Can you remember back to when you were in high school or college and how you had to pick up some crappy summer job for three months? Maybe it was working an ice cream stand or in an office stuffing envelopes. My three summer jobs during college ranged from fast food to stocking shelves to doing highway inspections in Massachusetts. And I gotta say they may not have seemed fun at the time but boy, do I miss those experiences! I’ve been doing corporate America for more years than I can remember so it’s easy to grow fond about those shitty summer jobs you used to do!
I remember my first summer job after my freshman year of college was working at Burger King. Yep, hot summers spent making burgers in a greasy fast-food kitchen. Slap the frozen patties on the grill, make some chicken sandwiches with a splash of mayo and lettuce, pulling out fry baskets when the alarm went off, woohoo! And every now and then, I’d go crazy and sneak an extra slice of bacon on the bacon cheeseburgers to make somebody’s day a little bit better.
But it wasn’t all that bad because you were hanging around a bunch of 16 – 20 year olds goofing around too. And yes, cute little high school girls. I remember coming back to my prep station to find a burger wrapped with the words “Gia ❤ Rob” inscribed in grease-pen on it. Awww, my little Italian co-worker had a crush on me. And yes, there were quite a few hot young girls working at the BK even when they were wearing polyester. So while it wasn’t a fun job, it wasn’t boring and that’s just perfect for a long summer!
My next job came courtesy of my dad who wrangled me a summer of inspecting highways for his civil engineering firm, HNTB. Totally different experience and a much more professional experience, you might say. We had an introductory dinner where I got to meet two of the other summer interns from Tufts University and I think UMass Boston. And this was one of my first times I got to experience racism from a girl, go figure. One of the interns was from Southie, a notoriously clannish and racist neighborhood in Boston. She expounded during dinner on how much she didn’t care for “Chinky and wop food”, I remember turning around to the other intern with lifted eyebrows and all we were thinking inside was “O-M-G!”
But the rest of the summer was spent driving up and down this long stretch of a toll road called the Mass Turnpike. We’d check under bridges for exposed rebar, spalling/scaling of concrete and more. And let’s just say there are a LOT of overpasses on the Mass Turnpike and I saw most of them. But none more scary than the Westfield bridge and overpasses near the Berkshire Mountains. Massachusetts is pretty flat until you headed out west. One bridge I inspected was one of the scariest moments in my life. Maybe 150′ drop to a river gorge, you made you way across a 24″ metal walkway hanging under the highway. The pathway had two handrails on either side with lots of space to plummet to your death. The walkway was covered in slippery pigeon crap and spiderwebs would cut across the way. Every now and then, there would be a cross-beam to step or clamber over which just added to the obstacle course. And on TOP of all that, the walkway was bouncing a lot due to traffic overhead. This was not how I planned on earning my $6.50 an hour, preparing to die. I never made it to the final bridge, the Westfield cause I just wasn’t able to face a 300′ drop.
My final summer job (I bailed out on highway inspections as you can guess) was stocking the supermarket on overnight shifts. Yes, all day customers pulled their groceries off the shelf and then a rag-tag group of guys would stock em all night, into the wee hours to prepare for the morning rush. And as you can guess, you didn’t have the brightest bulbs in the box working the graveyard shift at a supermarket.
You’d spend a good chunk of your night tearing open large cardboard boxes, stocking shelves, facing the fronts and then breaking down and dumping boxes. A radio would sit nearby pumping out classic rock and you’d BS about guy stuff. Talk (or lie) about who you slept with recently and give each other shit. But of course it got boring at times. You’d find ways to entertain yourself. I remember one guy opening up large buckets of peanut butter and writing “Fuck You” for some unwary customer. Ahh, I feel better now! And let’s just say, this wasn’t my best choice of summer employment options, even if I avoided crawling under a bridge covered in pigeon shit.
So now that I’m all growed up, I look fondly back at those shitty summer jobs. Because they were stupid and fun regardless of how mindless they are. And even though nowadays I make a lot more money, have a lot more responsibility and work with great peers, adult jobs are shitty in their own way. And rarely as much fun as it was when you were in the dog days of summer as a twenty-year old.
Ain’t that the truth?!