David Bruce: Work Anecdotes


1993 photo by Alan Light [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As a teenager, Jay Leno got a job at a Ford saleslot doing odds and ends. Among his jobs was taking the hubcaps off the cars at night so they wouldn’t be stolen and putting them back on the next day. One day, as he was carrying the hubcaps, he met the new sales manager, a man who made him so nervous that he dropped the hubcaps. This made the new sales manager furious. He yelled at Jay, “This is the Ford Motor Company. You can’t treat our property this way! You’re fired! Get out!” Jay was ashamed to lose his job, so after thinking for a couple of days, he wrote the top guy — Henry Ford II in Detroit — asking for his job back. Soon, Jay’s old boss called him and said, “I don’t know who the hell you know in Detroit, but if you want your old job back, come on back here.”

Major league umpire Bill Klem must have loved his job. Early in his career, he worked as a bartender and did some umpiring on the side. Once, a friend told him about an umpiring job — a doubleheader — in Providence, Rhode Island, 50 miles away. Mr. Klem was willing to work it, and so the two men rode on a tandem bicycle to Providence, worked the two games, then rode the bicycle back home, just in time for Mr. Klem to go to his bartending job. For working the doubleheader, Mr. Klem earned $10, and afterward, he said to himself, “Why, this is easy.” Fellow umpire Jocko Conlan says, “Ride a bike 100 miles, work a doubleheader, earn ten bucks, and call it easy. He had to be a born umpire.”

While working at McDonald’s, Joel Perry discovered that there were some jobs he absolutely hated to do — he also discovered that if he did the jobs incompetently he would no longer have to do them. For example, he hated unloading the truck and putting the supplies in the storeroom, so he would carelessly throw boxes onto high shelves and seem to accidentally break florescent lights. After about 15 minutes, he was not allowed to unload the truck and instead started pouring drinks again. At a later job, his boss asked to bring him coffee. Mr. Perry added to the coffee Sweet ’n’ Low — and cigarette ashes. Very quickly, his boss stopped asking Mr. Perry to bring him coffee.

Barry Took proposed the teaming up of six British comedians into the comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus. For a while, it looked as if there would be no Monty Python, as the proposed individual members of the troupe kept calling up Mr. Took to ask, “Is this a bad move for me? Is it worth doing?” He replied to them, “Well, if it’s a success, it can’t possibly hurt your career, and if it’s a failure it’ll be off so fast that nobody within six months will remember it, so it won’t hurt your career at all.”

Early in her career, while she still was in Athens, Greece, Maria Callas sang the lead in Tosca with Antonis Thellentas (sometimes spelled Dellendas). Mr. Thellentas was popular with the Greek audience because of his voice, acting, and size, all of which were great. He had the reputation of being able to eat almost two pounds of macaroni at a single sitting, and because of his size Maria’s mother writes that when he and Maria sang an impassioned duet together, she sometimes was forced to close her eyes.

A gay man at work was surrounded by women who were always trying to fix him up with other women. One day, the man he was currently dating came to the office, and he told the women that the man was his date. They laughed at the idea, so a couple of days later, he showed them a few photographs of him and the man hugging and kissing, so they knew. However, they treated him the same way they treated him before — except that now they tried to fix him up with other gay men.

The TV series Roseanne had a good understanding of working class life. In one episode, Roseanne asks her husband how his day at work went. He replies, “Well, today was a special one for me. It was the 179th day in a row where I did exactly the same thing.” In another episode, Roseanne goes to a trailer park to visit her daughter. Another woman in the trailer park thinks Roseanne lives there, but she says, “Whaddaya think, we’re made of money? We rent!”

Japanese gymnasts such as Kenmotsu and Tsukahara used to work in Japanese private industries such as banks which helped them to become great athletes by allowing them to train in the afternoons. This was a win-win situation. The athletes received financial remuneration for their work, and the private industries received prestige by having an Olympic athlete working for them.

The old performers often showed great dedication to their work. While Sophie Tucker was singing onstage at the Palace, a fire broke out. The audience was ushered out of the theater while she continued singing onstage. Backstage, the great dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson breathed in smoke, but he later performed his act onstage — in wet dancing shoes.

During the Civil Rights era, black comedian Dick Gregory put his career on the back burner so that he could participate in gaining rights for his people. When he was asked why he was practically giving up his career to do this, he replied, “They didn’t laugh Hitler out of existence, did they?”

A boss walked into an office, looked around, then shouted, “Why is it that everytime I walk into this office, I find that nobody is working!” A voice from the back answered, “It’s those damn rubber heels you wear.”

Comedian Betsy Salkind used to be a bank examiner, until she woke up one day and said, “I’m going to die some day. Is this what I want to do with my life?”

At a small-town parish in Uvalde, Texas, a very serious four-year-old asked Msgr. Vincent Fecher, “Are you Jesus?” He replied, “No, but I work for him.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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