Why We Work


Those with a none-too-joyous view of humanity (and, yes, that would be the GOP) view work—view labor—as something man will only do for the most money possible. (Except when it's time to raise the minimum wage.) If you don't let Rick Hilton pass all his worth on to Paris Hilton tax-free, they say, there's no reason for him to aspire to more. Status, respect, self-fulfillment, creation: these are as nothing to the Republican mind.

And that's why I think Republicans are lazy pieces of shit: you totally have to bribe them to get anything done at all.

The rest of us, we work and work and work and work. We work weeks longer than our European competitors while they're laughing into their Brie. Our real wages are at their lowest since 1972, while we thank our benevolent employers—the ones taking home record profits—for not yet having outsourced our jobs.

Work is awesome, and I would like some more money, please, or I ain't doing any.

But wait!

Some work is awesome! Some work is the kind of work you would even do for the love of the game instead of for enough money to buy some love. There are even the mythical grails of jobs, the kinds where you don't need money to buy love; "love" comes right with the uniform. I'm talking, of course, about jobs that don't exist but should: jobs like bikini inspector, and mustache ride operator, and Orange County sheriff.

We can't profile what doesn't exist—that's for George Tenet and the WMDs—but we can offer you profiles of people who love what they do, or we assume they would if we talked to them. There's a pilot, and a guy who drives Lamborghinis. There's an aerial acrobat, and Hugh Hewitt, and Don Bren. There's a day laborer and Rex Hudler. There are others that may or may not be cut for space by the time we roll this paper out the door and head out for our eight-day holiday weekend. We've got some pretty good jobs here ourselves.

And we'd still like more money. You know: please.

"You're fine on this curve," Lamborghini Orange County service manager Grant Johnson says as we fly down Edinger in a black 2005 Lamborghini Gallardo, not a car in front of us, me in third gear nearing the ton. "It can handle it." He should know; this is his job, and he does it well. Not a hair moves in his dry pompadour as I futz around with a $300,000 car I don't own. ("Do you have life insurance?" general manager Vik Keuylian asked me as we left the building. I'm not sure if he thinks we might crash—or if he'll take care of me if we do.)

This is what his day feels like: it feels fast, even though I'm just sitting around. The exhaust note behind me is an unearthly howl, and I'm only loafing: halfway to redline on the tachometer, halfway through the transmission, which is shifted through paddle levers that sprout from the steering column just like on a Formula One car. Johnson, who took us sideways through a turn just moments ago—the hard downshifts kicking us in the tuchis, the massive Brembos on each corner just starting to lock—must be unruffled, but I don't know. I'm not looking at him; I'm doing what you have to do in situations like these. I'm watching the road, which, like the gasoline in this beast, is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Like all Lamborghinis, this is not a car you drive to get somewhere. You drive it because you've arrived—somewhere—and now you wanna leave, real fast. Sometimes, as Flannery O'Connor once put it, "where you are isn't any good unless you can get away from it." You can do that, but quick, in anything Lamborghini makes, and everyone I meet at this dealership has the happy, floaty air of someone on an adrenalin rush: someone who, like me, has either just driven one of these Italian exotics or is about to.

"I own everybody's Lamborghini," Johnson brags as we ooze down the dealership driveway in the Gallardo—the first all-new Lambo the company has dropped since being bought by Audi in '98. "We just got back from a driving trip up north. We went up Highway 1, doing maybe 100 miles a day on those twisty roads. Passing people, we were doing 100 miles an hour in some of those turns." Jealous?

He's had this job for nine years; like everyone here, he's been hooked on exotics in general/Lamborghinis in particular since around the time the Countach—its road-going missile of the 1980s—came out.

"It's a job," Johnson says wanly as we get ready to blast down Edinger, stopping only for the railroad tracks, then reconsiders his position: getting a tan in the driver's seat of one of the fastest cars in the world. "It's one of those jobs," he says, "where you get up every morning and you want to come to work."

In a Lamborghini. (Theo Douglas)

Poverty isn't just a job or maybe the lack of a job—it's an adventure! And a disease too! It's all things to all people—particularly poor people, who have to be poor all the time, and who spend just as many days as non-poors waking up early and commuting to offices they hate where instead of paychecks they get food stamps, which come on an ATM-style card now, and going to case meetings and walking through metal detectors and carrying around paperwork and basically putting in a good part-time hourly tally into hovering somewhere between homeless and solvent. Your tax dollars ARE work!

OC Weekly: When did you first know you wanted to be poor?

Poor Person: After wasting so many hours a week at a job when I could be drinking, I knew that social services would pave the way to my liver with gold . . . schlager. Everyone told me that being poor wasn't for me. They seemed to think I would be better doing something with my life.

What time do you have to get up and go start being poor?

Weekly meetings with my case worker are usually around 9 a.m. Same time as Rockford Files is on, so I'm usually late. Otherwise I tend to sleep until 10.

Do you get along well with the other poor people?

Very well. I always pride myself on knowing what it's like to walk a mile in another's shoes with a hole in the sole.

What's the dress code like?

Being poor never takes a casual day. You can't hop a freight in shorts and flip-flops! A great thing about being poor is no one expects much from you, and when you do the smallest thing they are super-proud. "You mailed that letter all by yourself? Good for you!" Back to dress code, though. You can definitely overdress. It's a tough sell going to the food stamp office in your Sunday best. Nobody is buying that. Even the county officers don't wear suits.

Do they think you are a rich person getting stamps for kicks?

Oh yeah, scams abound at stamp heaven.

What scams have you personally been accused of?

The frills of this interview blow. I haven't even gotten a single bottle of Mad Dog.

Is it even legal for me to give a poor person a gift?

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may incriminate me. But it depends on the level of the gift receiver. At the bottom, anything is okay. But us borderline poors—a gift can send our stamp allotment plummeting.


The big IBM machine in the sky is always watching. They don't want anyone that is doing fine on money to get stamps. That takes away from the needy. And they are right. Making $75 a week under the table is too much.

What is the most rewarding part of being poor?

Well, I must say it's nice to have a county officer call me rich for having $4.73 in the bank. And it's always wonderful to walk into a grocery store in my finest suit and be most outgoing to the cashier, only to present payment with stamps and get frowned on. That is wonderful. I know it's because they're jealous that they aren't poor like me. (Chris Ziegler)

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