Working Through College

I was in college a fairly long time, from 1972 until 1979, with a couple of short breaks along the way. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and so changed my major a few times, from accounting to undecided to engineering to physics to math (with a minor in physics, that could have been a double major if I’d taken 2 more physics courses). I finished with 169 undergrad hours. It was fun. I loved college. But, being in that long, I had to work a series of jobs to finance the endeavour. The first few were fairly mundane – driving a delivery truck for a paper company, washing well samples for the state geological survey, working at a pet store – but then the jobs I worked took a more interesting tack. I worked security at a K-Mart for about a year. Part of the job was pretty tedious, calling people who had written bad checks and listening to their excuses. Some of the job was fun – hiding in odd places of the store after hours to see if the overnight stock crew would find me (they were supposed to check the store). Once I found a love nest at the top of an enormous pile of beanbags (the market for beanbags had collapsed not long after we got a huge shipment in), where two amorous store employees had been having their trysts. But actually stopping shoplifters was not so fun, sometimes. Like the time I saw a man from the local stockyard stick a shirt down the back of his pants. Under the rules, we couldn’t accost them until they were physically outside the store. Now, I’m not a small guy – at the time I was 6’5″, about 225 – but this guy was huge. About as tall, and looked like he benchpressed cows for fun. And I had to stop him. He didn’t want to stop, I didn’t want him to leave, the situation was beginning to degenerate. You weren’t supposed to actually lay hands upon them, you were supposed to convince them to stop, unless of course they attacked you, which was about to happen. The suddenly one of the mechanics (we had an auto shop in the store) came racing out the front door with a crescent wrench the size of Montana. He later told me one of the store employees ran into the auto shop and said “hey everybody, Harry’s about to get his a$$ beat!” (the previous security guy quit after a shoplifter pulled a knife and cut his arm up, but nobody told me about that until later either). After Mechanic Guy showed up with the crescent wrench, the stockyard man decided to give up.

After the K-Mart job, you would think a normal job would have sufficed. But no, my next job was even more interesting. Officially, I was Evening Secretary to the evening shift charge nurse at a local hospital.. What I was, was often the only male other than security and lab techs in the hospital on the 3-11 and 11-7 shifts I worked. I got to see and do lots of things – emergency room, OR, ICU – but one of the main jobs I had was to retrieve bodies of patients who had died, take them to the hospital basement, and check them in to the morgue. They called me the Head Nurse of the Morgue. There were plenty of times I would be alone in the basement, in the middle of the night, with several bodies in the cooler. Kind of creepy. Also very creepy is the sensation you get when you roll a body off a hospital on to the gurney. Often, you’ll compress the lungs and get a shot of cold, clammy air in the face, or ear. Very creepy. And all of this was done to pay for college.

So, what kinds of jobs did you have during college?

December 12, 2004 · Harry · 2 Comments
Posted in: Other Stuff

2 Responses

  1. Dave Diamond - December 12, 2004

    Hello, Michele sent me. I worked for the math department torturing freshmen. And I’ll bet you think I’m kidding! 🙂

  2. scott - December 14, 2004

    Nothing that interesting. No dead bodies, anyway. Worked for IBM in a really nice office park, in a building that reminded everyone of Darth Vader. It had a tote-sum on the first floor that you could buy Jelly Bellies at, though, so we didn’t mind. (One scoopfull of Very Cherry Jelly Bellies + one scoopfull of Sour Apple Jelly Bellies + one Skor candybar + one Wild Cherry Clearly Canadian = the best breakfast ever devised by man) When not working there, installed wood heaters on the weekends to make ends meet. Nothing too remarkable, except of one time when a professor at JSU wanted to put a 600+ pound heater in his second floor bedroom in Presidential Hills. Me and my 160lb self and my buddy and his 150lb self looked at each other and said it wasn’t going to happen. He asked what it would take, and I said a whole lot more guys. He said “Ya’ll just stay right here. I’ll be back in a minute.” Fifteen minutes later the offensive line for Jackson State University showed up. The heater made it up the stairs no problem.