I’ve never made a whole lot of money. At least, not so much that I couldn’t find a way to spend it all before the next tax year. (In 1998, I made $30,500, it was the high point of my earnings until 2010, when I made over $30K even though nearly half the year was spent collecting unemployment. Inflation.) This may be because I tend to take jobs that have a ‘funk factor’ appeal for me. Not the highest paying, but rewarding enough socially and intellectually to make up the difference.
Recently a job prospect came up and I told my girlf that if I ended up in that job I would be obligated to write up a tale of my life in interesting jobs. I reasoned that if I was never going to make much money working, I might be able to make a million telling the story about why I never made much money.
Because, you know, writers rake it in. Right? No, they don’t; on average. But neither do punk rockers (on average), and the first rule of writing punk lyrics is write about what you know. So I’ll do that.
The most recent interesting job, the inciting incident, the straw that broke the camel’s bank? I’m a “Mosquito Abatement Courier”.
Just roll that off your tongue a couple times. “Mosquito Abatement Courier.” What do those three words have to do with each other? If you found an envelope on the street and all it said on it was “Mosquito Abatement Courier”, how would you find the owner? Luckily, you have someone like me in your life to explain these exponents of trivial tasks.
I’m not only a Mosquito Abatement Courier, I’m a member of the M.A.C. Team! There’s a bunch of us. ‘Mosquito Abatement’ is the wholesale extermination of mosquitoes by the most efficient means possible. I am the most efficient means, in that I can ride a bicycle loaded with insecticide (and all of the Material Safety Data Sheets and Centers For Disease Control documentation pertinent to the insecticide) from the mosquito abatement headquarters (exterminator’s shop) to the places where mosquitoes are likely to be hanging around waiting to be abated (sewers) (exterminated). That’s my job; ride a bicycle from one sewer, or ‘catch basin’, to every other in a defined area of San Francisco (where else in the world would this be a job?), determine whether the threat of mosquito breeding grounds exists in each, and take appropriate action…i.e., drop larvicidal bacteria in there and move on. There’s about eight of us, and the city is arbitrarily divided into sections based on, from what I can tell, projecting a map of S.F. on the wall and pasting 11 x 14″ sheets of paper into it and saying, “Here you go, this is your section.” As with the way San Francisco was originally laid out, consideration for changes in altitude has been disregarded in favor of traveling in straight lines.
I didn’t just happen upon this job. I have known more than a couple of Mosquito Abatement Couriers. A girl that lived in my house was a MAC Team rider. While on the annual 49 Mile Ride that some S.F. cyclists do every year I ran into a guy that not only rode on the team, but had an obscure ’90s bike messenger T-shirt that I recognized, and was a friend of a guy I worked with. He carried a tape recorder on his front rack, and I gave him a portable reel-to-reel recorder that another housemate of mine had given to me simply because I expressed an interest in them. While installing custom architectural metal fabrications in Pacific Heights mansions I would occasionally see a Mosquito Abatement Courier and wonder to myself, as interesting as this job I’m doing is, wouldn’t that one be just as much fun?
I knew, because I knew a girl who did the job, that the MAC Team didn’t just treat the catch basins, but that they used GPS enabled cell phones to record the location and condition of each catch basin. I also knew, because I once fell in love with a marine geophysicist, that that meant someone was, or should be, creating a ‘data layer’, or a database of information tied to specific geographical locations, that could be displayed as a ‘layer’ of a map generated by Georaphic Information System (GIS) software (which the marine geophysicist just happened to leave a Beta testing version of on my desktop). I didn’t see the MAC Team courier as some putz that hauled his fershlugginer ass around from one shit hole to another handling toxic substances, kneeling on the ground shining a flashlight under someone’s BMW down into the sewer… but as a technologically equipped agent of data acquisition, a latter-day Lewis or Clark drawing a more accurate map, making safe the west, and having some high-adventure experience along the way.
As it turns out, I got canned from the custom metal fabrication job, and through a concatenated series of hirings and firings, ended up as a Mosquito Abatement Courier. But first I had to do my time a s a Mythbuster.