It was almost Spring. We were broke and expecting our first child when I came home and announced that I was quitting my job to become a freelance writer. She took it better than I thought she would, which made me all the more determined to earn her faith. Of course I had no existing clients or prospective clients but those kinds of details don’t often trouble the truly talented. After a few non-paying jobs writing brochure copy for non-profits, I was soon scrambling for any kind of work this side of legal. Working nights as a janitor allowed me to salvage my pride since it left me available for client meetings during the day, although I don’t recall having any. The other major benefit was the quality of friends you made at 3 in the morning on the bus ride home.
He never said and I never asked but I assumed that my new friend, Wayne, had done some time or at least done something which allowed him to lift weights all day for several years in a row. He had asked for a cigarette and I only had Cheetos to offer, but that was enough for a bus friendship. Wayne took pity on my financial situation and told me where to meet him the next day for a cash-only job that was totally legal except that it was cash-only.
Let’s say you hired a moving company to move your belongings from Boston to Seattle. The driver comes with the truck but not all those guys who helped load it in Boston. After the truck clears the scales in Seattle, the driver picks up a new crew of ex-cons and freelance writers to handle your precious belongings. However, I do believe that the soured stinking company shirts we were forced to wear did indeed come from the original crew.
When I arrived at the truck scales the next day it was already crowded with men looking for work. Wayne waved me over and said something like, “Just stand here and don’t say anything. We go as a team, but you pay me two bucks for every hour I get you.” Because of his size, Wayne was almost always the first one the drivers would approach. But Wayne was picky. He confided that moving vans were his first choice. He would grill the driver about the load, the hours and the pay. He kept pointing over to me and the other three guys he was pimping. He walked over, “I got us 6 hours, you guys owe me 12 bucks each.” Pause. Wayne shrugged a, “What about 12 bucks each did you not understand?” shrug. He wanted his money, now. The others started digging in their jeans. I already knew what I would find. “I’ve only got four dollars.” Pause. “I really want this job.” Wayne held out his hand, “You can owe me, once.”
We rode in the trailer, Wayne said he always rode in the cab. I wasn’t surprised when we arrived at the load-in and he was nowhere in sight. I was just happy to get the work.