Walking down Sesame Street with Studs Terkel at Graduation Time

The first job I ever had was delivering newspapersimagesCANJG9M6
tossing them with vigor at various doorways from
my big, black, steel-framed paperboy bike
the paper’s rubber bands would sometimes slip, causing
the paper to take the form of a cone rendering them
aerodynamically unable to fly well that way but…

icecreamcone…they looked a lot like the cones I filled by hand
with ice cream in my next job at Baskin-Robbins
where the scooped gobs of vanilla looked a lot like
the naked potatoes I peeled by the fifty-found bag to
make potato pancakes with at the Alpine Village Inn
where we garnished every plate of German food with
a spiced apple ring, round and hollow just like the
crullers and glazed-raised I served to cops, mechanics,
teachers and folks on my next job at the Donut House…

….where, in fact, all of our donuts (except long johns
and crème-or-jelly-filled bismarks) had center holes
that resembled the 45 rpm records I played on my ‘real’briochecutouts
job at the radio stations I worked at as an alleged adult
for a decade or so, places where people would call in
to request songs and birthday greetings or to win
bumper stickers and chat about aliens or vent about
their loneliness and all they had was my voice and a cat
and I tried to politely get off the phone, back to work
entertaining 24/7 hot-and-cold running weirdoes’…

…just like people I met in my next career incarnation
in the hotel business I grew to love, except those people
you encountered face-to-face while they complained
about cold pools, thin towels, noisy ice machines
or the fact that they got put in a room on the 13th floorHIM
but at least they tipped you for your time, effort, charm
except for a short time when I worked behind the desk
with reservation computers and boring accounting stuff…

…that did come in handy when I went back to broadcasting
and helped manage a national radio network which gave
me more technical skills that was helpful when I became
a county social services case worker, helping folks who
could never tip, but who often needed someone to talk to
besides their cat and the guy on the radio with a call in show
and sometimes I could also help make their lives a bit easier…

…like I did in my next stop as a state employment counselorjobsearchwhoteboard
which I enjoyed and did well with because, holy cow!, I could
relate to most of the people on my caseload because I had
done so many different things and that helped me be
successful at helping people find better jobs than the ones
that had been snatched from them and I could also talk
with some authority on making transitions especially once
the economy went south and the irony of being laid off
from my job as an employment counselor sank in…

….and I went to work for a company training their employees
to do their jobs, until they started cutting some of those jobs
and, of course, you don’t need to train someone to do a jobPhoto0772
that isn’t there anymore and so I finally finished a long-before
begun college degree, and now I daily find myself in front of a
classroom full of disinterested inner-city high school English
students who don’t understand how the real world works
and see themselves as not having many future options…

…because they have no newspapers to deliver, ice cream is
now soft serve and made with milk and comes plopping
out of a machine and potatoes come to restaurants in bags
already peeled and donuts are made by big machines you
can watch them float down a river of oil and radio stations
are corporately homogenized, digitally delivered via satellite…fryer

…so the world just doesn’t need as many people to deliver
and throw and scoop and peel and serve like back in my day
so any empathy I share with people falls on mostly deaf ears
of kids wearing earbuds which drowns out the siren-call of
potential for opportunity beyond flipping burgers, stocking
shelves and shoving lattes across a counter…

…and I think back over the blue-collar and white-collar
phases of my career and all I can say for certain now is that
whatever the color of my shirts, there was always a well
earned, mostly-enjoyed-making-it, ring around the collar
and how maybe circles and rings and holes and circles is
some kind of theme in my life and then I find myself
talking in circles to my students because it’s what we do
and quite often at the end of the day I can easily picture
myself back in a paper hat somewhere asking….

”Do you want coffee with that cruller”?

– Mark Lucker


About poetluckerate

I am a poet, writer and teacher who moved from Minnesota to New Orleans in 2008 to help rebuild the worst public school system in America. It is a huge challenge to say the least. Writing - in many different forms and ways - has saved me untold thousands in therapy bills throughout the years. Reading my writings may do either the same - or just the opposite - for you. Read at your own risk, as I do not offer writer malpractice insurance. ;-{) I hope you enjoy what you read here.
This entry was posted in Reflections, Teaching and Learning, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Walking down Sesame Street with Studs Terkel at Graduation Time

  1. Pingback: @55 | Chaotic Zen, A' la Carte

  2. slpmartin says:

    Seems like there are fewer options for such students everyday…sadly.


  3. Pingback: The Summer of My Clip-On Name Tag (or, Loves Labor Days Renewed) | Chaotic Zen, A' la Carte

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