Marolt: It’s never too late to stop thinking about summer jobs
Summer jobs and teenagers are funny things, especially together. At some point you have to learn how to work for pay. The time of your life that you know nothing about either is best. You mix the zeal of youth and zero experience with bosses who have lists of unpleasant tasks to accomplish and practically no budget for them, and you have mapped out the way we convince kids that going to college, vocational school or joining the Army are good ideas.
My first job was a graveyard shift. We didn’t work through the night under a full moon, but we did work in the Red Butte Cemetery. I can go there now to enjoy the peace, but when I was 12, I was terrified trying to step over graves while mowing the grass and picking cottonwood branches from them. There was always the problem, too, of deciding when flowers were withered enough to remove. I erred on what I thought was the cautious side and left them until it was beyond obvious. Dead flowers on graves apparently weren’t the nuevo-artistic look my supervisor was trying to achieve.
So, the next summer it was off to Tom’s Market to bag groceries. It was there that I socked away enough cash to buy a new bike: one sack, one old lady, one car six blocks away, one nickel at a time.
If I had been thinking, I could have parlayed that job into million-dollar bucks. Alas, the lessons of youth are wasted on the young. My goal became to pack as many groceries as possible into each bag as quickly as possible, arranging awkwardly shaped items in the most efficient way while not bruising bananas or cracking eggs. A good guess would be that my record was over 50 pounds in one sack. My boss, Ron Barr, wasn’t impressed. But, it was an addicting thing that could have been the launching point for a popular video game.
After that, I thought working on the beautifully manicured grass of the golf course would be a nice change. And, it was! My buddies and I signed on as driving range subcontractors. We washed and stripped balls with red-enamel paint in an unventilated room under the bar, and we got paid under the table by our boss who ended up spending a lot of his time “supervising” from above. It was the best job ever, until we backed a golf cart into the pond. We all swam away safely.
I moved from there to the ballfields to teach little kids the nuances of baseball. I had a pitcher on my team who nobody could hit off. The problem was that nobody could catch him either, so every strikeout resulted in the batter reaching first base. My solution was to have a back-up catcher. We didn’t need any fielders, so I had plenty of superfluous players otherwise just standing around. The back-up would stand back by the backstop and pick up the stray balls and throw them to first base to get the dropped third strike. Never mind that it was against the rules. I was the only one who knew them. The adult coaches’ brains were too cluttered with real-world problems. We ended up league champions and one of the dads greased my palm with a crisp 20.
Then I made a big mistake. I chased the big bucks to the lumberyard and spent my time sorting through bundles of two-by-fours and loading the straightest ones into nit-picky contractors’ pickup trucks under the blazing sun in the haze of dust that hung over the unpaved lot. Buggars and sunburn: That’s what I remember. That, and I was always too tired to enjoy the fruits of my paycheck.
But, the granddaddy job of all was umpiring men’s A-league softball when I was 16. I played real baseball and all the “old” men knew it. I was naturally jacked on testosterone, I had a big attitude and a bigger mouth, and, most importantly, I had a light-blue officials’ shirt with the city of Aspen Recreation Department logo on it that gave me the authority to use all of it. That job ended with my supervisor, Ron Morehead, stepping in to save my life after two-thirds of the Cooper Street Pier team chased me into the equipment room after the only game they lost all year on an excellent call I made against them at first base. Thanks for having my back, Stump!
Roger Marolt’s teenage job experiences led him to be an accountant. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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