workin’ for the man

One of the crazier ideas I had, I was about twenty-two and decided I ought to get a job and live a more conventional life. Do you think it’s fun living like a damn bohemian? Shunned by society, an outsider, alienated, ridiculed. Well, yes it is but, regardless, I put on my best clothes (most recently washed jeans) and headed down to the government employment office, then called Canada Manpower.

I filled out the form I was handed and then sat there amongst a group of dejected immigrants waiting for my new life to unfold. Eventually this guy not much older than me shows up, calls my name, and ushers me into his cubicle. He looks at the form I filled out, tapping his pencil against the large government ashtray on his desk. (An ashtray! Man, those were the days!) He confirms a couple of my answers . . . name, planet of birth, etc. . . .

“Hmmmm . . .  your last job was over a year ago, Hartford Insurance Company in San Francisco?”   [see Me & Wally.]

“Yeah, that’s right.” Was he gonna say something about Wallace Stevens? I doubted it.

“So… you lived in San Francisco?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Hmmmm . . . interesting. I saw a show on TV about hippies. Lot of hippies in San Francisco.”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“They use marijuana, don’t they? The hippies? I heard they use marijuana.”

“Well, yeah, I think they might. I read that somewhere.”

“You smoke marijuana? I mean you ever try it? Must be plenty of marijuana in San Francisco.”

“Well, uh . . . yeah, I tried it once.”

“Really, eh? Hmmmm. So . . . uh . . . er . . . (taps pencil) can you get me some?”

Pot wasn’t hard to find in Montreal. So every week I kept my appointment with Canada Manpower. I’d bring this guy a pay-envelope filled with marijuana for which he’d hand me ten bucks and a stack of index cards with various jobs described on them, none of which seemed to bear a relationship to any reality I knew of. There was nothing for me.

“Do you ever actually find anyone a job?” I asked.

“Not usually.”

This lasted a couple of months. I went to Canada Manpower to find work and make a responsible citizen out of myself and the only work I found was alienated bohemian dope dealing.

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