In the last few years I have become very comfortable with using the term “intellectual labor” to describe the type of work I do. Since I was 17 I have worked in industries that don’t require too much physical strain.
My new job has changed all of that.
As I mentioned in my last post I got a job at a company called Cintas. I work in a division of the company called Deep Clean, which pretty much means that I clean stuff in businesses. For the last two days I have been training in something called “Ultra Clean” which is a sanitization service. My pride really wants me to gloss over what my work has been, but I’m not going to let my pride win…
For the last two days I have been cleaning bathrooms. I have cleaned bathrooms in grocery stores, businesses, restaurants, truck stops, and gas stations.
This entire move to Boston has been a really humbling experience. Not being able to get a job for 6 months is humbling. Going to 17 different interviews and getting rejected by every single one is humbling. Having to live with people because you can’t afford a place of your own is humbling. Cleaning a trucker shower in Manchester, New Hampshire takes the cake.
I will not be permanently cleaning bathrooms. I am just cross-training in every department before they put me in a solid position. However, I will be doing it sometimes when I am needed… enough for it to mess with my head.
Intellectually I have never been one to consider myself as above any particular work before. I am no better than truck drivers or custodians or any other blue collar professionals. However, now I know in my heart that I am no better than anyone else.
It doesn’t matter that I have a higher IQ than some of my co-workers, or that I have a college degree, or that I studied documentary theory in London, or that I listen to really cool music or wear the right clothes. What matters is whether or not I am good at the task that is set before me. And, to be honest, most of these guys will always be way better that this job than I will ever be.
I read an interview the other day with a guy named Luke Jenner who is in a band called The Rapture. Whether you realize it or not, The Rapture is one of the most influential bands of the last decade. In 2003 they put out an album called “Echoes” that brought the revival of dance/rock that has flooded the mainstream in recent years. Without The Rapture there would have been no Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Owl City, or a host of other bands. All of the 80’s-style synth music of the last few years can be traced back to The Rapture.
In the interview, Luke Jenner was talking about how having a family and a child changed his perspective on who he was in light of the fact that he did some really incredible things for the music world.
For years, I was in this tunnel where I was trying to be cool. Every move I made was super-calculated to maximize my coolness— where I went, who I talked to, the bands we toured with, my haircut, my pants. It’s healthy, in a way. As an artist, you have this process, and that’s great. But I was able to connect to something bigger than being a music bro with this record. Being a father breaks you out of that— your kid doesn’t give a shit if you are cool. They want you to love them. They’re going to tell you if you don’t. And your wife is the same.
I have hit that place in my life. Coolness doesn’t matter anymore. Social acceptance either. I wear a freaking vertical-striped mechanic shirt to work with blue cargo pants. I smell like bathroom and chemicals when I come home. I know that this process will be very freeing for me. One day my indie cred and my social acceptance wont matter anymore. Until then, it sucks and it is embarrassing and I hate it.