Scarlett Sumac's Blog

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 27, 2011 8:06PM

My Brilliant 2nd Career B4 The Age of 25

Rate: 48 Flag

I’ve worked fairly hard in life and I’m the type of person who needs a routine to keep her grounded. At one time I thought work was everything. The job market has shrivelled up so much I lament for those young folk out there today who will miss out on rich employment experiences I had. As I discovered, looking back on my Brilliant Career, it is varied and colourful, and if I ever get the chance to retire, my early memoirs might look something like this.

Let’s see.

At fifteen, my first job found me in Strawberry Fields, forever. Down on my knees picking luscious fruit. Getting paid piece-work kept me from eating most of the berries; some actually got in the basket. Around here, these days, those jobs only go to what our tender fruit industry conveniently calls “off-shore workers.” Personally, I call it slave labour. Back in the day though, I got a helluva tan. 

Next I worked for Bick’s Pickles on an assembly line while the foreman walked by and periodically pinched my ass. I had my hands busy pounding pickles into the jar with a rubber mallet so I had no recourse to swat him. I was only sixteen and never even knew I could've reported him for sexual harassment. I did give him my dirty you  cocksucker!” look on my way out of the factory one day. Next day he put me on 'sorting rotten cucumbers' duty. I think I puked, then quit after that.

Temporarily, moving up in the world, I then worked at our hometown library teaching arts & crafts to under privileged kids. I think my folks thought I had found my niche and had a respectable profession ahead of me. I soon learned I was not cut out for teaching. When I consider my short list of virtues, patience is not high on the list. Decades later (a few years ago) I taught a college course. I had the same reaction but worse. Confronted with a generation of Millennials, I'd rather compete with older vices like sex and drugs before attempting to compete with cell phones, laptops, facebook and twitter feeds. But I digress.

After graduating high school, I went off to school and I got a part-time job shovelling slop to students at the university cafeteria for Beaver Foods Company. Now I know the busy beaver is our national animal but it's just not a good name for a college cafeteria. Being a young woman and wearing a uniform, branded “Beaver Foods” kind of left you wide open for rude comments.

Anyways, the first day working there I cut my finger cutting cabbage in a meat slicer. When I saw the coleslaw speckled with red I should have known to shut the machine off but my reaction time was slow as I already felt faint from loss of blood. I tried to hide my sliced finger but nearly fainted in the cold storage retrieving another cabbage. They bandaged me up but it was “The Head of Trent” (another ill-conceived name); an annual rowing event held at our school, so I didn’t get to go home. As a result a few freshmen might have had some extra A-positive blood with their lunch.

University is expensive and a working class gal like myself was on no free ride courtesy of Mommy & Daddy. So that summer I moved away from my friends and in with relatives in a very boring uptight neighbourhood. I got a job at Guelph Elastic Hosiery factory and made jock straps. I got my big break and was called in for an interview at the local transformer manufacturing company. I’m dating myself to actually write “manufacturing.” Yes, boys and girls, North America once made things besides cars. 

I worked there on the line just for the summer and because I was not a lifer, I learned about class struggle in a whole new way. Apparently I used big words like "please and thank-you," which didn’t sit quite right.  I wonder if those folks that drew such class lines in the sand would be envious to know that I eventually paid my student loan off at 35 after working - ha aha ha ha ha - in my “field.” 

Anyways, on this lovely assembly line we tied wires together and handled PCBs practically with our bare hands before sludgy-looking stuff went into metal casings. When I turned off the lights at the end of the day, I glowed in the dark.

That job had me running back to the hallowed halls of academia where I found something I loved more.

Through a series of fortuitous events, in the early eighties, I found myself playing in a rock 'n' roll band because in that decade real rock n’ roll was all the rage. Another ha. ha. ha. One of the highlights of those days was playing at Le Spectrum in Montreal. We also went down Ste. Catherine street to play at one of the avant garde clubs: Les Fouphones Electrique.

One evening while playing The Stones' "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" us ‘gals’ realized the guy gyrating on the floor in front of the stage had not invented a new dance style, but was instead, masturbating. 

I think the conversation at the end of our last set was, "Um, C’mon ladies let’s load up the amps and get the fuck outta here."

Still, it was one of the best jobs I ever had but you know entertaining people is easy, like the song says it’s, "Money For Nothing."

Yeah, ... right.

(to be cont’d.) 


© Scarlett Sumac 

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Scarlett, my early working career is rather boring when compared with the many things you were into! Did your group make any recordings that are still around from back then? That in itself would also make a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your interesting story and I look forward to the related posts as you present them!
You have really gone through several incarnations! Rock on!
Hey, I put this up and noticed it was the unedited version, I went back to draft mode and Open Salon broke!

I think OS was punishing me for using [the bad] swear words! Right version should be up now. Damn, I think I lost some comments too.

Gmail said there were 5, now there’s only 2, so if you left one, I'm sorry to miss it. C'mon back if you have a chance. Cheers.
Blood sweat and tears
Pretty cool post ~R~
A phallic frenzy of pickles, jock straps and wankers. Hilarious.
Dang, this is good stuff, Ms Scarlett. What an ... ummmmm ... interesting ... time you had. (Why aren't you looking at the camera, pray tell?) A lot like setting pins in a bowling alley, if I may say so.

I'm looking forward to Part Deux, where you explain how you got from sorting fetid pickles and serving wretched food to even more wretched university students to what you do now. Hope the minions at Salon are watching, 'cause this is what they should be looking for.

And it all IS only rock 'n' roll. But I love it. (And red wine, bien sur.)
Rock it, baby! The masturbating floor dancer killed me!
designanator: I'm over to find out about the Summer of '71; doesn't sound boring to me. Yes, we have recordings on an almost obsolete medium: cassette tape. The videos need to resurrected. With all original material, except for The Stones & a few other covers, we're reluctant to put it on the net. Who knows D, we're all still alive and scattered across North America. The truth is, we may blast out of the gates again, who knows?! ;)
Engaging survey Scarlett. Rotten cucumbers? For all of the present's failings, we've made considerable strides from the days of easy acceptance of workplace sexual harassment.

And Beaver Foods? I haven't seen the comments yet but I'm sure that every available pun has already been spoken for.

I wonder if the yutes of today go through the same mix of summer and part-time jobs as our generations did. I remember when i was putting together my first real resumé after graduation, I was surprised to see I'd had more than a dozen. And that was excluding the cat lady.

Well chosen music here too.
Abrawang: I loved the cat lady story, btw. I've left a few off my resume too, as you can imagine. The name of the Food company was just a bad choice for our national animal. Hopefully, nobody mentions it. I think the pickles and the final scene speak for themselves. :)

I had all my other comments too but lost them. I'll start over after I grab a glass ...
Bo: Have I ever told you I dig the scarlet leaf in your avatar? Well, I do. It's all Tom-Thomson-like. Btw, are you saying I am [we - are] shaped like bowling pins?? You may have some 'splainin' to do.

Notice in my tags, this is: not an open call.
p.s. Your last line made us pop open another red; it's local, so it's okay, right? ;)

ZumaLicious: Tell it like it is, that's what I say. ..:)
loved this tiptoe through Scarlett's life. love the video's and the blistering guitar solo in Money For Nothing Mark Knopfler burning it up.
Nice post...Scarlett, I like the 80's photo of you too..
Eric still look sexy as hell in this video, I saw him about three years ago in sandals and dad shorts, I know I have aged too but damn I was disappointed.
Yes, I hear ya, Miss Rita. This a a good video. I listened Knopfler and Clapton many times over here tonight. $$ For Nothing ...

Btw, Where the heck is James Emmerling? Maybe he's recovering with his teeth and will soon be giving us both lower and upper smiles. James .. wherever you are? Rita & I are thinkin' of you and wanted to hear about your next fantasy date. Or whatever, okay ...
yeah where is Emmerling, quite MIA, got some new teeth and dropped us like hotcakes. HMMMM>
... read more, I'd read more
Hope you left on the 'Astral Plane'!!
"I got a job at Guelph Elastic Hosiery factory and made jock straps. "

You have had an interesting life. Thanks for sharing!
Kept waiting for Richard Gere to sweep you off your feet--all of it, a true story: you can't be twenty. Another shop-worn alliterative beat:
a pauper, a puppet a pawn and a queen. There's at least thirteen good stories here, Scarlett, the incredulous sustained irony! Cooperate with the muse, now, work ethos, caffeine...
"Being a young woman and wearing a uniform, branded “Beaver Foods” kind of left you wide open for rude comments." I laughed so hard I spilled my tea when I read that sentence. The sexual harasser at the pickle factory was funny, too. How did this wind up being such a bawdy post? I loved it.

Gosh, this piece instantly makes me reflect on some of those crazy early years jobs...and how I miss elements of them now. Certainly felt more carefree. And your co-workers (at least for me) were really your friends and you had fun together.

I sold vacuum cleaners for a spell..wait, let me amend that: I was supposed to sell them. I didn't sell one after months on the job!

(You'll be happy to know that currently, in my band, we sing "It's Only Rock and Roll"...and I like it!)

"Guelph Elastic Hosiery factory" - that sounds like where hell happens.
You have had such a rich cool life. That is you in the striped socks, yes? Hottie. Love the cucumber gig. If that had been me, I would have made art about that man's rotten stinky cucumber for at least a year. If you write a book, can I illustrate it?
Miguela: I did not intend a "bawdy" post as you say. I typed this all up and there were some obvious threads, you could say but life is like that. Whoever thought to call a college cafeteria Beaver Foods was off his rocker. That foreman at Bick's though, I'd still like to have a word or two and deliver some papers.

reid: It might take a while but I'll finish the story and be sure to protect the innocent, any likenesses are purely coincidental ... :)

JP: No Richard Gere's but a few Richard Hell's along the way. :)

tai: Let me tell you the jock strap gig was really, really bOring ... nice to meet you.

Last Incarnate: Nice to see you here. If this is your last incarnation maybe I'll see you waving by on the while floating on the astral plane.

Beth, I am happy to know that: "If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage ..." are fun lyrics to play and sing, thanks for coming by. I'd love to hear your band.
green: Sorry, I'm the bad ass beside the hottie. Don't worry, I'm all sugar and spice, now. ;)
"One evening while playing The Stones' "It's Only Rock 'n" Roll" us ‘gals’ realized the guy gyrating on the floor in front of the stage had not invented a new dance style, but was instead, masturbating. "

No, seriously, that was me dancing!! ;D

LOVED THIS!!! Very funny!!!

Naw, it refers to working in a bowling alley, which was the first job I had when I was 10 or 11. Not recommended employment because I still have a scar on my left leg from a jagged splinter. Think we got a five cents for setting a game of five pins and a dime for ten pins.

That leaf avatar was a piece of found art in Wheatley Provincial Park. Shot it one fall day a few years ago when Red and I were out for a walk.

And there's never a bad time to pop the cork. VQA or foreign plonk, it doesn't matter....
and here i thought that playing guitar and singing in a female rocker bank was the odd highlight of your employment resume. hardly, ms. scarlett. that long list of others had me surprised and howling. making jockstraps and beaver foods. i'm outta words. good piece!
Loved reading this--amazing collection of jobs, some of which, as you mention, probably no longer exist. What an evolution!
i have had the worst week, scarlett!
for some reason, the town provided wifi i have been,,,
um...using for free no longer reaches my room.

my next fantasy date is with my sister, who is gonna help me
buy a portable wifi device of some sort. 4G, baby. should be back on tomorrow night. i appreciate your & rita's concerns, and promise to return with a vengeance. I have, uh, matured this week. Teeth are fine & delighting all the eastcoasters. i am a star.

so your "backstory" is finally leaking out. i have a difficult time picturing you doing farm or manufacture work, irregardless of the rotten cumcumbers. The pinching your ass i can understand, ha.

did your blazing intelligence & beauty of soul
make you a kind of "elephant in the room" with your picklepacking,etc?

a sef made woman. our scarlett. picking up experiences from all
quarters of the human spectrum.

this explains her brilliant writing.
I bet you still glow in the dark, guapa ~
Ah the traditional vices of sex and drugs. Back when we could turn on without plugging in.

Horatio Alger would like to borrow your story.

As the king bellowed, "Bring me the Head of Trent," his knights raced out of the Great Hall baring their swords.
Is this what they mean when they say "colorful past?" Wait, I suppose that would be "colourful" . . .

Anyway, the zig zag past is waaaaay more interesting.
Great post Scarlett. I worked for a rock n roll band booking agency (but in the mid 70's)...too bad we never crossed paths.
TINK: Now that I recall, that masturbator was kind of furry! Thanks for adding your feline presence here.

Bo: Jack/Peter/Reid was a pin boy when he was young too.

candace: It was tough you know deciding how far to go with this piece, not wanting to tarnish my stellar reputation and all. Writing c**!ksucker may offend some but I'm sure glad you weren't one of them. The worst thing about the jockstrap factory was the glue they used, it was Madhatterish and I felt like Alice wanting to jump down a rabbit hole.

James! I'm glad you weren't offended either. Sometimes you just gotta tell it the way it was. I value having worked those jobs now, emphasis on now! In those days, really the fruit-picking was to fill the long summers, get some pocket change and work on a tan. :)

Catch: Why, thank you! You always have the best comment in so few words.
p.s. I like it when you howl. I think of the coyotes outside Casa de Swell.

sophieh: Thanks. I hope to be reading something of yours soon. It's been a while.

Stim: Ah, the good old days, huh? Thank you for making me look up Horatio Algers and yes, we had an Arthurian theme at the old alma mater but "Head of Trent" was ripe for the picking.

Owl: Zig-Zag? Oh, I thought you meant something else. :) Thanks chica. Btw, I'm still getting over Myriad's broom post too.

Trilogy: I was a little young for that kind of thing in the 70's but I'm hoping our path still do cross.
Correction: the p.s. under Catch-22's comment belongs with candace's comment. Sorry, I'm a little stunned, I just noticed this was an Editor's Pick.
EP! You have managed to turn the most mundane occupations into deliciously naughty intervals. Look what you did to the poor guy on the dance floor - he couldn't help himself! I've never had an urge to pound pickles, until now. Hilarious.
A tale well told. Wonderful writing. A pickle pounder to the end.
Early memoirs - varied and colourful ...
Scarlett, you remind me of all ... the colours in the rainbow and how each one is an integral part of the whole. Important sharing this.
How we come to be who we are, how we find ourselves ... again and again and again ...
This was a hoot to read! Great idea and you presented it with such fine humor.
This was hilarious, Scarlett. Ah, the absurdity. I laughed all through but really cracked up when you got to the jockstrap job.
The masturbating dance style might have some merit. Whatta a visual.
Yes, the word beaver got soiled along the way.
You paid your dues.
Would so rather see a video of you and your band than Tina.
Looking very forward to part 2.
Loved this recapping of past jobs -- I can relate as I've had some doozies too. The Beaver Foods bit ... sorry, but that had me in stitches. Your story of your gyrating guy reminded me of a particular regular at a Sam the Record Man I used to work at who we called "Browser Humper."

Looking forward to hear about more tales with the band.
Well, if this doesn't inspire someone, nothing can. Rock on, Scarlett!
Those are some bad jobs. Except rock n roll.
No way I can top making jock straps! I've done a lot of food service, though. Hard, hard work. (I have also written about being a rock star. Will send you the link, if you're interested.)

Glad to see your bad ass self on the cover!
My goodness, you've had a pretty eclectic working life Scarlett! I thought working as a professional thief for a while was the highlight of my work life, but your list certainly tops anything I could name. Plus you can sing! That's great, and I look forward to the next part.
OMG, I never said I was a rock star! This was a a tongue-in-cheek post about (albeit every word true) about the jobs we do to survive.

Mick Jagger is a rock star, Patti Smith (is kinda) a rock star. I was just
a minion in a rock n' roll band.
Haha, go ahead and own it, Scarlett!
Umm, there's fan appreciation and then there' Rated.
Congratulations the EP!
Perhaps my friends in Vampire Weekend need another vocalist.
What an exciting story, especially to one who very much liked the 1980s dance club scene. I've been to Les Fouphones Electriques on Rue St. Catherine. Didn't see you. Pity. Great piece.
My comments keep getting eaten!! I was saying that you look like a rock star still!! Great story...and the jock strap thing made me giggle.
I didn't think anyone has had as many diverse jobs as I have, but I think you have me beat! It's interesting that divide between blue collar lifers and those who hope to move beyond...I wonder if that divide still exists anywhere?
Thanks to the folks and their eyeballs that came by later. And sorry for the change in the font size. Not sure what the ghost in the machine was doing ...

Do you still play? I'm older than you but I still play out...bassist....Blues. I was a mini rock star by the age of 24 in England.
I found your little bio so similar to mine, I had to laugh out loud. How could this be?
Do you have any of your music on the web that I can visit?