OK, how am I gonna get money. Maybe Charles Bukowski’s Factotum was not an appropriate book to read when experiencing anxiety about finding a job. He’s cleaning toilets. Polishing the brass rail around the L.A. Times building. I don’t want to do that shit.
I have cleaned toilets. Worse, I have cleaned toilets for a boss who then inspected each toilet, maddeningly thorough about detecting the tiniest bit of excrement left behind. As though someone would have to shit, look at the gnat-sized chunk of stubborn waste on the bowl, and scoff. I can’t shit here! This was in an office building that hosted small insurance companies. This was not the president’s toilet, or Madonna’s. These were men who shit when the spirit moved them, specks of lingering asscrust be damned. But still. What is this, she would ask. I thought you scrubbed the toilet. Why is this still here.
Every job I’ve ever had has been some variant of this, and make no mistake, it’s all cleaning shit. It’s all cleaning shit and then being asked Socratically, what is this, when some atom of shit is left behind. And if you had stayed to clean it, what is this, you started cleaning those toilets forty five minutes ago. I have never not worked for an exacting taskmaster who cut no slack whatsoever. Who has not felt that I was lucky to be able to clean that shit. There are always a thousand other people lined up to pry the toilet brush out of your hand.
Our society has completely failed if you can’t tell your boss to go fuck himself. You are not free, and you never will be. You’re gonna be scrubbing and scrubbing that stubborn shit chunk when you’re young and then asking some poor young schmuck what is this about a gnat sized speck of shit when you’re old. It’s so hard to find good help these days. People aren’t grateful.
It’s always what is this mote of shit and why do I even have to ask you about this mote of shit. I don’t want to have to explain to you the standards here. I want a motivated self starter who is detail oriented. When I flipped burgers, if you fucked up someone’s custom order, the “big” manager would personally walk back to your station with the receipt in one hand and the failed sandwich in the other, demanding: how could this happen. It says “no onions” right here. And you would knee-jerk defend yourself– wait, are you SURE it says “no onions?” Of course he has built his fucking case, he is the federal prosecutor with a ninety nine per cent conviction rate. You fucked up the sandwich. But you had to struggle and sputter and eventually apologize because you absolutely needed to maintain the appearance that you valued your job and were terrified to lose it. Anything less was immediate dismissal, from four twenty five an hour and a high chance that you would drop a sixty pound case of beef patties on the delicate bones of your foot, or french fry your hand. And the big manager, who was willing to make the occasional tongue in cheek joke about his degree from hamburger university– he wasn’t a bad guy, but he had to enter every return into the computer with a reason, and if that was grill error, and the percentage of grill errors per sale inched up over one point eight per cent or whatever– he would get called to the carpet, have district managers visiting and ensuring compliance, looking at some chart and asking: what is this? And to keep his job he would have to show fear.
But the truth is: fuck right off, I make eight thousand god damn hamburgers per day and the rest of them were perfect, and tell that fat fuck to scrape off the god damn onions.
Bukowski doesn’t have it in him to show fear so he keeps getting fired. He’s broke, and he needs the gigs, but, fuck that. He can’t bring himself to eat shit. He’s not afraid to sleep on a park bench. I am afraid to sleep on a park bench. I lived in fear as a working man and now I will live in fear as an unemployed man, of the money running out. Not maintaining the lifestyle to which I am accustomed. Gas in the car and an apartment. Cat food. We need something like the public dole they have in England. People shouldn’t have to work their whole lives. It should be couple years on, one year off. So much work is cruelty.