- "I told the man I was a genius, but he said. 'Son. we got all that we can use.’ So now I got those steadily depressing, low-down mind-messing. working-at-the-car-wash blues. ”
- —Jim Croce
Job hunting in America’s Finest City is no fun. The ever-increasing westward migration, the flow of Navy discharges, the readily available cheap labor from below the border are all factors that contribute to the glut on San Diego’s job market. Area employers appear greatly put out paying the minimum wage for jobs that would require hourly wages of up to five dollars in less pleasant climates. Competition is so great here that employers are in a position to dismiss any applicants who may not conform to their mode of dress, style of hair, or even political ideology. In fact, a recent Sunday edition of the daily paper sports no fewer than four employment ads calling for “Ivy League Types.” Welcome to 1965. So how does the long-haired, bearded, pseudo-intellectual transient become employed in a city with an unemployment rate of over 11 per cent? A romp through the classifieds section offers such opportunities as these:
- Housekeeper—family of twelve desires reliable person with M.A. for general housekeeping duties. Will consider B.A. with six years experience. 2.30 to start, annual raises—send resume Box 49 San Diego Union, or maybe:
- Service station attendant — need clean-cut, mature, family man with three years local experience. Bondable. Pay is comm. Apply in person Esso Station, Dulzura.
Not at all promising, yet if one is desperately in need of employment, there are jobs available in town that will hire immediately and indiscriminately. Granted these are not executive positions but are quite adequate in a temporary situation. Most of these positions are advertised daily in the paper and will hire someone the day they apply. So if you are a student, you have just hit town, or for any other reason you are in need of quick bucks, here is a sampler of cheap jobs that are easily obtainable.
Driving an Ice Cream Truck
The basic requirements for hire include a valid California driver’s license, at least 19 years of age, a solicitor’s permit from the SDPD; employers are very reasonable about style of dress, hairstyles, beards, etc. Pay is on a commission basis (around 30 per cent). The new driver receives one day of training in order to become familiar with the product and prices; however, he/she is not paid for the training day until a full month of employment is attained. The following day the driver is issued a list of streets on which to drive up and down, and is sent out on his/her own. The supervisor offers assurance that no other ice cream truck from this company will violate that territory; he fails to mention the three or four other ice cream truck companies that will, though.
After completion of my own training as an ice cream peddler, I was assigned Mira Mesa as my route, a depressing upper-middle-class ghetto in the north part of the city. I spent most of the day following another company’s ice cream truck, whose driver must have had an “exclusive” list of streets very similar to mine. The job was a lot of fun. but I was surprised by the number of kids who needed assistance reading the menu posted on the side of the truck. Even if the youth of today are functionally illiterate they are not unintelligent. They would stop both trucks and compare prices before buying anything. Ralph Nader would be proud. But by and large, most of the kids are pretty mellow. The only hassles likely to be encountered are from adults. One of the adults’ main complaints was that I was always there at the wrong time, which included before lunch, naptime, or too near dinner. One woman raced after me for two blocks in her car to complain that the “ping-pong” music I broadcasted disturbed her dogs, whose resultant barking was interfering with her ability to hear her TV. I agreed that the music ( a speeded up version of Brahms’ Lullaby) was nerve-wracking and promised to lower the volume the next time I passed her house. I promised in vain, because I knew that I could never again distinguish her house (the tan one) from the thousands of houses identical to It.
Most ice cream persons work from about ten until dusk. It is quite possible to earn over 30 dollars a day (I earned 36 my first and only day).
Besides the incessant music, the more unpleasant aspects of this occupation include working weekends (this is when the big money is made), dealing with suburbanites, and being accused of committing crimes ranging from petty larceny to pedophilia. This job is not recommended for people who hate or even mildly dislike kids. On the other hand, if you are a free spirit, not having a boss breathing down your neck can be a real plus. The work is outside and obviously not overly strenuous. More importantly, it has the potential for high monetary rewards.
The qualifications needed to get hired by the phone soliciting companies are 18 years of age. and a good speaking voice (whatever that means). At the interview, display a gung-ho attitude and try speaking in more than monosyllables. The phone places are also quite lax about appearance; dress is as casual as one wishes.
The training generally consists of listening to the other solicitors make their “pitches." A sales pitch format is issued (you can adjust to your own style) along with a xeroxed copy of a telephone directory listed by streets.
The particular establishment that hired me was selling air-conditioning systems. My job was to call home-owners to set up appointments for our “engineers.” These “engineers,” who were really high-pressure salesmen, were to come to the person’s home under the guise of giving a free inspection of their heating system and offer suggestions on modifying them. Needless to say, these modifications included our air-conditioners. I was paid two fifty an hour, and for any confirmed appointments, I would be awarded ten dollars.
If the salesman managed to sell an air-conditioner at one of my appointments, I was to receive another ten-dollar bonus. All I had to do was set two appointments an hour to make twenty-two-fifty, almost as much as a plumber. With dollar signs gleaming in my eyes, eagerly dialed the first number on the list.... “Hello, Mrs. Jones? How are you today? This is Randy with the XYZ Air Conditioning” Click.The next number, I got a little further before the termination came. It took 45 minutes before I managed to give my entire pitch. The woman listened courteously all the way through before informing me that she already had air conditioning. I was in the third hour of my five-hour shift before I finally persuaded someone to agree to the free inspection. At this company, when you set an appointment you are obliged to race to the front of the room and ring a bell located there. I think the bell’s purpose was to create a competitive atmosphere among us. All it actually did was to scare the hell out of everyone. There was one woman who would improvise a little dance of celebration for each time she wrote a name and address on a chalkboard so that later the appointment could be confirmed. This is to keep the phone solicitor from calling friends all day and setting hundreds of bogus appointments.
Some phone people have refined their style to such a degree that they have a hypnotic effect on those they call. The basic rule of telephone work is the longer the person stays on the line the greater the chance of a sale. The skilled solicitor builds a rapport by talking about things he has in common with the person he calls: cars, kids, sports, gossip, or even politics if he’s careful. (The guy next to me in the phone room changed his party affiliation about six times that shift.) The financial rewards can be high; many phone solicitors make in excess of $200 weekly. However, telephone soliciting is not for everyone. This occupation is recommended for those borderline masochists in need of verbal abuse; those people whose ego cannot take hundreds of rejections a day are urged not to apply.
The Burger Palace
There is a variety of fast-food establishments to choose from. They are all similar in working conditions and policies. Minimum age for hire varies from 16 to 18. You have to get a TB skin test and a food handler’s permit (free). Appearance is more important at these places, as each is competing for the All-American Family Restaurant image; therefore no beards, and hair must be tied back under a hat or a net. The training consists of becoming acquainted with the restaurant by cleaning every square inch of it. If a person stays around long enough, he/she can work up the hierarchy, from janitor, to food server, to cook, to assistant manager, to baseball team owner and beyond.
Starting salary is the minimum wage, and because of the high turnover rate, advancements are rapid. One of the assistant managers had worked only two months.
The working atmosphere is confining and dehumanizing. Morale is usually zero in spite of management’s efforts to pump a team spirit into the employees. The only bright spot in the place where I worked was the bond between co-workers. There was a mutual awareness that no one would be there if not for a desperate need for cash. The exception was the manager, who loved the place; he was making over 20 grand a year. If a person is in desperate need of a job or really likes hamburgers or likes people who like hamburgers, the fast-foods chain may be the answer. The job is not recommended for anyone else except robots.
The requirements for being hired include 18 years of age and the ability to fill out the application (one of the most complex I have ever encountered). Appearance is also important here, but the supervisors did not seem biased about applicants with long hair or beards. They explained the job responsibilities entailed collecting data about certain products, whose manufacturers or distributers would pay for the privilege of seeing this data. The newly hired are given time to practice reading the questions to one another before being sent to busy shopping areas to question the public.
I was stationed outside a Fed-Mart store with my question format and some cards on which I was to punch the person's replies; and they had people checking to make sure we were doing things correctly. I did not see the rationale behind my questionnaire, as it dealt with the differences between a Mercedes 450 SL and a Porsche Targa (handling, style, etc.), and few of the people there had owned either car or had any plans to purchase one. But after assuming a “they know better than I” attitude, I found that this was a most enjoyable occupation.
The job duties really amount to standing out there talking to folks and soaking up the sunshine. Pay is better than most; generally between two-fifty and three dollars to start. The interviewer is in the position to talk only to the people he/she wants. If Joe Redneck scuttles by, just turn around and talk to someone else. Although a representative sample is supposed to be attained, personal biases determine who actually gets interviewed. The most favorable report on this job is its lack of supervision. Generally, people are responsive to being approached as long as the interviewer is not wearing orange robes or a Paul Revere hat.
24-Hour Convenience Store
A food handler's permit is required for this job. The applicant must pass a math aptitude test (if you can count up to ten without looking at your hands, you will do well). There is also a security test that must be passed. This job is recommended just for the experience of the security test. After the written exam (Are you a fugitive from the FBI? etc.), they connect the somewhat nervous applicant to a polygraph (lie detector) for an oral quiz. This consists of dummy questions like “Do you live in California?” and then one like “Do you plan to steal money from us?” They measure the difference between the dummy question’s effect and the next question’s effect on the applicant's nervous system. If these differences are great, the applicant is said to be lying. After the test they discuss any questionable items. It is best to look surprised and deny everything; after all, machines are not infallible. After convincing the security people of this point, the new' employee is finally cleared and can be hired.
He/she receives on-the-job training for a couple of weeks. All the job consists of is waiting on customers and keeping the shelves stocked. The minimum age for hire varies from 18 to 21.Another variable to take into account when applying is the crime rate in the vicinity of the store. Some of these stores get held up so often that it can almost be predicted. Since it is generally the graveyard shift that is available and it is during this shift that most of the armed robberies take place, this factor becomes a real consideration.
The starting pay ranges from the minimum to two-seventy-five an hour. Many people use this experience to go on to supermarkets, where much higher wages can be earned. For those looking for a more permanent job, this one seems agreeable enough. This job also is suited to students working part-time evenings during the school year. There are company benefits after 90 days of employment.
Being hired by a security guard company is not as intimidating as one might think. There is a great variation in employment requirements among the local firms. Minimum age is usually 18. These firms like military men, both past and present. Some places insist that their employees be bondable. Some require uniforms, and a few require a firearms permit, it is suggested that the prospective applicant find out all of the requirements for a particular firm. There are few women security guards, but all of the firms contacted insisted on equal hiring policies.
The firm that hired me required that I have a car and a telephone. I worked in street clothes, and the only clue that I was a security guard was the plastic ID in my wallet. I was issued a flashlight (for protection) and sent out on patrol. My assignment was to guard heavy machinery at a residential construction site. Basically, all I had to do was sit in my car and make sure that no kids played around with the machinery. I was paid two-fifty an hour for this task and worked from six in the evening until one in the morning. If the night man did not show up. I could work his shift too. I was once visited on the job by a sergeant (this is what the supervisors like to be called) who stayed around 20 minutes talking about the Padres. Most of the night was spent rereading an old Newsweek I fortunately found under the front seat of my car. One important consideration on this job was to make sure construction people left one of their porta-toilets unlocked during the night.
Obviously, being a security guard can be an occupation of leisure, but do not expect it. Many guards have to walk rounds and some have to punch time devices to validate the fact that they are in the right place at the right time. It is rare that anyone encountered is actually about to do or has done anything criminal. Nine times out of ten. the crime committed is a form of vandalism or theft: the suspect is rarely armed. Therefore, by discounting any dangerous aspects, this job can be generally classified as a rather mellow type of employment well-suited to the night owls and loners.
Last and surely least are the agricultural jobs. These are not usually advertised in the papers; rather, employment is through temporary employment agencies (listed in the yellow pages no fee) or through the harm Laborers Bureau, which has offices throughout the county. The employers will hire just about anybody who looks capable of handling the hard work and the hot sun. Two dollars an hour is tops, but one-seventy-five is the average. If employment is found on a smaller farm, chances arc that no deductions will be taken out. so the take-home pay is about the same as for a job paying a gross wage of two-fifty an hour. The applicant is competing for the job with people who think an hourly wage of one-fifty is great money. It is best not to ask about paid vacations, sick leaves, pension plans, etc.. at the interview.
The hours are flexible and a lot of overtime can be worked (no extra pay). Some of the bigger ranches provide transportation to and from work during their peak seasons. During the harvesting season a typical workday goes something like this: begin work at 6:30 a.m.. harvest the crop until 11:30 (which is the lunch break), back to work at noon and continue until dark.
Types of employment vary with the season and the area that is most easily accessible to the applicant; avocados in Escondido, tomatoes in Chula Vista. flowers in Leucadia. strawberries in Ramona, etc. The employment agency will give out information regarding what crops are in season and where they are being gathered.
Although working the earth can be spiritually rewarding and even enjoyable, working someone else’s land can be degrading. I hated my tenure as a neophyte slave. Becoming a farm laborer is only recommended as a last recourse.
There are only seven types of employment described above. Of course, there are many other types of cheap jobs, like busing tables or driving a hack, but in San Diego these jobs are usually available only to those with prior experience. For the jobs listed here, all one need do is apply. Happy Hunting.