I worked with a Joe the Plumber. Really, I did. Hard times forced me into a life of laboring on a huge construction site in Kirkwood, California. They were they these gigantic condominiums being built at the base of a ski resort. In the winter, people could actually ski right off the slope into the parking lot. One day, the temperature reached a stifling five degrees at noon and then went right back down.
We started work at seven. But from my house its a fort-five minute drive. So I used to wake up at five, slug down some coffee (sometimes with a shot of vodka), and get going, because I had to be at work on time. The boss was a raging tyrant who, I'm convinced, got a positively sexual thrill out of firing people.
I didn't have a licence at the time. The police had taken it away. Something about drinking and driving. The bastards.
So I commuted all the way with some very bizarre, very bizarre chap who was a painter. He seemed like the kind of guy who got off on fondling puppy's balls. I don't know why. That's just the impression I got. He drove a mini-van with all of his paint shit in it. The smell of lacquer thinner stayed with you all day, but since it made me light-headed, I didn't mind. It was the only way to tolerate the misery.
Anyway, he had a thermometer in his van. It told the outside temperature. In order to get to Kirkwood from my house, you have to pass through a desolate place called Hope Valley. It's aptly named because when you are there, all you do is hope to get the fuck out. Apparently, tourists flock there in the autumn to watch the aspen trees change color. I guess it's beautiful. I didn't notice. I hated the fucking hell. The only thing I imagined when passing through were nineteenth century pioneers in covered wagons devouring each other's legs from starvation. Anyway, one morning in the cold dead heart of dark winter, it was fourteen below. Fourteen degrees below zero.
More good times. And we still had ten hours of grinding labor ahead of us. Yay!
So, anyway, there was a plumber there whom I occasionally palled around with. He was a pretty god damned funny guy. He had been in the Navy and travelled all through the Mediterranean. He'd been to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
So I asked him one day, what was Saudi Arabia like?
He said, "Picture a funeral home that is an entire country."
I asked him about Turkey.
He said, "Think of a retarded Mexican family who doesn't wash their hands before cooking."
His words, not mine.
One day, he was yukking it up with his pals. He'd been reading a plumber's trade journal, and he discovered the following interesting fact about their profession: plumbers are in the top ten percent of people who contract hepatitis.
"I guess I finally made it into the top ten percent of something," he said.