It was another late night last night. But because the agency’s expense reimbursement system is as approximately as complicated and ornate as the Large Hadron Collider, I opted to take a shared ride service home rather than an Uber.
There was no one else in the car when I got in the truck. I had some old Nino Rota music on my headphones and really wasn’t in the mood to chatter, but the driver was the gregarious sort and ignored me trying to ignore him.
“You are working late,” he said to me.
“Not as late as you. I work early and late,” I said. “It’s the way of the world.”
“I’m 41,” he began heading west on 44th Street. “I’m turning 42 soon. I hate driving. I wish I could retire tomorrow.”
“You’re a young man. You have a lot of years ahead of you.”
“I am taking the test next Tuesday to be a corrections officer.”
“That’s a tough job,” I replied, talking through my hat.
“But after 20 years, a pension, or 22 years. And I’d rather watch the prisoners than be a prisoner.”
“Yeah, you’re better off on the outside,” I said, again talking through my hat. Though the way things are going at my office these days, I might be happier in some correctional farm. Stamping license plates my be easier than smashing boulders of jargon into copy.”
He gave me a befuddled look.
“This job, you get nothing. You sick, you don’t get paid. You need a day off, a vacation, you don’t get paid. No pension. No medical nothing. I am taking the Corrections Officer test,” he repeated. “The last two times I failed it.
"I am working for my wife," he said, gently patting the dashboard. "This truck is my wife. She coughs, I have to take care of her. She costs me everything."
My mind was elsewhere. I tried to imagine what kind of questions were on the corrections test and quickly realized that all jobs have their arcane language and rules. If last year, they had devised a copywriter’s test, I’d probably fail twice, too.
"What is the average CTR on PM2 retargeted banners?" If someone asks me that, I'm looking for a rafter-beam, a long-rope and a chair to kick away.
We had reached the crusted remains of snow in front of my apartment house.
He stuck out his mitt and we shook hands.
“Do not work too hard,” he warned me, as nearly everyone else does.
“Good luck on the test,” I said. And I parted with “I hope you pass and I never see you again.”
He laughed at that.
And off he drove toward midnight.