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New job inspires mopping aspirations

The first few weeks of my new job at Pizza Hut went very well. I spent my hours behind a rocker knife and a cutting board, slicing pizzas into eight slices and then packaging them into boxes or setting them on a serving board.

But everything changed last week, when I helped close for the first time. The minute I put down my rocker knife and picked up a mop, my perception on myself shifted. It shouldn't have.

I was still inhabiting the same place in the lowest echelons of society, still hanging by one hand from the last rung of the social ladder. But still, as I began wiping down the counters, sweeping and then scrubbing the floors, I saw myself not as the happy-go-lucky pizza dude that I had before, but as a man staring desperation straight in the face.

I was not working in a pizza joint, but an empty small-town café, mopping in time not to The Golden Oldies or Today's Hits, but the depressing country that people only listen to when they can't get anything else, coming through in hisses and crackles.

Before long, I began to take a numb comfort in my misery. My new job -- one I figured I'd be doing again -- gave me an odd sort of satisfaction. I took pride in my work, no question about that.

I think my manager must have been surprised when, after weeks of spilling pizzas on myself and forgetting to put toppings on the taco pizzas, I picked up a mop. And she should have. I mop a mean one, probably because at home my after-dinner job has always been the floors.

I moved with remarkable grace and agility, and the floors behind me were always clean. I even threw in some choreography when I sensed the only customer in the building was watching me. I aim to please.

And when I was instructed to mop the men's restroom, I didn't hesitate or complain but dove into the belly of that beast with the gusto of a man on his last chance for survival.

And while I did this mundane work, I found I had a lot of thinking time. I contemplated myself, my new place in life. I thought of all the songs I had listened to all my life but never really known until now.

Soon, I was performing my mopping routine to selections from my mental catalog: Awww momma . . . can this really be the end? To be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.

I thought of my life so far: everything I had ever hoped and dreamed for coming down to this. I thought of my car sitting in that dark parking lot, with its left side-view broken off from a corner cut too close and its carpet saturated with Dr. Pepper.

I reassured myself with thoughts of all the biographies I have read of fruitful careers starting like this: pushing broom in a food joint, looking out into the dark lonely beyond and wondering if it wants any part of me. And still, the songs played on: Two hours of pushin' broom buys an eight by twelve four-bit room; I'm a man of means by no means.

Who knows what the future holds? But for now I'm going to work towards being the best pizza maker and mop pusher this town has ever seen.