the time has come again, to head back from campus, hang up that backpack, and work your degrading summer jobs. To make you feel better though, I will tell you my worst summer job story, and then open the floor to you. Comment with your stories and we will celebrate together!
My Worst Summer Job
The year was 2002. I was back with my parents between my freshman and sophomore year at NYU. Granted, the transition for me, from living in Greenwich Village to suburban Pleasantville caused a wave of self-entitled whiplash alone -- and to an ego so barely reconstructed -- little did I know what kind of hell I would step into when I agreed to go to an interview with my friend, an interview at a factory.
A Box factory.
"It get's hot, there is no AC, runs about, 115 degrees in the summer," our trainer casually dictated, showing us around the plant. "We get here at 5:30 am, no earlier, work until the bell, no later." My friend and I did not fit in, to say the least. We were the college kids these workers would later laugh at, prissy boys, spoiled suburban kids looking for money to pay for our illegal, collegial activities.
Our trainer showed us the process, a giant motherfucker called the corrugation machine was the heart of the box making process. This beast, which claimed the entire back of the plant as its domain, made most 90% of the noise and heat, roaring as it turned paper to cardboard. This would be my enemy, and I hardly knew it.
I was placed at a post where my responsibility was to watch stacks of boxes, and estimate if they were in numbers of 50. So I stood at a conveyor belt watching box after box turn into stack after stack. What made this worse, however, was that this was no simple box factory. No. They had to make Pizza boxes. I have since not recovered from the feeling, so empty of pizza, soulless and wanton. I ate pizza for a year straight after that, in memorial to all of the empty shells I had to witness.
My days degraded into ritual, repetitiveness was no longer mundane, it was life. Daydreaming was not recommended, I could lose a hand. All I had was the foresight of pizza. Pizza. Pizza. Pizza...
And on the hottest day of the year, 96 degrees outside, 119 indoors, the union leader (who looked exactly as a union due collector would look, if this were a cartoon: like a brick wall) plops two knee-high rubber boots by my feet. "You're goin' in."
He leads me on a path towards the Corrugation monster, "She started coughing up a bit" he said laughing "you gotta clean up the sludge, college boy"
Armed with a shovel and a garbage can, I stared at my nemesis. She was at least 50 yards long, a gross example of industrial inefficiency. The heat was tremendous, the noise intolerable, and the smell....the smell of her sludge-like waste was worse than anything I had smelled before. I was no longer the college boy, I was Beowulf.
I had to work my way into the gross underbelly of the machine, into a river of what used to be chemicals. With my shovel, I stacked pound after pound of sludge into the garbage can, taking a break to breath every 5 minutes or so in attempt to fight the vomit inching up my throat.
After an hour or so, Mr. Brick Wall Union Leader relieved me of my activity. I had won against the machine, and emerged victorious to my colleagues. I had survived the worst job, within the worst summer job, on the worst day of the summer. After that, I was no longer "college boy," I was "city kid," a respected upgrade in the hierarchy of nicknames.
And from that day on, with my new found blue-collar-cred, I no longer feared the people around me. Instead, I was welcomed into their inner-circle, I would hear stories about their near death experiences on the job, losing skin, burns. I would tell them about the Guggenheim, the New York Philharmonic, and drinking coffee in the west village.
They still thought I was gay, of course.
So what was your worst summer job?