I'll Always Have Perris

This week, after a quick trip back home to do my laundry and visit with my wife, I went back to Riverside. There was some brief confusion over where I was supposed to work for the first couple of days this week: was it going to be in downtown Riverside again? Or would it be somewhere else, someplace differently exotic, someplace like… Oh, let’s say, Perris.

When people outside of California think about California, they tend to think of the Big Important Cities: Los Angeles, say, or San Francisco, or Sacramento. No one thinks about the hundreds of tiny little towns that dot the landscape, towns that are really nothing more than a flyspeck. The town of Indio, for example, boasts a population of less than fifteen thousand, and almost all of the buildings in downtown Indio are made of adobe. One thing that impressed me was that the tiny little Mexican restaurant where we ate lunch was right next to Paco’s Immigration Advisory Service. I kid you not about that name. It really was Paco’s. I think he sold tamales too.

Perris, where I was eventually sent on Monday morning, is one of those little towns. You take 215 south and take the 74 exit, then look for the scuzziest strip mall you can find… and that’s where the public assistance office I was sent to is. And that level of scuzziness pretty much characterized all of the town that I saw. For lunch we wound up having to track down small restaurants — Hank’s Pizza Palace, or Juan’s Carneceria and Tobacco Shop. We did find a Little Caesar’s Pizza, and that was good, because we were all familiar with it, even if L. an d A. were disappointed that it bore no resemblance to the beloved Chicago pizzas of their homeland.

I spent two days doing my thing in Perris. We handed out plenty of shell polishers, had some interesting conversations with some of the barnacles (one of whom had made a hobby of collecting odd laws — he was the one who’d clued me in to the law about kissing in Riverside; and, it turns out, it’s against the law to carry a tin lunch pail on the streets of Riverside County as well), and ate lots and lots and lots of Lifesavers. I got to work with M. some more, M. of the thick Russian accent, and that was nice. And in the lobby where the mollusks waited to be trained on their shell-polishing kits, the county was showing children’s movies over and over and over; I think I saw Shrek five or six times in all. It’s one of my favorite films, but I have to admit that there is a limit.

On Wednesday, I was moved to Lake Elsinore. After a couple of harried hours of confusion (”What do you mean Facilities hasn’t come to set up the training rooms? They were supposed to do that yesterday!” “This room is only big enough for twenty people, but there are sixty people scheduled for each class!” “Chairs? You mean you really wanted chairs?”) we got ourselves settled in and started to relax and start the whole training process. N. and I had a number of conversations consisting — as most of our conversations did — of lots of Simpson quotes and bad puns.

And the mollusks of Lake Elsinore were the last mollusks I’ll be training. On Wednesday, I decided that I had had enough of Benthic Creatures and being on the road, and gave short notice. After three major respiratory infections that required Prednisone therapy, I decided that I really needed to get off the road and into a job where I could at least sleep at home at nights. So I called a Temporary Employment Agency where I’ve worked before, and set myself up with a programming gig in Sacramento to begin next week.

Leaving a job is always kind of sad; there are quite a few elements of Benthic Creatures that I’m going to miss: the surreal conversations with N.; M.’s authoritarian style mixed with her bizarre sense of humor; in short, the people that I’ve gotten to work with. I’m also going to miss the opportunity to practice my Spanish with the non-English speaking mollusks in a day-to-day setting. I’m going to have to find a new way to practice my Spanish.

So it’s back to temporary employment for me. This should tide me over until I finish my MLIS degree when the employers will be beating down my door to give me all kinds of lucrative and prestigious opportunities (I hear you chuckling out there — quit it!). I’m going to miss parts of working for Benthic Creatures… but, all in all, I’m pretty happy that it’s no longer going to be a part of my life.