After three months of temping at Janitors Inc I was finally hired as a permanent employee. There were no benefits to this, other than having to wait two weeks for my first paycheck. About an hour after being hired on I got a call from the Long Beach Census Bureau, they were finally ready to begin. I was told that the training would be in Long Beach the first week in March, then I was told the training would be in San Pedro the third week of March. I was told that I would be able to choose whether or not I wanted to work full-time or part-time. I was told that the training hours would be from 8:00 to 5:00, then I was told the fours would be from 7:00 to 4:00. I put on hold for 15 minutes while the guy on the phone asked which one of the three supervisors he had listed would be mine. I was told that I would be an auditor then I was told I would be an interviewer then I was told I would be an auditor again.
I decided it would be best to stay at Janitors Inc and work the Census part-time. I had no confidence that it would work out. After a year in Los Angeles I just naturally expected everything to be a scam. After having been in the National Guard as a kid I just expected anything run by the government to be mismanaged. I thought about inventing an excuse for Ted; saying I had to go out-of-town for a week or something. I decided I would tell him the truth, he seemed reasonable, in fact he was one of the best bosses I’d had. I asked if my official permanent employment could start in a week and he grudgingly said yes. He asked me to call him if anything changed. I think he thought I was going to tell him that I was going to do the census full-time. He had lived in LA all his life and I think he was just used to people flaking out on him.
I told Chris the good news and although he was happy for me he seemed a bit jealous. The census bureau still hadn’t called him for his training. I got home to find a letter in the mail saying the Nielsen was being sue d by its employees for not adhering to the law and giving appropriate break periods in the call center. I was pleasantly surprized, someone in LA had decided not to lie down and take it. I filled out the form and joined the lawsuit. I figured I wouldn’t get much money, but it was the principal of the whole thing. I bought a scratch game ticket and won fifty bucks; things were looking up. I began to plan my escape from Los Angeles. I would work both jobs for three months and then run away to another city The census paid $17.00 an hour; I could save $1500 and go to New Mexico or something, anywhere but LA.
Census Bureau training was held in the community center of the San Pedro housing projects. There were 24 of us in the training class, we all sat around staring at each other for a half an hour before anyone arrived. After about twenty minutes one of the trainees got up and left. It turned out he was just a crazy homeless person who walked in and sat down.
Our Trainers arrived and passed out paperwork. They were Sarah a 21-year-old girl who was a student and Casual longshoremen and Artie a man who was new to San Pedro. They never explained how they were chosen as leaders other than that they had gotten perfect scores on the test.
Sarah told us that they had over hired and that half of us wouldn’t actually be working. She said that the lucky few would be chosen based on our performance in training class.
“Is there a test,” a trainee asked.
“”There’s a test, but your performance is based on our review of you, ” Sarah said coldly.
‘Great” I thought. ‘She seems like a real cunt.’
I was glad I didn’t quit Janitors INC. I decided I might as well just sit there and collect the training money . there WAS NO WAY I was never going to win a popularity contest, especially in Los Angeles. Especially in San Pedro. It turned out that everyone in the class was a longshoreman except for me and one other lady. Sarah was very proud of herself for being a longshoreman like her father before her. She was friendly and chatty with the other longshoremen and often joked around with them during breaks. When ever I asked a question she would glare at me coldly. Once I said good morning to her and she told me that I was to tease and needed to relax.
The other trainer kept going on and on a out how he had been in the military and how he had lived on a boat. He mentioned it no less than fifteen times in the first day. When we talked about how many people lived in a residence he told us he lived alone on his boat. When we talked about how many apartments were in a building he made a joke about apartments in his boat.
I had always thought it would be fun to live on a boat and I asked him how much live-aboard slips were going for in San Pedro Harbor.
“Oh, I don’t have a live aboard slip”. he told me. “it’s just a regular slip.
“How do you go to the bathroom?”” I asked.
“Have you ever heard of a chamber pot?” He asked.
“How do you have lights at night”.
“I have a lantern.”
So, he was homeless. This man who had been chosen by the Los Angeles office of the federal government to count dwellings and inhabitants of dwellings didn’t have a legitimate dwelling of his own. How rigorous was there screening process? What had the criteria been?
I finished the week and surprise, surprise I was not among the luck chosen people. I returned to Janitors inc the next week.
Chris started his training a month later. He got more arrogant with every day that he trained. His training was in Hollywood.
on Monday he said,” If your going to insist on living in San Pedro your just going to have to expect things like that to happen”, He said. “It’s so small that they probably didn’t need that many people.”
On Tuesday he put me down for only making $10.00 an hour while he was making $17.00.
On Wednesday he told me that he had gotten a hang of the calculators before any of his classmates and he was certain that they would promote him to supervisor.
I didn’t hear from him on Thursday and on Friday he called me in extreme distress.
“We finished taking our tests and then they said , “now remember, you guys are just replacements, we’ll call you if we need you.”
“Oh no,” I said; not completely sorry to hear of his misfortune.
I began selling my body to since in order to make ends meet. In April I started a cognitive intelligence experiment at UCLA in which I did a series of math and spelling games while lying in an MRI machine. In May I was in a sleep experiment in Burbank I was supposed to do two consecutive nights. When I came back for the second night I was told I wasn’t supposed to be there for three days in spite of the fact that I had an appointment stating otherwise. It was 11;00 PM when they told me this and I didn’t have a way of getting back to San Pedro. I threw a fit and they paid for a cab. I came back for the second part of the study and they tried to send me hone with no pay when the equipment didn’t work. I threatened to sue and they paid me.
At the beginning of June Chris got a job fixing up a van for a pet food company. He got angrier and more arrogant which each passing day. In late June I went to Chicago for my mothers 87th birthday. Michael Jackson died while I was out of town and I missed all the excitement; not to mention the opportunities to stockpile LA Weekly’s that would undoubtedly be collectors items someday.
On The Forth Of July, our unacknowledged one year anniversary, he drove to San Pedro and we went to Long Beach to watch the fireworks. I didn’t know it, but I would never see him again.