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Chapter 16: Zero To Hero

So a long time ago, in a galaxy that is the exact… same… alright, here we are. In the last few chapters, we basically wrapped up me being a 15-year-old, and even dove into me being a 16-year-old. While I had gotten through driver’s education when I was 15 ½, I didn’t actually get a car until I was 17 ½.

As some of you may be aware, growing up poor means your parents don’t buy you a vehicle once you turn 16. Even when you turn 17, it was a no go in my case. Reality is, my mom, around the time I was 17, dated a car mechanic, that would be my lucky break. He was a tall weird looking Canadian dude who worked in the USA, but really, was still a Canadian citizen. Dude had a big mustache, was skinny as heck and was about 5 inches taller than me.

There were moments I would butt heads with that guy, but overall, we were fine. He even bought me my first guitar at some point. Regardless of our dysfunctional moments, he was nowhere near as bad as a much shorter dude my mom dated, who showed up at our condo crying like a baby over God knows what. I mean, I know my mom had dumped him, but come on, crying to her son about it? Seriously, a grown man asking a teen boy to go get his mom, with tears in his eyes and a blubbering shaking belly to boot? It was just a mess. At least the mechanic boyfriend didn’t act like a baby. I feel like once you get past 40 years old, you can’t just show up crying on people’s patios anymore. I’d argue you should not do that at any point in your life.

So, the first car I got? I had to pay for myself. It was a 1992 Corolla, and it was… lame. But it was my car, so that’s awesome. I got some sweet hubcaps for it at the local Walmart and boy did it look… just as lame. The price was about $800 from my mom’s mechanic boyfriend. I paid it off through a job I got at the YMCA as a daycare supervisor.

My direct boss at the daycare was a hot chick, probably 2 years older than me. She had tanned skin (typical surfer type girl), blonde hair (also fake color) and a really bratty personality. She always treated the kids like they were burdens to her, and I just wanted to make sure the kids could have fun while in daycare. In fact, I focused on them having fun so much, that they started liking me more than they liked her. She noticed and got very resentful about it.

I guess you could say I was like the older brother, and she was like the bitchy stepmom. It wasn’t hard to see why I got favoritism, but for her, it was too much to accept. If the kids didn’t show appreciation for her, she’d get even meaner and almost punish them for not wanting to praise the ground she walked on. A little weird.

From time to time, my direct boss would remind me of the babysitter I had as a kid. Really early on in my life, when I stayed over at my dad’s house during the summer, sometimes my dad and stepmom would have to go to work. As a result, they hired a girl to come over, and she would often times bring her boyfriend as well. My dad and his wife didn’t know that the babysitter was bringing the guy over. This girl would just make out with her boyfriend on our couch while she was supposed to be watching us. We later reported this to my dad, and she was fired quickly after.

To make the babysitter story relevant: My direct boss wasn’t so different. She would bring by multiple men to the daycare and have her little dramas with them, all the while, kids around. Pretty sure one dude was her husband, and the other was her boyfriend. Pretty ridiculous stuff.

But what was my secret? Why did all of these kids like me more than they liked her? Well, other than the actually caring about them thing and not being sarcastic toward them all the time thing: I actually set up the class computer to do more than show spreadsheets and text documents. I, figured out how to put video games on that computer. Specifically, shockwave flash games I downloaded from the web.

There were airplane games, balloon games… all kinds of things to play.

What was sad was, my adding computer games to the daycare was so effective, when their parents would show up, the kids would sometimes cry about not wanting to leave. I felt second-hand embarrassment for the parents because, if I was a parent at the time, I know I would get my feelings hurt by my kid not wanting to go with me after a full day away. Also, how bad is home life if a kid would rather hang out with what would one day be “Onision” and play video games? Gotta say, I felt like I was “the cool staff member”, and yeah, my feelings were clearly valid. My computer skills not only fixed the computer to be compatible with games, but also provided the games. Badass.

The kids were mostly cool people, no real problems or anything (I mean there was the one time a kid punched me, but that was because I had tried to resolve an already active tantrum that had nothing to do with me). The kids were most always nice to me, and I was the guy who brought them the wonders of video games. This kind of reminds me of my friend who died. Later on he would write me that letter about how he wanted to bring video games to the kids in Brazil as well. Face it, video games are cool.

Regardless, you might have imagined, if I reported my baby sitter to my dad for bringing her boyfriend around, did I report my boss? No. Not for that at least.

Instead, I had to report my boss to her boss because she was leaving work early but reporting that she stayed. This is wage theft, and it’s probably a crime… not sure. Definitely by company standards no doubt. Either way, I felt compelled to notify my boss’s boss. To my surprise, my job and her job was so difficult to fill it seemed, nothing came of it. I guess to them, so long as I was working extra to fill in the gaps, it didn’t matter to them. And I felt that was really dumb. You know that phrase “Nice guys finish last”? Well, yeah, I did finish last, work, that is. I would go home last every day, because my freaking boss knew I would never lie about my hours, so she was good to go, I had it all covered what with me being responsible and shit. Free paychecks for her. Ugh.

Meanwhile at home, I was completing high school almost exclusively through college now. Graduation was coming on time, just like my guidance counselor had prophesized. This same guidance counselor was kind of cool in the sense that she always acted like I was super gifted, and even gave me special tasks. One of those tasks was me designing the school website. She made sure everyone around me knew how “smart” and “talented” I was, always trying to show me off like I was an idea she came up with.

At some point my senior year of High School, I would break from my college-exclusive schedule to visit the high school on occasion to give presentations to my former school faculty on the new web site I designed. I was treated almost like a member of the staff. It was downright freaky standing in front of so many teachers, just to teach them how to use the website.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t paid to do the school site and my earnings from the YMCA were minimal. There were points while I was still in High School that my mom demanded I start paying her rent to live in the house. This first happened when I was only 17, and eventually it got to the point where I had no choice but to pay or leave. I tried to explain to my mom the first time that I wasn’t even graduated from High School yet. I also pointed out that I wasn’t an adult yet either. I expressed that it was silly to expect me to leave while I was still attending school, but after I turned 18 and graduated, my arguments stopped. Without much delay at all, I was being pushed out of the nest.

I asked my grandma if I could live with her for a while and she said ok. That was cool because I really didn’t want to be around my mom anymore for the time being. I also loved the idea of living in the house my grandpa would always ask “Are you my friend?” in. The same house I peed of the deck of as a kid when a river flowed around it. The same house I met one of my girlfriends in. The same house I grew up right next door to… but… it didn’t take long for my grandma to start questioning what I did with my days when I did live there. Fact of the matter is, once I graduated high school, all I wanted to do was work on web sites and make songs.

I initially reached out to record labels to pick up my music, only to find that most the record labels I reached out to, wouldn’t be in business for long. The rest just ignored me or told me that the contract I presented to them was essentially a great deal for me. They said it was so great that I should let them know if anyone ever hopped on it, as they would like to quit their jobs and have the same deal as me. Translation: They were being dicks and making fun of my proposed contract.

The arrangement I was suggesting is that I make songs for the label, and they pay me essentially minimum wage. Had they known I’d wind up making songs that were heard by over a hundred million people collectively, they might have jumped on the opportunity, but oh well.

At this point it was pretty obvious the music job dream wasn’t working out. I also had quit the daycare job due to my grandma living so far away. Not long into my troubles, I overheard my grandma talking on the phone about how I’m basically jobless and aimless. It stung to hear that, just a bit. With that blow to my ego, it was time for me to take drastic action.

I talked to my middle sister about how her time in the Air Force was going. She reported that she was having a fine time. I worried, from all the films I saw, that being in the military would change people… but her personality didn’t seem to have changed much at all. This was an encouraging reality.

Throughout my life I had watched a lot of war films. These were essentially pro-hero American propaganda that I had bought into just as the millions of dollars invested in these films intended. So I figured it might fun to be a hero like those guys. If my sister could do, it, I could too, because my sister, is a massive dork. To this very day, what a dork.

I looked into different military branches, but the Air Force seemed to be the coolest of them all. I went in to see if I was a viable option for them, and they confirmed my status by calling me the “Golden Recruit” due to my awesome health, my high school diploma, college experience & ambition to serve my country all for the sake of the dumbass movies I saw: To be a hero. Yeah, I know now… I was a lamb being led to the slaughter.

But! I didn’t hear anything for a while. No news, no “Hey, we’re ready to take you!” and so… I decided to do some more odd jobs around the neighborhood, even for my ex-girlfriend’s mom, which was cool. She was a nice lady who was considering hiring me to design her a pottery web site. For the time being, I just did some tasks that required heavy lifting. My ex-girlfriend was off at college specializing in “African American Studies” leaving her mom, no doubt very bored in that house alone.

On top of those odd neighborhood jobs, I also worked for the boss of my oldest sister’s. For this high-roller, I designed a web site. I had a couple other contract website jobs, like for a non-profit Seattle company. Long story short, that covered me for a while, but eventually I wanted to do something really solid, you know, a “real” job. I asked my cousin about becoming a commercial plumber, and he gave me the hookup. I went into their Seattle location and applied for the apprenticeship program. After doing a physical skills test, a mental knowledge test and a general competence review, I was able to begin the long-term employment process.

First month of being a plumber’s apprentice, I lived with my eldest sister in Seattle. It was cool staying there as I would no longer hear my grandma complain about how I was a burden, and I could live with my brother-in-law simultaneously. I really looked up to him, he loved to play video games and he even got me a special discount on Dell computer products. He was a game designer student at the local university and a general badass in my opinion.

Unfortunately for me, I got laid off after a short time. All the waking up every day at 4am to get to the work site by 6am, only to check out at 6pm and do the whole thing over, constantly, was over.

Why was a laid off? Well, I thought it was because I sucked or something, but little did I know, they were actually interested in signing me on full time, just not yet. Some people would say it was due to my cousin backing me up and pushing my papers forward. “Some people” meaning my mom and him directly when he talked about it while being drunk. So, thanks… heh.

While I worked with the commercial plumbers, one of the guys stopped me and said “You look like you don’t belong here. Like you’re supposed to be doing something else.” I had no idea what he meant, other than my ego screaming in the back of my head “You’re special Greg! You should be like… like a comedian or something!” It could also have been the fact that I drew “Helper Monkey” on my hardhat with a bunch of different cartoons and had major issues bonding with the other guys because of being hazed as well as my inability to degrade women back then… you know, the whole “Locker room talk” thing wasn’t in my social vocabulary.

Literally the boss of the site I was working at said to me once “Hey Greg, you like getting road head?” with all the other higher ups around. I was just an 18-year-old so I was like “Uh, I feel like, that would distract me from the driving.” The boss laughed and said “Yeah” but it wasn’t like a “Wow he’s so funny” laugh and was more like a “Uh oh pussy boy alert” laugh. Basically, I was out of my element there, so again, surprised they wanted me back.

Not long after passing the trial period of my expected plumbing career: Ring ring, it’s the Air Force.

Turns out, the Air Force was eager to have me, and didn’t forget me after all. I signed a contract to join them many months prior, and now they were ready for me.

I went through something called “MEPS” with a group of people I would describe as rejects and thugs. MEPS stands for the Military Entrance Protocol… something? I donno. Point is, I was about to be tested physically for my ability to enter at the level I needed to be. We did the near-naked duck walk, where they watch how your body moves as you squat while walking. We also did a hearing test, vision test and strength related tests.

I passed everything, but there was a guy there who was crying about him not passing the vision test. He said if he couldn’t pass the vision test, required for him to be a pilot, he didn’t want to join the Air Force, and to that I say: LAME. “I don’t want to serve my country because I don’t get to fly planes.” That’s what he was really saying, so, no sympathy from me. At the time I was just psyched to be considered for the Air Force at all.

In fact, we got sworn in right there at the MEPS Seattle facility, and boom, I was officially a meat puppet of the government. Yay.

Once I was back home from the MEPS weekend, I received another call. This time it was from the plumber’s union. Apparently, I was now expected to start working long-term with them, we’re talking a five-year contract. My response was “Unfortunately I’ve already signed up to be part of the Air Force and I can’t back out as my status is bound by a written contract.” The man on the phone sounded disappointed until he let the “Air Force” part sink in, then he told me I should try to get a job with them after I was out of the Air Force… and… I definitely didn’t.

Plumbing for me was mind-numbingly boring and pointlessly physically draining. It felt like I was setting my time on fire and flushing my life down the toilet. I wanted something with more adventure, something with more purpose, and the Air Force seemed awesome for that.

After that, just a year out of High School, I was at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, headed toward San Antonio Texas. What’s there? Lackland Air Force Base, a wonderful place for crying, spirit-crushing and in some rare cases, suicide.

Coming straight out of Seattle with me was a big dumb ape-looking dude who I would later find out would be the idiot of my flight. No, not the flight there, the flight as in squad? Or, large group of Airmen? Ok, flight = large group of people. Got it? Cool. Basically this big dumb white ape of a man was going to be sleeping a few bunks away from me for the next couple months, and oh boy, was he in for a world of hurt. Not from me… but the training instructors.

The plane trip was normal, I had a chill time, but once we landed in San Antonio, a lot hit me at once. We arrived late at night; the airport felt like a ghost town. A hot ebony woman in a military uniform greeted us and directed us to a room full of other soon-to-be airmen. We looked like a bunch of cattle, all put together in a massive room at the airport, ready to be carted off. Reality is, short of cattle prods, we were about to be treated worse than cattle for the next couple months. Some of us were ready, many were not.

As we were loaded onto the busses to head to base, I felt the San Antonio air hit me like an open raging oven. I hadn’t felt this kind of heat in years. It felt similar in climate to what Ohio was, only the vibe wasn’t paired with Christian hypocrisy. Instead, the vibe that night seemed to say “You’re now part of something bigger, and it’s going to be intense.” I was really excited.

We heard screaming outside the bus as it rolled to a stop on base. The screaming was for us. A sergeant got on the bus and began yelling at us. “What are you doing!? Get off this bus right now! Line up outside now god damn it!” in a hurry, we got off the bus and did our version of what we thought was a proper line up. The training instructor quickly corrected us, had us gather up our gear, and walked us to where we would all be signed in for a second time that night.

The organization of the staff there seemed to be a bit off. We were yelled at, then put in a room to sit for what seemed like a couple hours, then we were yelled at again, and directed to our bunks. Once we were introduced to our sleeping area, we were given time to fill our lockers and that’s when I was introduced to a crying boy.

This crying boy reminded me of the kids I used to be in charge of at the daycare. I had calmed crying kids down before, mostly at recess after they got injured by falling, but this time, I wasn’t dealing with a kid. He was 17 or 18 years old, and he was in the US Air Force, bawling like a child.

I went up to this guy, squatted down next to him and I asked him what was wrong. I had set up my locker early and had some time to spare. No one else was helping him, and I just felt having a dude around crying, wasn’t a good look or vibe for our flight. Someone should show they actually want to take care of their fellow airmen, tonight that was me.

The little blonde haired, pale-skinned boy was bawling about how he had never been yelled at before. He talked about how he wanted to go home (already) and how deeply the training instructors had hurt him with their loud angry words. He communicated this all to me in between gasps of air and moans of sadness.

I felt bad for him, but I also thought to myself “What the hell did you expect? This is basic training. Have you never seen a single military movie before?”

So, after rubbing that palm of my hand in circular motions around the center upper area of this guy’s back for a time to calm him down, he stopped crying, and I returned to my bunk. We all went to bed shortly after, only to wake up to more screaming hours later. I’m sure the TI’s were laughing their asses off before and after yelling at all of us. It must have been fun knowing it was all just a game to break us down and rebuild us as machines, and that they were the puppet masters.

Regardless… let’s get into this more later. Have a good night guys.

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Unknown member
Aug 05, 2022

Awesome read! Thanks for being there for the I like getting to know you more. My first car was a 1987 Caprice Classic.. didn’t get great gas mileage, at all.. lol but to me, the car was beautiful and the car was mine. Ran smoothly, and was entirely roomy in every sense. A literal land yacht.  When it came to jobs before 18 I only worked the one and it was for the community college next to my high school. I was a clerical assistant, which I was told would help future careers, it didn’t, but I learned so much that helped me with public speaking and other things my anxiety made nearly impossible. What you did that for person…


Unknown member
Aug 03, 2022

I enjoyed this chapter very much. How You describe things without being too wordy is a compliment to your writing skills. Many writers get so side-tracked in their stories that readers get lost. You, on the other hand know how to write in a very descriptive and concise manner, allowing the reader to follow along with great ease. I really enjoyed this so Thank You So Very Much for Sharing and can't wait to read the next chapter.

Unknown member
Aug 05, 2022
Replying to

Keeps the reader's interest as well. It also leaves enough room for the reader to use their own imagination and visualize people, places, & events in a very unique way. Excellent stories so far.


Unknown member
Aug 03, 2022

I got my first car when I was 18. It was actually my step mom's grandmother's car so it wasn't a very nice first car to have lol. I was glad to have one though. I worked in daycares too because that's what I went to college for, but I was only a teacher's assistant and later realized I wasn't the teaching type. The kids were adorable but I couldn't get them to listen to me sometimes 😬😆 Anyway, this chapter was great and I'm looking forward to more of your stories of being in the Air Force.

Unknown member
Aug 03, 2022
Replying to

I found as a daycare person, people listen to you more when they understand where you are coming from, and the incentive they have to do what is best in general. It can be difficult and random sometimes however. Glad you are looking forward to more.

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