Hmmm. Both the rags and the riches in this story are pretty modest; I was only “poor” for four months, and sort of by my own choice. Nonetheless, here goes…
I was a fortunate lad. Born last of five children, I was the spoiled one, the child of my parents’ middle age, reaping the benefit of years of mellowing, as well as the fruition of my father’s hard-fought career. My parents were able to finance my education – true, Berkeley was not very expensive in the '80s, but they paid my rent, you see – and I never had to work while in college.
I graduated, though, and my parents had their limits. They would continue to send some money while I looked for a job, but only for two months – after that, I could look for a jobback home. Those two months came and went, and I still had no job. Worse, I was forced out of my shared apartment (female roommate wanted my room for her boyfriend – I had been sleeping with her, and the boyfriend was my friend whom I had introduced to her – but that story of betrayal can wait for another day) and I had to start paying twice as much for a studio apartment in Oakland.
I found a job in a pizza place to make rent; small withdrawals from my parental funds, plus one free slice of pizza each work day, were nearly enough to keep body and soul together. Nearly. I’m 5’11" – 180cm, for you furrners – and by the end of September I weighed 137 lbs – 62 kg. I weighed 147 lbs when I graduated from college, and while 10 lbs may not be a gross weight loss, it was all lean muscle mass – the result of a diet of bananas, potatoes, and a single slice of pizza four days a week (ah, but you could have gone home, 'Tag – home, to free room and board; home, to good advice from Mom and Dad; home, to get offers from family friends to do jobs that have nothing to do with my education – nah. I’d throw myself under a bus first).
And it was in September that I interviewed with a small company in Berkeley; a small company that made cosmetics and toiletries, some OTC drugs, and some cleaning products; a family-owned company that needed a lab technician who’d work for $10/hr. The interview went well, I thought, and I was pleased with the company, and ecstatic at the thought of regular meals. And the company was very polite in informing me that I didn’t get the job.
I cried. I looked at my tiny apartment, with the garage-sale furniture and the empty refrigerator, and I thought about the nearly-empty bank account, and I thought about the soul-deadening work at the pizza place, and I thought about moving back to my nameless home town in San Diego county, and I cried. I started looking longingly at buses.
But the despair passed, a bit, and I wrote some whining poetry, and a whining letter or two, and I scraped together October’s rent, and I stuck it out for another few weeks.
And they called back.
My unseen rival had, unknowingly – yet with almost scientific precision – set about alienating all the women in the workplace, including his entire chain of command and all of the other lab workers. He also kinda pissed off the founder. So they exercised their prerogative and canned him during the thirty-day probation period. First person they ever fired.
I haven’t been hungry since.