Friday, August 14, 2015

June 1998

For 8 years, I jumped around New England during the summer for work. Four of those years I was up in the Bay of Fundy, in Maine, up on the Canadian maritime border. I was working at my university's biologic field station, a remote research facility dedicated mostly to marine biology. Loved that job. I lived in a cabin with no running water. But we had a fridge for beer, so it was fantastic.
      I also worked on a cranberry bog, a cranberry farm on the edge of  Cape Cod. Also on Cape Cod, I worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory, pretty much the Graceland of marine biology.

 In June 1998 I started working 100+ hour weeks, something I continued to do for a long time, and still periodically end up doing.

 At that time I was in south Florida, only about 80 miles from where I am today, in fact. I was living in a trailer, building up a tilapia farm on the edge of the Everglades. Fish farming has been an interest of mine for a long time, and this was my first job in the industry. It was pretty rough. You know the Everglades is pretty inhospitable in June. I hated the job. My nearest neighbor was 8 miles away, I had no car, and an alligator ate my dog.
        No shit, I had a guard dog, a Rottweiler, to patrol the place at night, and one night he got bit by a water moccasin, which slowed him down, and I got him comfortable in his dog bed under the trailer that night (he was too flea ridden to bring inside), set up his fan (he had a box fan under there to keep him cool) and went to bed. Next morning there were drag marks and blood down at the water's edge, and no dog. 2 days later I was back in Boston.
        I got my job back at the lab as a technician doing neurological research on chemical detection, found an apartment near the lab, and also got my job back on the cranberry farm.
  At that point, Monday to Friday, I worked 4am to 7am at the lab, drove my piece of shit truck to the farm, about 45 minutes away, worked 8am-4pm on the farm, then went back to the lab and worked from 5:30pm to 10pm. On Saturday, I would get up at 5am, drive the hour or so to my old hometown, and go lobstering, which usually ran from 6am to 4pm. THEN I'd stay at my mom's, and go out with friends on Saturday night, but I'd run out of energy before they did, so my parents kept my bedroom intact, and I'd sleep there a good 12 hours before returning to my home on Cape Cod on Sunday afternoon.

    Driving while tired is so damn dangerous. Falling asleep at the wheel was a daily hazard. One time I got pulled over near the cranberry bog. The cop did NOT like my look, that's for sure. At that time I had hair down almost to my waist, and since I was busting ass, if it wasn't in a ponytail, it usually looked like I combed my hair with a firecracker. When the cop asked what I was doing speeding on the back roads, I said I was on my way to so-and-so's cranberry bog. Cop asked if I worked there, I said yup, so he asked me about the parking sticker for the lab. Dude did NOT believe me when I said I was a marine biologist. After he searched my truck for weed , he gave me a sobriety test. While I was walking heel-to-toe I started talking to him about how I was modeling how lobsters integrate sensory data between chemical and current flow detection, and how we were using my data to build an autonomous mine-sniffing robot that could home in on the chemical smell of explosives underwater and remotely detonate sea mines. I convinced the guy anyhow, even if I was yawning the whole time.   After that I used to wave to him and beep my horn when I passed him, and he'd wave back. I saw him at Dunkin Donuts a few times, and he pointed me out and said I was a marine biologist to whoever would listen. Made me awful proud. He was the first person who called me by my title.

    Every young man should have that kind of schedule and broad-base of experience, in my opinion. I really liked what I was doing, and, if I was always pressed for time, I was doing almost all stuff I really liked doing, and while the money sucked mostly, who gets to do everything they like to do all the time and get paid for it? Being basically happy made a demanding schedule tolerable.

 When I finally went to grad school, my schedule slowed down to just school and fishing on weekends. I'd drive the 2 hours back to my mom's house and fish on Saturday, go back to Rhode Island where I had my house, and that was it. I hated it from day one, and really fell in love with fishing when I realized that I was living my life for the anticipation of going fishing on Saturday.

 No shit, the day I moved out of my house in RI, I had a job as a sternman on a lobster boat in my old hometown 2 hours later.  I was happier as a pig in shit to be back working on the water, and at only 70 hours a week, I felt like I had all kinds of free time.

 At any rate, I blame that time in my life for my bad attitude about entitlements. An able-bodied person who works less than 70-75 hours a week is pretty fucking lucky, to me. A person who complains about money and *only* works 40 hours a week prolly ought to keep their bum ass complaints to themselves. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interesting story, esp. about the cop who needed to peg you; after that, he understood yr weirdness and accepted it.