1. College Degree Required
Bright April Fools noon, months ago. Drunk. Barely stand. Advertisement for horticultural technician read: “Topiary Techniques seeks. Indoor Landscaper. Work with plants. College degree required. College degree a must. Will train.”
Clean office spacious new. Expected vegetation, overgrowth, jungle loam, hedge-cutters, machetes. The secretary took my resumé told me to sit. I sat. Photographs of plant arrangements prettied walls. Shelves of pristine plant pots—metal, plastic, terra cotta.
Victor tall, solid; stylish shirt and tie. Company man. Gung ho. Gung ho. Expounded upon the history of Topiary Techniques, largest indoor landscaping firm in The Nation. Offices in fifty cities. Victor had begun as a horticultural technician, experienced every facet of the business: worked the greenhouse, drove delivery, hustled sales, directed sales forces. Now Manager, The City Office.
“So, you interested?”
Brusque, to-the-point, go-getter, proud head man, The City Headquarters of Topiary Techniques.
I asked what the job entailed.
Simple. Maintain plants The Company provided to clients.
“Can you lift things?” asked Victor.
“I’m pretty strong.”
“You’ll have to carry plants to clients, occasionally, and you’ll be handling a plastic bucket full of water. A watering can. We call them buckets. Filled to the brim no more than 40-45 pounds, probably less.”
“You have to be on the ball,” said Victor. “That’s why we require a college degree. You have to be able to follow instructions, even read them. Sometimes have to figure stuff out on your own.”
Topiary Techniques achieved profit designing and facilitating clients’ “indoor landscaping decor” and maintaining plants installed as part of this decor. Each client signed a maintenance contract requiring a Topiary Techniques Certified Horticultural Technician come once a week to service all plants on premises.
Dead or dying plants replaced, no charge.
Technicians expert professionals of Topiary Techniques inundated with orders for unnecessary and avoidable replacements.
“Ever done this type of work before?” asked Victor.
“Are you willing to learn?”
“New technicians undergo what we call ‘basic.’ Three-week paid training with experienced members of our staff.”
Victor rose to full six feet.
“Do you want to work hard?” he asked.
“Do you want a job?”
On my way to a new Green Self an hour to find my way home though it was only five subway stops away straight line one train no connection.
2. Horticultural Apprentice
Monday began my apprenticeship under Sue, Senior Technician.
Job job, client client, breathe. Job job, client client, breathe.
Breathe, lunch, coffee.
Hours the Spring green lonely.
Sue taught me the trade. Sue, artist. Many artists, writers, musicians tended plants for Topiary Techniques all-day days. Five-O’clock stopped and rushed home to their real.
Sue was meticulous in her after-all, which she viewed as itself.
Critical fingers poked, pinched, pleasured soil, eliciting wet, else careful quick-gush from her spout.
“You can’t just water a plant unless it’s thirsty. Drown the damn thing. That what you want?”
Small and wiry Sue wore funky clothes. Never lonely when the day was done.
Worker-bees in comb-like cubes, Executives in suites. Potted oases offer Life to dull fluorescent days.
Me? One of hundreds of technicians for Topiary Techniques, largest outfit in The City.
Me? Unmarketable Masters degree in Marketing Business Strategies.
Me? Pocket full of pills.
Me? Manual tonic for the soul: nurse green growing, hand-to-leaf rather than ponder time behind a desk, ear to phone, face to screen, time attack from every angle: wrist-watch, wall-clock, fuzzy command-line, hour-glass icon, digital and analog animations hurling time’s arrow with atomic precision and indifference.
Me? Apprenticeship. Me? Apprentice.
Talk about peculiar. Talk about breaks: iced-coffee in the park and talk.
Sue was an Attractive. But mingle not work with love. Court not Future at a cubicle near you. Oh, not true, Sue. Sue. Didn’t turn me on. Dead man. Possibly not Sue as she was she. Rather circumstantial. Rather situation of the all-day day.
Me? Not yet Plantman yet, not yet.
Long runs in the park. Booze and plenty of it: only for-sure sure cure for all-day days.
Final Friday of apprenticeship I said, “Nothing.”
We went away separate. Way away this, way away that.