Sunday, July 3, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxiii)

After not getting hired for the mental health worker job at Bronx State Hospital in May 1971, I came across an ad in the New York Post for a night job clerical position at one of the fruit and vegetable distributing whole firms that was located at the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the South Bronx. Although my grandfather in Chicago had worked at a night job for the Chicago Tribune, loading batches of newspapers onto delivery trucks for over 25 years from the early 1940s to the mid-1960s, and I had previously worked nights at United Parcel Service unloading trucks and in a vending machine manufacturing factory during the late 1960s, I was not that eager to get a night job in the Spring of 1971. By this time I realized that having a night job could end up isolating you politically—since most New York City anti-war and anti-imperialist left political meetings were held in the evening—and socially—since having a night job meant that you lost any chance of meeting anyone to date or to love on any night other than Saturday night and maybe Sunday night(when most of the people you might be interested in meeting were probably more likely into getting ready to start the workweek the following day than into going out after dinner).

But being nearly out of cash and desperate for any kind of a job in late May 1971, I telephoned the phone number that was listed in the New York Post want ad and arranged for an afternoon job interview for the night clerical position with the owner of the Hunts Point Terminal Market wholesale firm.

After taking the bus that passed a few blocks from my apartment near Fordham Road and then went south through the South Bronx and to the bus stop at Hunts Point Terminal Market, I soon found myself walking past the daytime office staff of the fruit and vegetable wholesale firm—that was taking phone orders from various supermarkets and mom and pop grocery stores around New York City for specific deliveries of specific fruits and vegetables and writing these delivery orders on order forms. And I was soon seated on a chair across the desk of owner of the fruit and vegetable wholesale firm inside the owner’s private office.

The owner was a white man in his mid-to-late 50’s of Jewish background who didn’t seem that intellectual and seemed to assume, in an ethnic chauvinist way, that clerical workers of Jewish background would always be smarter, quicker-learners and more hardworking and honest workers than clerical workers from other ethnic backgrounds. So when I walked into his office with my Jewish last name and dressed up in my suit and tie, the owner of the fruit and vegetable wholesale firm seemed to assume he was getting himself a good bargain if he hired me quickly for the night clerical job. And it was agreed that I would start work the following evening at 5 p.m..

After being hired so quickly, I took the bus back to my apartment and, at first, assumed that I would now be able to survive for at least another year in the Bronx, not what I had been lucky enough to land the night clerical job at Hunts Point Terminal Market, despite the increased unemployment rate that was being created by the 1971 recession in New York City and elsewhere. But by the end of my first few nights at work at the wholesale firm, I soon realized what the catch to the quick job offer was; and that the night clerical job was actually a big trap for me.