When I woke up this morning, I had this letter in my inbox from my fellow writer, Elvira Justice, from Saxis, VA. I've known her for many years. She writes travel brochures on her Commodore 64 and sells them to tourists. Not many tourists go to Saxis, so she supplements her income at Perdue Farms:
As a struggling writer, my creativity needs to be stifled by a 9-to-5 day job until I can get my best work published, so I decided to apply for a job up your way, in Center City Philadelphia.
I've spent many years on the Eastern Shore, where the living is easy and about 30 years behind the times. Starting salaries go back even further, probably to prohibition. In order for a woman to venture outside the home to earn a living in good old boy country (you remember, the same guys, who hold divorce court out in the woodshed with a shotgun; and he gets to keep the designer Captain Kangaroo outfit), she has several choices at $5 an hour, about two at $10, and must be able to walk on water for anything higher.
A friend suggested that if I wanted a better job than cleaning stables, plucking chickens, or joining the illegal alien crop picking crew, I needed to head north to a metro area. So, I went to the job interview in Center City Philadelphia.
(Remembering your favorite "walking through a stable" line, I went over to Chincoteague Island, took my shoes off, and walked through some pony shit first, for good luck.)
Everything seemed to go well, except that as I left the interview, I found that they have this automated parking garage where a voice like something out of "2001 Space Odyssey" emulates from the fee machine and says "please-place-ticket-into-the-slot-with-the-bar-code-up-and-to-the-right, yada yada." You are then prompted to put money in the machine, and it gives you change.
The parking fee alone was probably more than the scrap metal value of the old restored police car I am driving, you remember it, the Ford LTD with the knackered oil rings, but the trade-off is a filthy rich salary of $12.50 an hour.
Then the robot voice says "please-take-your-receipted-ticket-with you-to-leave-at-the-gate." I guess they should actually stress the fact that you absolutely won't leave without the canceled ticket and maybe not even then.
At the exit gate, the one that holds the steel arm across the exit, another robot voice tells you to put the receipted ticket into the slot, "please-place-your-canceled-ticket-into-the-slot-with-the-bar-code-up-and-to-the-right, yada yada," only this time, the machine was broken and I had to sit and listen to the ticket robot go off the deep-end until a live attendant came over to let me out (thank God for humans). The robot sounded like a good candidate for tossing a commode in "One Flew Over The Coo-Coo's Nest." I came to the conclusion that we are really not yet ready for this technology. I just sat there; feeling intimidated humming "Amazing Grace."
Interestingly, neither of the two smiling social worker managers standing in line ahead of me had to wait to get their pimp mobiles out on the street. Maybe they already know how to make ticket slugs?
Next, I went over to the Reading Terminal Market and ate something. I was 5 minutes too late for Italian pork on a steak roll, so I went to the Israeli place and got potato pancakes with sour cream. It is very interesting to sit in a busy public place in the city and observe nuns and the Amish walking side-by-side down the isle in the produce department with ladies of the evening, who are also spending their earnings on tomatoes and cherry peppers.
God bless America!
Working in Philadelphia will definately inspire creativity and marketable material. Something to write home about, yes?