It was many years ago when I worked in Virginia’s state prison system, back before I began my career as a certified law enforcement officer. I’ve done a lot of unpleasant things in my day, to make ends meet, but working in the prison was truly one of the worst.
When I say to make ends meet I’m speaking about being a single dad raising a daughter while earning little more than peanuts. At my first state job my salary was $6240. per year. When I moved up the ladder a bit the pay moved up to $6700. Then it grew to a whopping $8320. Then I transferred to a maximum security prison, one that housed the worst of the worst inmates., those that other prisons didn’t want. My pay increased to a little above $12,000 annually.
So, for less than six bucks an hour I had to pay for housing costs, car payment, food, clothing, phone bill, heat, school costs, and the health insurance premium and retirement were deducted from the salary. Therefore, as everyone knows, paying the bills and supporting a child is tough. Those of you who’ve done so as a single parent, as I was, know how difficult and extremely challenging it is simply to hold your head above water.
When I spoke about unpleasant things I’d done I was speaking of the part-time jobs I held to supplement my income. I continued working part-time jobs for my entire law enforcement career. The pay as a police officer in the early days, unfortunately, was not great.
A Twist in this Tale
Oh, there’s a twist to this story. One of these part-time jobs is not true. The rest are fact.
You’ve all read my blog and social media posts over the years. Many of you have met me and had conversations with me. So let’s see how you fare at picking out a falsehood. Of course, all could be true or they could all be false. I’m just sayin’.
Here’s a list of those jobs … maybe.
I once held a part-time job as …
- An electrician for a county government. I rewired part of a jail where I worked as a deputy sheriff. I also rewired parts of a courthouse where I testified in many felony cases. The head cook at the jail made and served delicious liver and onions.
- A maintenance person for two hotels, performing jobs such as painting, plumbing, etc. I once saw rocker Joan Jett sunbathing by the pool.
- A woodworker for a casket company, where I repaired high-end wooden caskets. The job even once required me to travel to Miami to repair a $30,000 casket, one that had been damaged during transit. On the way down, I drove a pickup truck carrying six additional wooden caskets.
- A bricklayer’s helper working on a 300-foot-tall chimney. The bricklayers were relining it and my job was to haul the bricks up by rope and then feed them down inside the chimney using a second rope. I don’t like heights, by the way.
- A lead bouncer in a hip-hop/rap-type nightclub. At the time, I was bench pressing just under 400 lbs. and had earned two black belts. There was a stabbing on my first night there. The club is where I first heard TLC’s hit song Waterfalls, written by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. I still like the song. I don’t like rap or hip-hop music. I don’t like opera either.
- A housepainter working on a crew with six professional painters. I was assigned to most of the grunt work—painting shutters, closets, and ceilings. All by brush. No spraying or rollers allowed in those days.
- As a laborer for a concrete company. My job was to use a wheelbarrow to roll in load after load of wet, fresh concrete to the men working inside an open courtyard between buildings at a retirement home.
- I worked as a desk clerk at a hotel owned by a Chinese couple who spoke very little English. They offered me $5,000 if I’d marry one of their cousins so she could become a U.S. citizen. I did not.
- I worked as a part-time estimator for a major steel company, where I sat at a drafting table figuring the amounts of steel and correct pieces needed to construct large commercial buildings. I even calculated the numbers and sizes of individual nuts, bolts, and washers.
- While working night shift as a cop, I taught business math and drafting at a high school during the day for an entire school year. I was offered a full-time job teaching but I felt that police work was far safer, so I declined the offer. One year was all I could take.
- Each weekend, three of us, all deputy sheriffs, installed roofs—tearing off old shingles and replacing them with new ones after repairing damaged plywood, etc. Then we loaded the old worn-out shingles onto pickup trucks, by hand, and then hauled them to a county dump where we emptied the trucks. Again, all by hand. I did this every weekend, for a long time. It was backbreaking work but it kept a roof over my head.
Bonus – I taught beginning, intermediate, and advanced guitar at a college. Later in life I became the student and was taught intricate lessons by a guitarist who’d played in bands that opened for The Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many more. He’d played with legendary guitarist Joe Satriani and even replaced Satriani as lead guitarist in the popular 80s group, The Greg Kihn Band.
So there you go. Is one of the above not true? Are all of them false? Just one lie? Or, are each of them absolutely factual?
Here are a couple of tunes to enjoy while you decide.
The Greg Kihn Band