When I was 22 years-old I moved to San Francisco from New Jersey. I arrived for a visit but in less than two weeks I was subletting a room in the Haight-Ashbury district and had found employment. Less than 2 months after that I got the lease on my own place with two roommates and my mother sent me my cat – I was staying! I worked at a homeless advocacy program for several months but was let go because my typing was too slow and inaccurate. Alas.
As I was fairly resourceful, I headed downtown to the Manpower Temporary Services office. Sitting behind the desk was a woman from my high school in New Jersey. She was my sister’s age and I had been friends with her younger sister in school. We screamed, “What are the chances?” and embraced. She sent me out to San Francisco’s business community armed with good telephone manners, excellent filing skills and a little later good word processing capability. Eventually I would type like the wind.
I worked all over downtown for the better part of a year. One of the most memorable was at Bechtel Inc at 50 Beale Street. Bechtel was subcontracting for PG&E, our utility company in Northern California. They had around 15 temporaries up on an otherwise empty floor with lots of long tables collating large binders of legal documents which involved the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo in Central California. This was about 8 years after Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown and 1 year after Chernobyl. I found this on Wikipedia: “The company updated its plans and added structural supports designed to reinforce stability in case of earthquake. In September 1981, PG&E discovered that a single set of blueprints was used for these structural supports; workers were supposed to have reversed the plans when switching to the second reactor, but did not.” Bechtel did the construction and they were up to their eyeballs in litigation.
There we were, up on the umpteenth floor of this building, smoking cigarettes and collating documents. One guy in our group told us not to smoke indoors, that without any ventilation it was like smoking on a non-stop to Taiwan. He was right, it was just like that. We continued to smoke despite his sage advice. If someone ran out of cigarettes, we shared them with each other even if it wasn’t our brand.
Our supervisors were two men in their mid-thirties, one of them was Filipino and the other Fijian. They were jolly types and perhaps they felt sorry for us doing this repetitive work, enduring painful papercuts and sore fingers from opening and closing binders. Here was a fringe benefit: Fridays at the bar on the corner was Lingerie Show day at lunchtime. We would go down there, eat a hamburger, get some beers, and watch skinny Asian women in their skivvies walk up and down the bar. I am not fucking kidding you. THIS IS THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT in SAN FRANCISCO, not some sketchy neighborhood in Manila. On how many levels is this just creepy? So many, but human trafficking, sexual harassment and cavorting with employees come to mind. Our supervisors would pay for our lunch and we’d go back up to the umpteenth floor and do some more collating in a less than sober state. Those last four hours were an eternity.
I looked for the name of the Bar online and I can’t find it. If memory serves, it was on the corner of Beale and Howard Streets, but it could have been elsewhere. Just for confirmation that I am not out of my head, Bob says he went to a lingerie show or two at lunch near his office on Pier 23 in the late 80s. It was a THING. In more than one bar. Sheesh.I don’t remember how many weeks this went on, but as it came to an end, our supervisors were sad to see us go. We probably had one last hoe-down at the lingerie show and got our timesheets signed even though we didn’t finish the day. Good times.