Originally created 07/05/99

Summer jobs and lessons learned



If you have a job without aggravations, you don't have a job.

-- Malcolm Forbes

It's understandable that some young people complain about summer jobs -- those seasonal tasks they take on to earn a little extra money.

I know. I had several.

But it wasn't so much the skills I learned during such hot weather endeavors that made them valuable. And it certainly wasn't the money.

No, it was usually a specific discovery that made these jobs worthwhile.

These lessons, I will share with you now.

Several summers I was a stock boy. In the days before bar codes, I was the guy who had to put all the price stickers on all those cans of deodorant, then removed them and put on higher prices on when the home office raised the costs.

LESSON LEARNED: Lighter fluid works to remove price stickers.

In college I got a job on one of the university landscaping crews. Each morning we would pile into a pickup and be sent to some campus acreage to rake leaves, cut grass or pull weeds.

Unfortunately, our gang of classical scholars was supervised by a good-natured old-timer who would ask us to read the order sheet sent along by the foreman.

"It says, `Go to the doughnut shop and wait until grass dries."' a political science grad student told him one day.

We all nodded in agreement and away we went to eat doughnuts and sip coffee.

LESSON LEARNED: Many good ideas only work once.

I spent a few months as a shoe salesmen. Each morning we'd have a meeting with the manager who would point out his sure-fire techniques for getting the customer to spend more money than he or she had intended. I wasn't very good at this, but I learned something.

LESSON LEARNED: When a woman tells you her shoe size, go get the next largest. It will save time.

I gave up sales to become an usher in a movie theater. Why not? I would get to see all the movies free and pay nothing for snacks. Unfortunately, after you've seen a movie like Love Story 22 times, the fact that it's free isn't as compelling.

LESSON LEARNED: The profit's in the popcorn.

Looking for muscular work, I spent a summer on an assembly line with a rivet gun. We made children's sleds. We got two breaks and 30 minutes for lunch per 8-hour shift.

My hands would cramp, my back would ache, my ears would wring.

LESSON LEARNED: Appreciate those products someone else has made. He (or she) probably did it on a hot day when his hands and back were very sore.

To get off the assembly line, I once volunteered to drive a rather large truck to a distribution point 20 miles away. The truck had more gears than my parents' Ford Galaxie. I never got around to using about 15 of them, much to the irritation of the line of motorists behind me.

LESSON LEARNED: Backing up a big truck to a narrow loading dock is a gift bestowed by God. It cannot be taught.

Of course, none compare to my first job -- newspaper route delivery boy.

During a summer in the early 1960s, I was bitten twice by dogs, dodged by subscribers reluctant to pay and run off the road by cars.

I vowed if I ever got another job working for a newspaper, it would be one of those easy inside jobs, where you sit down.

LESSON LEARNED: Be careful what you wish for.

(Bill Kirby is a columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.)