[Editor’s Note: Welcome to a monthly column from veteran punk Brad Logan of Leftover Crack, Rats in the Wall and the Adolescents about surviving day to day between tours as a working musician.]
Despite my discontent with most of the jobs I’ve had outside of being in a band, I don’t think having a day job is demeaning in itself. In fact, a lot of good things can come of it besides just paying the rent. For some of us, it’s a good feeling just to have gotten out of bed and accomplished something. Even if it’s just breaking down cardboard boxes for the man. Sometimes if you’re stuck for an idea working off a few hours can be distracting enough to dislodge an idea from the grey matter. Which results in the puzzle piece you’ve been racking your brain for. However, that doesn’t mean your dead-end-bill-payer isn’t without its share of poetic demoralization.
Take for instance my time as a commercial plumber. Now don’t get me wrong. Plumbing is an important gig; one I don’t take for granted. And the competence of those in the field literally effects our lives on a daily basis. But you never know what lies in store on the job.
Once upon a time between tours I worked for a mid-sized plumbing company. And within that company I worked with a crew of plumbers. Our job was to install plumbing at construction sites like grocery stores and mega-malls. Also on the menu was the repair and maintenance of broken piping at private hospitals. As was the case one fine day when I rolled into work. I was told to report to a hospital in Norwalk. I wasn’t told why, just given an address.
I was late (as was usually the case) and the rest of the crew was already there. When I arrived, I found the boys standing around 10×5 foot hole in the floor of the Emergency Room hallway. There was a break in the main sewage line and 6 feet down the hole was a 24” diameter clay pipe with a 3ft hole in the top. Flowing through the pipe like some putrid white-water rapids was every kind of infectious waste imaginable to a major hospital. “Ok guys we need 4 guys to jump down there and start clearing debris so we can patch the pipe”. I looked at my crew. None of them even mentioned a Hazmat suit before a couple guys jumped in. “We still need 2 more” someone said. They looked at me. I didn’t even tell them I was quitting as I walked to my car, put the keys in the ignition, and drove home.
I was on Zoloft for about 2 months when I started my next gig at Home Depot in the Lumber dept. the band had ceased touring due to infighting and I had no other means of support. It was finally over; the dream was dead. I had fucked up my life trying to make a living as a guitarist and now it was time to pay the proverbial piper. So, back it was to the only job I was qualified for. A blast from my teenage past; retail. The gig wasn’t much different then I remembered. All retail was basically the same: you’re a number with a name tag. Total submission to a schedule of the company’s choice, your own life ceases to exist starting now.
The game was this: assist customers in finding the goods for their home projects, and cut lumber per request. When I wasn’t doing that, time was spent pretending to look busy.
Not looking busy, or looking hard at work assisting homeowners half my age, resulted in hard looks from the store manager who was also half my age. The end result of which could be being assigned an even worse work schedule or “termination”. Fuck. I couldn’t afford that, I had a wife and a kid and no medical insurance. And this was California, sink or swim. And I was through sinking. Instead, I strapped on my boots, put on my name tag and clocked in on my shift as your friendly suburban lumber jack, sawing my way to security.