When I was growing up the options for employment or a career seemed to be limited to working in some kind of steel mill, military service, or some other labor intensive job. There were some folks that went to college, obviously, but it some ways that was still an anomaly. It took me a while to appreciate higher education, but I'm a true believer in it now. My first big job interview was at American Cast Iron Pipe Company or ACIPCO. My thinking at the time was, "If I could only get this job, I would be set! This would be my ticket to easy street." This ideology is comical at best, but at 18 that's the way my mind worked. I put on my Sunday best and went to the interview confident that soon I would reach my destiny. The interview was going pretty well until the question, "Mr. Perry, Have you ever been in a situation that would be considered dangerous?" Now, I didn't want to answer with what I REALLY thought was dangerous at the time i.e., women, late beer runs through town, my parents, and daddy's of any kind. I thought real hard and came up with this answer, "Yes, my father and I were working on a lawn mower recently and it caught on fire." The interviewer then asked, "What did you do?" Mama always told me to be honest so I said, "Hell, I ran!" Needless to say, I didn't get the job. Probably worked out for the best anyway, but you just never know. This "Road Not Taken" or more accurately "Road not given a chance to Take" could have led to fame and riches, but probably not.
My first real job was in the Summer of 1988 with an Ice company. My job was to throw bags of ice off the back of a truck. That was it. Simple yet painful job description. I got paid a couple cents (Either 2 or 3, I think) a bag commission. I normally worked from about 7 am to 7 pm or so, and looking back my feelings are still the same, "It sucked." Regardless, an event was about to happen that would change the course of not only my summer, but my employment. Several buddies and I decided one Saturday night to go and camp out. Everybody knows that you can't camp out without beer, but nobody had any money (I still had not received my first pay check). We decided to go to Burger King parking lot and bum money to purchase beer and then go camp out in the woods. Yep, we were trend setters, movers and shakers, the rebels......really just a bunch of punk idiots...truth be told. Well the beer quest was successful and we purchased a case or so of Milwaukee's Best Light (We lovingly referred to it as "The Beast"), and headed to the woods. The one glitch in the plan was the current drought that had been going on in our area, and the No-Burn ordinance that none of us seemed to know about. We built a huge bon-fire in the woods, and of course this brought unwanted attention to our little party. Long story short, the police came, saw, and took us to jail. All that time borrowing money was wasted, not to mention the beer. My father knew most of the policemen who took us in, and they let us all off pretty easy with no charges filed. However, from this point on my father decided it would be better for me if I was supervised a little more closely. He made plans for me to go to work for him at the City Park so he could "keep an eye on me", and I had to leave my job with the ice company. Don't feel to bad for me, working for my father did have advantages, I got a great tan cutting grass and I was within a rock's throw from the City Pool so it couldn't have been that bad.
As I mentioned above, Military service was an option that many kids my age seriously considered. I was no different, and I had talked to all branches of the military about enlisting. I finally settled on the Marine Corps, and I thought this would be my career path. My grandmother (Granny) did not want me to go into the military, and she kept telling me that she had a bad feeling about it. The day that I went to the recruiting office to as Granny said it, "Sign my life away", she had a plan. She called over to the recruiting office while I was doing the paperwork, but before I signed the papers. Like Vito Corleone, "She made me an offer I couldn't refuse", and offered to pay for me to attend Junior College. This was a game changer, and I accepted and left the recruiting office quickly. I still remember the Sergeant in charge of my recruitment holding my papers as I got the heck out of dodge. Now, the interesting part to this is that "bad feeling" Granny had. If I would have enlisted that day I would have been a part of the first Gulf War, and technically Granny saved me from serving during a war. She never let me forget that, but I probably would have been better served to get the discipline in the Marines than majoring in Beer and Girls at the community college. I found out later on that I had a knack for my own kind of service while I was in Law Enforcement for ten years.....but that is another story.
I really enjoy looking back to where I have been, and it can be a bitter-sweet process sometimes. I really would love to journey back in time and see all those familiar faces, smells, places, and people that I knew then. I never really wanted to grow up and get a real job, and I feel like I have been able to stay young in my mind. Your age is just a number, and you only are as old as you feel. With the exception of much better habits, philosophy, and work ethic, I still feel like I'm in my 20s most of the time. I reckon that's a good thing.