Stu News and Photos

My name is Stu and I am here to share what I can.

Wow, I tickled my readers' curiosity bone. (Ok, first, do I really have more than one reader? Shocking!! - and second, I know, tickling a curiosity bone may not be legal in your state, so be careful, Big Brother is watching you.)

I'm going to separate these stories into several posts, so if I don't write about your favorite work experience, be patient, I promise I'll get to every question y'all have.

This post will attempt to explain "Shirt Sleeve Presser" - future episodes will include working for The Office Of The President, among others, as well as a few I failed to mention, like Radio Disk Jockey.

On to Shirt Sleeve Presser -

One day, many years ago, when I was about fifteen or so, I got a summer job at the local dry cleaners, across Route 9, in the Foodtown shopping center.

If you don't have a sense of it yet, let me breakdown the previous paragraph: Summer + Indoors + Dry Cleaners + Lack Of Adherence To Child Labor Laws = Hot!

Most mornings, I would wake up, put on the least amount of clothing, and bike over to the dry cleaners (can't, for the life of me, remember the name, and the shop doesn't exist there anymore). I would then walk inside, to experience the joy of 115 degree heat (no lie). Also, my boss's boss spoke no English and my boss's English vocabulary was maybe 100 words, tops. I'm not xenophobic, but I am a communicator, so this was a little irritating. However, they were pretty nice people, so there wasn't a lot of tension. Heat, yes. Tension, no.

After the customary greetings, I'd go to my station. This was a 1 foot square of real estate that I would occupy for most of my 4-6 hour work day. My station was the shirt-sleeve pressing machine.

My partner, who had to be at least 70, would take the freshly-cleaned shirts and iron the body of the shirt, then put it on a hanger next to my station. My job was to take the shirt, press the sleeves, and rehang it for the cuffs and collar guy. Factory work, really, except, well, my end of things was crazy dangerous for a teenager.


Ok kids, here comes the meat of the story: What is a shirt-sleeve-pressing machine? It's got a base, with two dummy arms that extend upright. Each arm consists of a padded inner cylinder and two outer wings, made of metal and crazy-hot. My job was to take the shirt, position it and then pull each sleeve onto each arm (to iron both sleeves at the same time). Once the shirt sleeves were firmly in place, I would press a foot pedal, which would cause the wings to slap against the sleeves and iron them flat. After a few seconds, I'd pull my foot off the pedal, the wings would unfold, and I'd pull the shirt off the machine, and then rehang it for the next guy.

To say that this sucked is beyond an understatement. Forget about the hot metal of the iron wings, as it wasn't difficult to remember to pull your hands away before stepping on the foot pedal. The problem was that there was no tool for removing the shirt. I had to use my bare hands to grab the cuffs and yank the shirt up off the arms. The top of the inner core of the arm would retain the heat of the ironing wings, which meant that for 6 hours, I would burn the shit out of my fingertips every one to two minutes. Yay for me.

Now, let me say that this job was not my parents' way of punishing me. I am fairly certain that this will be the first they hear of how awful it was. And it wasn't that we needed the money. My folks were just being proper parents, saying "Hey, go get a job." And the dry cleaner was close by. I can't remember how I got it, if I found it myself or if my Mom found it for me (she was my career-counselor at the time, G-d bless her). The whole thing was just a bizarre chance event that I was too dim-witted to reject (although it is possible that I quit before I really needed to, becoming fed up with the dreaded factory of men's clothing neatness) - I might have stuck it out until school started, but this is where my memory fades.

My memory is clear on the other dreadful job I had and the fact that I had the smarts to quit after a few weeks. I'm fairly certain that job would have caused permanent hearing loss. I'll tell that tale soon enough.

Allow me to wrap up by saying to anyone who really knows me: This is the exact reason why I walk around with wrinkled clothes most of the time. I am just not a big fan of ironing. Big surprise.

And to any reader who thinks that I'm blowing the ugliness of working at a dry cleaners out of proportion, read this government report on a Massachusetts dry cleaning incident that resulted in severe OSHA standards restructuring. (Mom, Do Not Click On That Link!!)


Barbara said...

That seems like one awful job.

I read somewhere that parents should meet your boss and see your working conditions to minimize dangerous situations. I guess people are wising up to the dangers that employment brings to young people.

Suldog said...

Thanks, Stu. Now I'll tell you why this was the one I wanted to hear about.

When I lived in the Dorchester section of Boston as a kid, there was a dry cleaner (Starlite Cleaners) about two blocks from my house. Every time I walked by there, there was the same older black man seen through one of the windows. He did pressing on a machine. He always waved to me and I always waved back. For the 20-something years I saw him there, from the time I was 3 or 4, we always waved, but never even once did we exchange a spoken word. Then one day he wasn't there.

I like to assume he retired happily. If I had ever once actually engaged the old gentleman in conversation, I would probably know for sure. I never did, though.

G-d bless him, wherever he is. I had no idea his job was so shitty.