2 AM Friday 23 March 2012 Nunhead
I once worked selling advertising space in Hotel and Resort Industry magazine for a man named Harvey Grotsky – well, he thought I was working for him. I didn’t sell a single page of advertising space in the five months. I was an employee from hell.
I remember only a few things about Harvey Grotsky. He called me a “Loser, First Class” and had his beaten-down grandmotherly assistant fire me. Harvey didn’t have the nerve to do it himself. That pretty much sums up his management style. Not that you can assume he was a bad guy, because, as I said, I wasn’t a good employee.
It was a couple of years after the Wall Street Crash of 1987 and things weren’t going well in the hotel industry. That is my excuse. That was also his excuse when he closed Hotel and Resort Industry magazine a few years later, even though every other publication in the field was experiencing double-digit year-on-year growth. I just read that online. I didn’t know that at the time.
Harvey had a redeeming feature. At 5 PM he would come into my office and turn out the lights and told me to go home; the office was closed. Closing an office at 5 was very rare in workaholic New York.
Only one other place I ever worked at did that – and I worked at many places before I was forced into stand-up comedy in 1993. From 1986 to 1993 I had eight white collar jobs and got fired from seven of them. Twice the police were called to remove me from offices and once they actually escorted me out. As I said, I was bad employee.
The other place was the Reader’s Digest Association in Chappaqua, New York. I was auditing their paid circulation with the Audit Bureau of Circulations and if that sounds like something out of a David Cronenberg movie, it kinda was. I was at the “Bureau” for four years, maybe, and they wouldn’t fire me. I had to quit. Carrie “Star Wars” Fisher once said “I spend my entire life waiting for the other shoe to drop. And when it doesn’t, I throw it down.” Me, too.
I didn’t like The Digest. They are the kind of company that called themselves an “Association” when they were owned by very rich people. I thought they fooled their readers into buying their publication so they could enter the million dollar sweepstakes. I didn’t like that they would say their offices were in Pleasantville but they were completely, entirely, in Chappaqua. Chappaqua doesn’t sound as sweet as “Pleasantville”. I wasn’t a very good worker there, either.
I bet that Pol Pot insisted his Khmer Rouge soldiers stop killing Cambodian civilians at 5 PM, too.
So at 5 PM I was released from the evil that is work and the double evil of working for someone you don’t like. There was nothing to do for the Hotel and Resort Industry and Harvey Grotsky until 9 AM the next day or Monday morning. My bills were paid. I had money in the bank. I was free.
I remember walking home down the canyons of midtown Manhattan in the sun of a summer afternoon, relaxed and happy, looking forward to pouring over the New York Times at a diner and then watching the Mets on TV. Life was very, very sweet then.
That was the last secure position I was to have had.
A good friend here in Nunhead – a man who will remain nameless as he’s English and English people all act like they are hiding something even if they aint and he just might have something to hide – well, he hasn’t been working for a few months since he was bought out of his job at a big British cultural institution and due to the economy there isn’t much call for trainee electricians, the job he retrained for. Well, that is his excuse.
I asked him today when he’d look at my bicycle as he is very good at fixing bicycles and a good dude. He shrugged that he didn’t have time anymore as he was on childcare, house cleaning, cooking and job search duties. He reminded me that I once told him that “the unemployed never have a day off.”
There is lots of good in being a comic, or being any kind of self-employed person. But a very bad thing is that you can feel like you’re unemployed.
It is two in the morning and I am writing this thing and not knowing when to stop and not doing the work I need to do and having stuff to do and not doing it. Like I said, I am not a very good employee, even when I work for myself.
It almost makes me want to work for Harvey Grotsky. Nah.
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