birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Ups and Downs

“I bet your job has its ups and downs!” He said with a laugh as he stepped through the doors and placed himself next to me.

I was sitting on a small stool with my hand on the lever that controlled the doors, inner and outer, and the cables that hauled us up and down the four stories of the department store.

Yes, I did call out departments at each floor—if the elevator was full, or my passenger seemed puzzled or just new to the store. And, yes the job did have its ups and downs.

But when he stepped on, it was the fourth time that day, and the fourth time he’d made the squeaky old joke. I snapped, “The last person who said that to me really got the shaft!”

He laughed heartily, “I’ve never heard that before. Good one!” He was an electrician going up repeatedly to the top floor to the switchboard. He was well over six feet tall and skiiiinnny. His tag-a-long was about five feet tall and five feet wide. A real live Mutt and Jeff partnership.

I had been on the job for about six months—and, elevator operating was boooring.

My aunt called my mom one Friday noon in June to say I could have the job—if I could be there by 5pm. The old elevator operator had had a fight with the HR director and stormed off for good. The director was running the elevator and would be very unhappy if she had to stay for the evening shift. I could be her HERO!

My mother sent my brother running, “Barb, hurry! HURRY! Mommy’s got you a JOB!”

A job, a real job—in a real workplace—that came with real money! I was 18, just graduated from high school and the first of my friends to get that treasured thing.

During the summer it was fun. I had the machine to master. I had two 15 minute breaks, a 30 minute lunch and a 10% discount to spend on new clothes for college. Also, around the corner was the best bookstore in town—so when I was tired of the Juniors’ section I could go browse murder mysteries and love stories. And, I discovered eating out—and the grilled Reuben with amazing tart-sweet Russian dressing and gooey melted Swiss cheese.

But later, Friday nights began to drag. While my friends were going on dates and to football games, I was sitting between floors solving calculus problems or rushing to pick up impatient shoppers from the basement to take them to the top floor, because hardware and housewares weren’t anywhere close together. Saturday afternoons in the fall and winter were the hardest—because nobody was around by 3 o’clock.

That is why “Mutt”, even though he was corny as heck, was a welcome diversion from calculus and cables in the late afternoon.

Keep a Grip on Safety

Music is My Life!