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I hear rumors that they, whoever they are, are going to get rid of cashiers and make a big chain store more profitable using only self-checkout.

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In a country where decent jobs are scarce and items overpriced, this seems a level of greed that borders on the absurd.

Sometimes when I catch myself complaining about age, I realize that I probably wouldn’t be, could not, be a young person today, and here’s why.

I remember a time in this country or in Toronto at least when a young man could quit one job in the morning and have another one when the sun went down. It might not be something you would fall in love with, but it would do until something better comes along, and chances are it will.

I worked a bit of everything.

One job that I remember with particular horror was at a wallpaper factory on Ontario Street in the far south end of Toronto.

They cornered me on the third floor of a warehouse that contained nothing but a mixture of sawdust and green Dustbane and, in the background, a monster that was glaring and moaning.

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A member of management assured me that this thing, which resembled the size and shape of the old threshing machine that once occupied a place on my parents’ tobacco farm, was tame and, if properly fueled and lubricated, would produce a beautiful linen-backed wallpaper.

I didn’t understand a thing he was saying, I was looking at the poor redneck who was actually operating the thing. Do you remember the character of Barney Fife in the old Andy Griffith show? He was a nervous wreck and this guy looked just like him.

The manual was mounted on the side of the beast, in brass, on a plate. “Read this,” he said and with a look somewhere between relief and pity he walked away.

More than 50 years later, I remember feeling surreal. It was like being on a desert island with Godzilla.

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I sat on a windowsill, smoked a cigarette, that probably wasn’t the smartest move in a safe full of sawdust, but at this point I didn’t give a @#! ^ .

With elbow grease and roller cleaner, I cleaned what must have been a century of grime from the plate to reveal something King Tut might have recognized. I certainly didn’t. There were engravings of valves, belts, levers, all oddly beautiful but utterly archaic.

From what I could decipher, you hoisted a roll of a combination wallpaper backed with some sort of linen. An iron bar was pushed through the roller and one end lifted to fit a swivel, then you hoisted the other end over some sort of clamp which held it steady while the paper could be fed into a set of rolls.

It was my happy task to keep the rollers coated in paste, using a #9 camel hair brush and a series of inspection hatches.

The nightmare was powered by a one-lung “donkey” engine. When lit it filled the room with an incredible stench and oily blue fumes for about half an hour during which time I hung my head out the window.

The pitiful smile on the face of a girl who ran a convenience store across the street told me she had seen this before. I was today’s entertainment.

I lasted the day but in the end all I had to show for my efforts was a huge glue tangle and something that looked like a blue flower tent.

And a good story.

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