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Tuesday, August 14 Living

When school’s out, life lessons begin

The summer job.

Once you hit 16 or so it was required.

Some jobs worked out, some didn’t, some were too much like work. All, however, were educational .

The only thing worse than having a horrible summer job, of course, was having no job. This brought your mother into the picture. Mothers, universally, seem to have a problem with able-bodied teenagers staying in bed until noon, and even larger issues with giving said slacker spending money.

But the summer job was not just about money. It was also a first glimpse into real life. You discovered things about yourself, about your bosses, about working with the public. Lo these many years later, there are members of the public I still hate.

What was your worst summer job?

Looking back, I’d have to say mine was umpiring.

I got what I thought would be an excellent job one summer umpiring recreational league baseball games. Although the job did involve standing in the sun for long periods of time, there was no heavy lifting or raking, which is the main thing to avoid when looking for a summer job.

The problem with calling balls and strikes is that after the newness of it wore off, I tended to lose focus on the games. This resulted in numerous bad calls. Coaches and players became upset. Twelve-year-olds used bad words to describe my bad calls and even worse words to describe me.

Life lesson: Kids can be cruel.

Another summer job I had in high school was pumping gas. This was back in days of yore before universal self-service. Not only did you have to pump the right amount of gas to the penny, but you were also required to wash the windshield and check the oil.

Checking the oil proved to be problematic for me given dipsticks were not all located in the same place, and rummaging around a hot engine looking for it was unpleasant.

Life lesson: Engine oil and transmission fluid are not interchangeable.

One summer I had two jobs, although not, God forbid, at the same time.

The first was collecting garbage. This involved going into yards, dumping raw garbage (no one used bags back then) into a large canvas sack and lugging it back to the truck

Life Lesson: Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day if you lose it.

My second job was working in a factory, feeding pieces into a machine. The work was oily, noisy and monotonous. Fortunately, I was still able to count to 10 on my fingers when it ended.

Life lesson: There are things worse than heavy lifting and raking.

The third job was cutting grass at a park. This was the ideal job in that there was not a lot of supervision or expectations. Plus, you got to sit around all day when it rained.

Life lesson: That into every life a little rain must fall is not always a bad thing.

During college I had three summer jobs.

The first was on a survey crew for a company that built bridges. In surveying, being off tenths of an inch is a big deal. On one bridge abutment, we were off 10 inches. I was fired along with the guy responsible for the mistake to appease the union.

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Life less: Life is not always fair.

The next summer I worked as a lifeguard at the Jersey Shore. Because of the rough surf the job proved to be more stressful than fun in the sun.

Life lesson: People from New York City do not do well in the surf.

My final summer before graduation I worked as a bartender at the local college watering hole. Viewing people from the sober side of the bar was enlightening, particularly at closing time.

Life lesson: The only thing worse than having to deal with the public is having to deal with the public when the public is drunk.

Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist. He can be reached at jimboshea@gmail.com and on Twitter @jimboshea.

Jim Shea|Columnist

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