistle and decorated in a nauseating soccer-mom-pet-project kind of way.
I smiled at the church-lady looking woman at the cash register. "Might you be hiring?"
She gave just a momentary pause and a dead stare to let me know that I was wasting my time, then sighed and handed me an application. She tapped a cup full of pens with her skeletal finger, but in that same instant I'd already pulled my own pen out of my pocket. That seemed to annoy her greatly and she walked away.
I hate filling out applications. This one asked for my five most recent previous employers. Do I list my own self-employment? Do I list odd jobs, part time help, and jobs where I was paid in cash? They wanted to know the addresses and phone numbers of these places. Hell, I don't remember. Why would I memorize the phone numbers and addresses of anyplace I used to work? I don't even remember the names of the employers.
They wanted references. I listed some good friends but I don't even know the street addresses of some of them and had to leave the address field blank. Will they think that's weird? Probably. They wanted to know how long I'd known each reference. I don't know. Do normal people carry around all this information in their head and have it ready at a moment's notice? Is there something wrong with me? Should I just make up something? I could spend hours trying to figure all this crap out. If I fill out the application too quick, will they think I just made it up anyway? Are they really going to contact these references and employers? It's just a fucking donut shop. Someone says, "give me two crullers" and I say "here's your change", end of transaction. Why should I even have to fill out an application for such a job?
There was an annoying high pitched grating sound in the store that seemed to grow louder in the silence. It was the way the whine of the fluorescent lights merged with the hum of the milk fridge. I saw speakers mounted in the corners of the room, so why wasn't there any music playing? My body began to feel heavy, and my head began to feel light. And I'd been here scarcely fifteen minutes. I can't work here. I folded up the paper and stuffed it in my back pocket.
Polly was looking bored and impatient when I came out. "Any luck?"
"Well," I said, "I filled out an application. We'll see."
- - JSH