Summer jobs a great place to see the Real World

  • Saturday, June 5, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion
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With the school year ending and the economy slowly reopening, let’s reminisce about the illustrious history of summer jobs.

I’m sure many of you worked your way through high school and college by flipping burgers, mowing lawns, performing lifeguard duties, working on an assembly line (I worked three summers in a cosmetics factory) or clerking in a retail store.

Or maybe you considered yourself part of show business while being paid to stand in front of an establishment twirling a sign. (I must confess I’ve never stopped at a business solely because of a sign-twirler. The words “Say, this place has one less person to keep the sales counter staffed or unclog the toilet – count me in” have never crossed my lips.)

Those of you who performed the sign-twirling deserved hazardous duty pay. Especially in the rougher neighborhoods, you never knew when a territorial “dancing balloon man” was going to wiggle your way and kick your heinie. (“You’re the one with the inflated ego if you think you can compete here.”)

Let’s not forget the family farm. It was a good deal for everyone, until you started questioning “truths” your parents/bosses/taskmasters had indoctrinated you with. (“Wait a minute…where are all the crops and livestock going if everything drops off the edge of the world half a mile past Simpson’s Swamp?”)

Back in the halcyon days of summer employment, we could handle even the most back-breaking or mind-numbing job standing on our head because we knew we were short-timers destined for greater things. (We could also do the tasks standing on our head because our boss bribed OSHA to overlook head-standing, lawn-dart memo delivery and similar innovations.)

Back then we were young, healthy, bulletproof and had all the answers. Now we’re more likely to have all the questions. (“Why did I select a divorce lawyer from a park bench? Exactly which country did my financial advisor abscond to? Why did I enter this time zone?”)

Summer jobs were an eye-opening introduction to the shady shortcuts necessary in the Real World. The first summer I was at the cosmetics factory, someone yelled that the fire marshal had arrived for an inspection. Boxes and boxes of excess makeup routinely blocked all the fire extinguishers, and Mike Watson and I had to hide all the obstructions long enough for the marshal to give us a clean bill of health.

Then, of course, all the clutter went right back where it came from. Don’t get me started on the opportunistic personal-injury lawyer who fell into the moat guarding the company first-aid kit…

Summer jobs were a priceless way to intermingle with people from different social strata, age groups and commitment levels. I remember my second summer, full-timer John C. tried to get the young go-getters to stop showing him up. “When you get to be my age” – which happened to be 35 – “you’ll know what I’m talking about.” But even at 35, 45 and 55, my work ethic and family obligations kept me from seeing the need to put a rocking chair on a forklift.

Granted, I’m catching my breath long enough to invite y’all to share your own summer-job stories.

Don’t let a dancing balloon man scare you away. (“Ha! You can’t run with the big dogs! Me? Uh, no, I run from the big dogs. One puncture, and I’m zooming past Simpson’s Swamp.”)

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”

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