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by Turtle Jones
Lazy day. Sleep away. I'll find something to do. Later today.
Welcome to summer. Most of you know that it is hot even in Alaska this week, so we thought back about things from the past. Hot things. No, not sex. I don't like heat. Even when I'm naked, I don't like the heat. There is nothing you can do about it. At least in the winter you can wear cool scarves and feel the pleasure of cold sheets on a cold night. Pulling the sheets over you while digging close down to the bed. Covers on and shivering for the first seconds while you warm the bed up and stick your head under the covers.
But in the summer you are just screwed.
So Michele and I decided to take on something new today. She had the idea of writing about past jobs. Specifically, what were our worst summer jobs. You know the ones you had to get because you were either bored to death of watching reruns or your parents kicked you out of the house and forced you to get one. We all had a few. And we all hated them.
So today we dedicate this post to the kids in high school who have to do this kind of work.
You know why we dedicate it to them?
Cause we don't have to do it anymore.
Have fun reading our memories and feel free to tell us your worst summer job. Cause we don't want to feel like the only losers here.
turtle is up first.
I need a job. Dammit. I'm broke. I need something easy to find. Bands were just starting in our neighborhood and strings don't grow on trees. Plus, I needed a job cause the summer was boring. I wasn't one of those kids who ran out and played in the water. If it didn't have to do with beer or a skateboard, I'd be sitting in front of a TV or in some warehouse packed with mics running thru guitar amps. Well, running thru them till the guitarist got there and bitched at us for using his equipment. Guitarists are sucky little whiny bitches when it comes to that stuff. "You are gonna blow my amp! Stop it!"
But I needed something to do. Sitting alone in a garage playing for four or five hours a day gets old. Especially when you suck balls on bass. Everyone was working at one place. Well, what the fuck. Let's get a job, turtle. Might as well.
It really wasn't that bad of a gig. I was working in an arcade. Giant one. White pants and blue shirt. Fixing arcade games that had broken to keep them running. Which I really think is kind of illegal. Having a kid work on a busted board while he doesn't even have his driver’s license? Is that legal? Many hot wire burns later, I figured out it wasn't legal, but the damage had been done. But, I learned I could work with an iron and put these things back together. One of the machines that constantly broke down was an old set of Skeeballs. I always had to pull out the boards and work these back together. One thing I always noticed was the amount of change that was in there. In the machine. My friends were all about stealing the quarters, but I never did.
But that was over soon. My fingers were burned and my pockets full of change every night. Wait. I just said I didn't do that. Well, hell. You caught me. Or rather, they caught me. Pretty soon, because of my fuck off attitude I was pushed out in the heat. Given a new shirt. A Camo style shirt, and told to go work in the tanks. Out there. In the heat. Past the carnies. Past the kiddie pool with beer cans floating in it. Out there.
Where I was sent to work was supposed to be a punishment. But it seemed like heaven to me.
The Tank Ride
This was one of the most popular rides and one of the few at the park more dangerous for employees than patrons.
In a chainlink fence-enclosed area, small tanks could be driven around for the proper fee for five minutes at a time, with tennis ball cannons that enabled riders to shoot at a sensor prominently mounted on each tank. If hit, the tank stopped operating for 15 seconds, while other tankers often took advantage of the delay to pepper the stricken vehicle with more fire.
Visitors on the outside could also join in the fun through less costly cannons mounted on the inside of the fence. When workers had to enter the cage to attend to a stuck or crashed tank, which usually happened several times a day, they were often pelted with tennis balls from every direction despite prohibitions against such behavior that could result in expulsion from the park. It is not known if this resulted in any serious injuries, but it made the tank ride the least popular place to work in the park.
Well fuck yeah!
About 20 of these tank like things. One passenger would be in a turret on top. The other would be below driving them. The gun shot tennis balls. The tennis balls went fast. The tennis balls hurt. The driver of the tank would have just a basic peddle. Back and forth, and a wheel to turn the damn tank. Six of these would go out at a time and shoot at targets on the others riders tanks. When the target was hit, the tank would stop for 15 seconds. But they could still fire their tennis balls. At us.
Oh, what glorious days! When people would ram each other after we told them not to, we had to come running out with a baseball bat to whack the side of their tanks to stop them from moving. Catching a high-powered tennis ball in the face and pulling some asshole kid out of the fucking gun and putting his face in the dirt. Parents yelling at us to stop stop hurting their kids when my face was full of welts. Oh, fuck you.
Oh yeah. The dirt and dust. On weekdays, no one would show up for hours. No customers. No kids. I backed my CRX into the tank area in the shade and drank beer with whomever I was working with. Cranking the stereo thinking this isn't such a bad gig. We were drunk the whole time. Dust flying and the stench of carnies.
If you guys don't know, carnies have a tendency to do a lot of meth and they like beer. So we became friends with them. Duh. The exciting world of the carny! I learned many things about that lifestyle. How to cut speed while you still can weigh it down so you can put some in yourself and still make a profit. I learned about the "Jesus Key." If you don't know, the Jesus Key holds the track together on those mini roller coasters. That key was the only thing keeping you from meeting Jesus.
Carnies are funny.
But anyways, every day tanks would stall and I had to work on them. To get them running again. So people could ram each other. So I could get hit in the face with a tennis ball. So I could drink beer. Maybe this job kind of sucked.
The dust blocked up the air filter. Everyday I had to pull an air filter off, park the tank and dump gas on the filter to clean it out. But, there was one thing. I had to pull it off and put it on the ground. The air filter would be dead for about five minutes before it was dry enough to be useable again. Then I could put it back on and be good to go. Exposed for five minutes. Those little bastards shot the shit out me while I just waited for it to dry off.
My last day working there, I threw a filter on. Just after it was cleaned. Still too wet to get oxygen to the engine. The engine started but stalled. Friday night. Kids waiting on me. I popped the back compartment and grabbed it off. I was going to run it without the filter. I know that's bad but we were in a bad situation. We only had five tanks running and the line was long. Tennis balls shots beside me. Filter still covered in gas. I pull it off. It stays on. The gasoline had made it slick. Too slick too pull off. Fuck that hurts. I look down at my thumb and see the bone in my hand.
Keep in mind that this was well before I learned how to stitch myself up so I was kind of scared. I could see the bone. The outer metal ridge on the air filter had torn straight into me. Really deep. I took my shirt off and walked into the main arcade. Walked up to the deli. Shirt wrapped around my thumb. Blood coming out everywhere. I grabbed a coke and sat down while the deli girls freaked out after they figured I wasn't joking around.
The Manager was called.
Asked me if I could finish my shift. The deli girls looked at her in shock and explained what had happened. She looked at me and said...
"Well isn't that nice. Can you finish your shift?" - T
Michele goes next.
I had been working at my uncle’s deli for about two years. The thought of spending another summer slicing salami for drinking money wasn’t sitting too well with me. I was tired of making sandwiches for cranky old men. Tired of pouring coffee for disgruntled postal workers. Tired of screaming at kids to get their bikes away from the door. Tired of smelling like head cheese.
I heard about this charity organization that was hiring. A friend of a friend was recruiting workers for them. Charity work! You can feel good about yourself while making money! Something about phones and a good cause and donations. The words "cold calling" were mentioned. Well, it sounded an awful lot like a telemarketer job. I swore I would kill myself before I did telemarketing. But this was for charity. That doesn’t count, right? That’s not a telemarketer, per se. Right?
That was cleared up at my first training seminar. Our “team leader” informed us that we were not telemarketers. We were activists. We were paving the way for change. We were catalysts in the fight against drunk driving. We were the few, the proud, the people begging for money for a cause. Dear Leader told us over and over how we were doing good. Working for change. Working for The Cause. Stroking our conscience. Massaging our ideals. I left the seminar feeling like I was doing something constructive for a change. Or masturbating. Not sure. But, activist. Sure as hell beats deli clerk.
Second day of training. We learn about the sales pitch. Sales? I thought we were activists! Shit. This was a telemarketing job. So much for masturbating my conscience. Dear Leader spoke in basketball metaphors for two hours; driving to the basket, blocking the shots, free throws, hitting the three-pointer with just seconds to go. By the end, I felt less like an activist and more like Dr. J.
Third and final day. If I had any doubts about what this job was really about, this is where they were cleared up. This wasn't activism by a long shot, unless by activism, they meant "kick people in the gut until the cough up some change."
Dear Leader spent the afternoon drilling us on the finer points of clinching the donation. Cite statistics. Work that emotion. Make them feel bad. She then handed out photocopied news clippings of horrid, tragic drunk driving related accidents. She wanted to us to read these stories to the potential donors. Emphasize. Emote. You want to make Dear Leader proud? Make them cry. Crying was a sure clincher. Tears meant dollars. That idealism I had the day before was being kicked in the ass by cynicism. My conscience was going unstroked. In fact, it was taking a beating.
Well, I was broke and needed drinking money. I know. I know. The near-irony of that. And all that talk about idealism and conscience. Hey, I was 19. The scales of morality are uneven at that age. Put a bottle of vodka and admission to a club in one side and idealism in the other, and the vodka wins every time. Or maybe that's just me.
I figured I would give this gig two days, tops. Stick it out, see what happens. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. This was a worthy cause. At that time, it was probably the number one issue for Concerned Citizens Everywhere, not just mothers, so it might be an easy sell. Yea, that’s the ticket. This would be easy, I wouldn’t have to make anyone cry at all. They would just give willingly! No tragic stories, no tears, just generous people freely opening their hearts and wallets to eradicate this pimple on the ass of America. This would be a piece of cake, and my conscience would be left intact. And I’d have drinking and clubbing money for the summer. And not smell like head cheese. Cool.
Training was over. I reported to my first day of real work and was directed to a tiny room in hot, basement, where the walls were lined with little wooden cubicles. I figured an organization like this one was a step above a boiler room operation, but I wasn’t going to complain. Dear Leader wasn’t the kind of person who took complaints well.
I had my own cubicle. On the desk was a phone and a kitchen timer. The wall I faced was lined with the same newspaper clippings that were passed out at the seminar. Faces of the dead looking down at me. Smiling yearbook photographs of kids killed by drunk drivers. Cars torn apart. Weeping parents. Dear Leader tapped the wall. Those people need you. They are counting on you. They are watching you. Do it for them. I almost said “Do it for Johnny!” but kept myself in check.
I was told to set the timer at the beginning of each call. Each call should get a minimum of one minute of soft selling. After one minute, pull out the hard sell. I was given a list of 100 numbers to start out with.
Half hour later, no donations. I had spoken to about 30 housekeepers. And none of them spoke English. At least not to telemarketers. No habla Engles. No habla Engles. No habla Engles. I was trying to remember something, anything, from my five years of taking Spanish in school. All I could come up with is “Donde esta fuega? En la cocina!” And that wasn’t going to work here.
Dear Leader came over and looked at my tally sheet. She was not pleased. I explained the situation. I can't reach anyone who speaks English, I told her. And even if they did speak English, they would say that they are just the housekeepers, that I should call back.
"They're lying to you," she said.
Well, fuck. Between her breath and her attitude, I was feeling a bit put off. I quickly weighed my options. What was this job going to pay me anyhow? If I couldn't make a “sale” I would be bringing home less than minimum wage. It would barely pay for a shot of tequila. I could go back to the deli. It wasn't so bad.The people were nice. I didn't have to make anyone cry in order to sell a pound of liverwurst. Yea, maybe I made a few kids cry when I told them they looked just like a Garbage Pail kid. but damn those kids for not being able to take a joke.
I stood up. Looked at Dear Leader. Told her I was done. Told her I'd rather smell like head cheese than knot up my conscience like this. She didn't get the part about the head cheese. She probably didn't get the part about having a conscience, either.
I went pack to the deli. Back to pouring coffee and slicing salami and torturing little kids. There are worse ways to making a living. - M
So that was our tribute to the lowly minimum wage workers who are just used for their little fingers. We both have scars from working in these places, some physical and some emotional, but scars none the less. We all learned things in working these type of jobs.
You know you did too.
Maybe it was how to ignore your boss or slam a beer back before the manager comes in, but we all learned something.
So what was your summer job?