Tales of summer jobs past:

Poolside fiesta

Every morning, every summer, from the time I was eight years old, I would roll out of bed at 8:30 a.m., wiggle myself into a swimsuit and pedal my bike two blocks to my neighborhood swim and tennis club for swim team practice. I was a pool rat. And pool rats turn into lifeguards. That’s just how things work in Waterville, Ohio. So for the last five summers, I have parked my ass in an uncomfortable wooden chair for eight hours a day, getting paid less than minimum wage. Why? I can eat all the microwavable food, slushies and assorted baked goods from rich parents that I can get my hands on. I know exactly how many Laffy Taffys you can get with 20 nickels and how to clean fecal matter out of gutters, ceilings and feet. I know how to change an industrial-size pool filter that’s emitting lethal fumes of chlorine without a gas mask (you just need a T-shirt from the lost and found and a pair of pink goggles … duh). I have had many a child puke in my hands during swim lessons. Best part of my job? Working the annual Mexican Party … the only party where your parents’ friends will give you shots of tequila and your drunk boss will ride a stick horse off the diving board in a sombrero. $6.25 an hour? Totally worth it.Moneyed MILFs

Every summer, I manage a metro-Detroit country club pool in a neighborhood that used to be the home of Gretchen from The Real Housewives of Orange County. Jealous swingers that should have never gotten into the game in the first place and a mysterious alcoholic who hides his stash in the employees’ fridge are my everyday interactions. I deal with children under the age of eight who have more money than I ever will and 30-something MILFs who come to the pool in their post-plastic surgery wound dressings. And I have to go back by the dumpster, home to the feral cats, with all the other crazies from the restaurant next door to smoke a god damn cigarette because we’re all just a bunch of animals. And you ask, “Why do I keep going back?” Because there are few jobs where you can work at completing the top-100 novels list, perform rain spells in hopes you’ll be able to close the pool and send the snots home, or collect dog poop from the bushes to reenact Caddyshack. Oh, and smoking marijuana in the well-ventilated snack bar isn’t so bad either 8212; I hear resisting all that overpriced food is pretty tough … but I wouldn’t know …Bussing blues

They say everyone has to do it at least once. Yes, I’m talking about working in the food service industry. Out of sheer desperation (and because the bitchy shift leaders at Aeropostale in the mall didn’t think I was popular enough to sell a T-shirt with monkeys on it) I applied and was hired at a restaurant in a Hilton hotel in my hometown. The pay seemed good, and the job was actually fairly easy. The catch? It was the breakfast shift, starting at 5:30 a.m. sharp 8212; which was painful even before you factored in my 45-minute commute to the place. And I wasn’t even a waitress. Having absolutely no experience, I started at the bottom. I was a busser.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I started the job since none of my other friends at my mostly white, middle- to upper-middle class high school had bussing experience. They scored decent gigs, like working at Coldstone (or, I assume, Aeropostale). But even though scraping ground-in scrambled eggs out of carpet seemed unglamorous at first (OK, it was pretty much always unglamorous) I learned a lot from my spell in food service 8212; and not just how to make two-day-old yogurt on the buffet line look appealing. I learned to appreciate the jobs that most people take for granted. Nothing made me realize my own privilege more than witnessing a humble-hearted fellow co-worker, who smiled each day at work even though she bussed for a living to help support her two young kids and tried to learn English on the side. It’s hard to complain about college after an experience like that. And you can bet I’ve tipped well and said “Thank you” to every busser I’ve met ever since.Can I have s’more?

Want to live in the woods, cook your own food and pump your own water all summer? Does getting paid for lying on the beach sound attractive? Then you should work at camp. I attended summer camp for five years before college and have worked as a staff member at the same camp for the past three summers. I love the job and keep going back, but I should say this up front: The pay can be terrible. Some camps pay well, some don’t, so just check before you sign any paperwork.

I work in a pretty large camp, so there are several different “villages,” which are separated by age group. I worked with fifth and sixth graders one year, and have worked with high schoolers the past two years. While the high school kids are more fun to hang out with, they’re a lot more difficult to school in basketball than the little tykes. With the older kids, you have to worry about “purpling,” as well. In case you don’t know, boys are blue and girls are red. Together … they make purple.

I’ve gotten to do all kinds of things that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, though. One summer, I rode horses every day. The next summer, I sailed for three hours each afternoon. After that, I got to drive a short bus and relax on the beaches of Lake Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. And I got paid for every minute bit of it.

You have to like kids, have an immense amount of energy, be able to work from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day and be able to take responsibility for a dozen children’s lives, 24/7. But if all of that applies to you, apply to camp and enjoy the great outdoors this summer.


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