My first summer job was working at a Little Caesar's in Torrington, CT. Here's a quick pro-tip for all you college kids out there who need a way to pay for beer next semester: NEVER take a restaurant job where cheese is highly prevalent. Pizza, Mexican food, some artisanal fondue joint, etc. I had to spend hours scraping cheese off of pans and blasting doughy mixer parts with a steaming sink sprayer. By the end of the night, my hands looked like they had been submerged in formaldehyde for eight hours. So do not work with cheese. There are better ways to build character.
A while back, we asked you to submit your own summer job horror stories. Here now are a few choice examples:
At 16, I worked at a grocery store. It was a little neighborhood store for rich moms. One of the managers was a bizarre, mostly dirty 30-year-old who seemed more like a 45-year-old, had yellow teeth, and was insanely crass. A hero to all of us.
One day I was down in the basement running out the clock on my shift while pretending to count or stack boxes or something. The manager comes walking by to use the only restroom in the building, which had only one toilet in it. There is no way he sees me, as I'm buried in the dark recesses behind endless stacks of boxes. But I see him moving purposefully towards the bathroom. I didn't think anything of it until 30 seconds later, when I heard him scream from the bathroom, "God, my dick is huge!" There is no fucking way he knew anyone was in that basement. He was oblivious. He just saw his dick, said that, and went on with his day. I laughed for the next two months straight, at which point I quit my job and went to work at Panera.
I worked at a country club in a suburb of Buffalo, NY, and Paul Maguire (he of the punting and broadcasting fame) was a club member. I first became aware of Mr. Maguire's presence in the summer of 2000 when I was working as a dishwasher in the kitchen, and from time to time I could hear his drunken directives and putdowns being slurred from the bar, which was right next to the kitchen doors. On multiple occasions, young female waitstaff would walk into the kitchen with tears in their eyes after having a brief encounter with Mr. Maguire; the one direct quote I can still remember him barking out one day was, "Honey, where is my GODDAMNED GRILLED CHEESE?!?!?"
The following summer, I was working at the same country club, but as a member of the grounds crew, and one day Maguire—as part of a foursome that included Tom Flores—was playing a round while I was weedwhacking around a bunker, and I noticed that balls were being hit incredibly close to me. I shut off the weedwhacker and watched as another ball came out of the sky towards me and was able to move before it hit me. "Awww ya missed him too!!!" I could hear one of the players yell as the whole foursome laughed. I went on to some other holes and a little later I saw a ball veer off course and end up in some brush. This being common I waited for the player to approach so I could tell him where to locate his ball, but it turned out to be Maguire. He walked up and asked if I'd seen his ball, to which I lied and told him that I hadn't. "Well then fucking help me find it!" he ordered, so he started rooting around one area and i went to where I had seen his ball drop and stood on top of the ball. He came by and asked, "Any luck?" to which I said, "No, sir, I'm sorry." "Then what fucking good are you?!?!?" he retorted and walked back to his posse.
The point of the story is that Paul Maguire is an asshole. That's what I learned on my summer break.
This was not our regular summer job, but something we had the pleasure of doing a few times each summer while working for the city as a student.
Our small town was on a pretty big river. As with any town with a nice waterfront, there were parks all along the river. One of the parks was close to a couple small islands. On two of these small islands was a seagull hatchery. Home to not just any old seagull population, but thousands of these screaming beasts. The problem is these shit-hawks would torment the visitors of the parks. Our job was to go out to the island and control the population by picking up their eggs, placing them in a big garbage bag, and then getting these bags to the local dump.
It was a gruesome experience.
The island was small. There are thousands of angry seagulls who are not impressed with you abducting and murdering their unborn. Thousands of angry seagulls make lots and lots of earsplitting noise, squawking and screeching. They also like to divebomb your head as vengeance for you taking their eggs. Add in the putrid smell of the shit and stench of seagulls, and you have a recipe for a horrible day. To protect our bodies from the shit raining down upon us by thousands of angry gulls, our small crew wore complete yellow rain suits. Did I mention this these excursions took place in the early months of summer? Meaning it was warm out. Maybe not stifling hot, but when you are wearing a rubber suit with the sun beating down on you, you tend to sweat... quite a bit.
Add to this the joy of being stranded on this island. The only way on and off the island was by boat. There was no dock, so we would get dropped off on the shore and watch our only link out of the hell hole float away, leaving eight students and 5,000 seagulls to do battle.
Topping off the day was the inevitable situation where you would bend over to pick up an egg (gulls nest on the ground—who knew?), avoiding the flying shit and dive-bombing adults, only to have the egg explode in your hand. If you were lucky, it was a rotten egg, and you'd be left dealing with the stench wafting up to your nose. Unlucky, and you were holding a partially formed gull fetus in your hands, resulting in vomiting by the lucky lad who was left holding the remnants of a baby dump duck.
The only way to describe the job was as a total assault on your senses. You saw dead birds and fetuses, were deafened by the shrieks of the birds, gagged at the smell of rotten eggs and gull stench. got splattered with gull shit, felt a gull fetus, and has your taste buds ruined as the stink got imbedded in your sinuses. At the end of the day, all you could do is go home and sleep, hoping to forget the atrocities you experienced that day. It was like a real live scene from The Birds—only worse.
To this day, I despise seagulls and will kill them on sight.
I worked retail at a regional sporting-goods chain after my senior year of high school to get some extra money before college. As an entry-level position, I was responsible for selling shoes. The store I worked for never carried top-of-the-line products, either: It was mostly cheap knock-offs or prior season models (three to four years later. I was never taught how to sell shoes, so I used whatever clichés I saw as a customer: "How does it feel? Lift your big toe. Good. Now, walk to the end. Does your heel come up?" I wasn't paid commission, so I didn't care if people bought anything. I would disappear into the bowels of the store and "look" for shoes for 10 minutes. I would emerge as an ancient explorer searching in vain for the Fountain of Youth. "Sorry. We're all out of your size. Want to try them in brown?"
We were also responsible for roaming the store and helping any customer that needed help. The expectation was that we could help each customer with our vast expanse of all sporting goods. Someone asked me why one pair of roller blades was more expensive. My response: "The quality of the ball bearings."
I constantly made shit up. "These L.A. Gear shoes have great flex support." "This Wilson racket is stretched to a pressure of 25 psi to give optimal bounce." Most of the things I said were just regurgitations of what was printed on the packaging, which I stole a peek at as the person asked me about the product. I only worked night shifts (5-10) and every night I sat in the parking lot before my shift and tried to pump myself up to quit. I just couldn't. The job was so boring I didn't even have the passion to quit it.
One evening, John Madden and his wife came in. It was about 15 minutes before closing and the store was empty. Madden's wife was busy buying fishing equipment while he wandered aimlessly through the store. He was staring at the football cleats (most of which were the molded rubber kind). I asked him if needed help with anything. He said no in the quietest way imaginable with a subtle shake of his head. Even John Madden's booming personality was no match for the soulless vacuum of mid-level sports-equipment retail.
I had a job one summer that has still not been beaten for sheer tedium. I was working for a utility company, which used summer students to take care of all the appalling jobs they didn't want to pay actual skilled employees to do. So, I dug ditches, flagged cars, copied new gas lines onto the main maps (surprisingly dull!), and all kinds of horrible grunt work. It was terrible, but mundane terrible. But then the company topped itself.
A law was passed making it illegal to staple fliers to telephone poles, since they made climbing them hazardous for service folks. So, the company sent out a crew of us to pull staples from telephone poles. Eight hours a day, with just a screwdriver. The same repetitive motion over and over. The screwdriver would periodically slip and I'd scape my knuckles on the pole, giving me a lovely collection of tiny splinters all over my hand by the end of the day. At night, I'd close my eyes, and then I could feel my arm making the staple-pulling motion. Just horrifying.
I spent my teenage summers working as a staffer at Boy Scout camp, usually in the Nature Area where the disruptive kids would never jack around too much because they knew we could put snakes in their sleeping bags. For several years, our council hosted "Sheriff's Camp" for underprivileged urban kids. They weren't Scouts; most had never camped before, and in fact I would be surprised if any of them had seen more than three trees all together at one time. Significant numbers of them also had disciplinary issues, and so the staffers had to be wary at all times, because we were never sure who might be ready to cause problems.
There are numerous stories I could tell about these weeks, but the worst probably revolves around the bathroom situation. These kids were sleeping in our standard two-man canvas tents. The campsites were cleared, but were back in the woods, and there was no plumbing at the sites except for water faucets. The campsite latrines were two-holers with metal seats in a shelter, open to the air, and cold showers. We had hot water in the staff area, but that's only because we were out there for six to eight weeks at a time. Primitive, yes, but this was summer camp, and what kid cares if he has to shit and shower outside?
The one accessible "modern" latrine was the central showers. It was a big building near the center of the camp with hot water and flushing toilets. At the end of every week, staff members had to clean it to get ready for the next week of campers. In previous years, we had problems with the Sheriff's Camp kids not wanting to use their campsite latrines, but the central showers gave them a chance to avoid that. So this Saturday morning, after the kids had piled back into their buses to go home, we were taking care of our end-of-week jobs before we got Saturday night off, and the camp director came to every area and told us all to report to the dining hall. We all got detailed to go help out at the central showers to get them cleaned, which was odd, because four or five people could usually take care of that.
Turned out that late the previous night, a big group of the kids had decided that they wanted to wreck shit up as much as they could. And when I say "wreck shit up," perhaps I should say "wreck the camp up with their shit." The entire central shower building, top to bottom, men's and women's, looked like it had been the scene of the largest monkey-cage shit-flinging rampage in history. There were piles of turds overflowing all the toilets, sinks, and urinals. The walls were smeared with vile brown streaks like finger paints. The floors were coated with filth; giant splatters of feces were all over the roof where they had been hurled; even the shower stalls had piles of shit in them. The drains were clogged with streaked t-shirts they used to wipe. We couldn't get within ten yards of the place without gagging. The only way to get inside was to cover our noses and mouths with bandanas soaked in the unfortunate bottle of Polo cologne that one of our staffers had in his trunk.
Eight hours, 10 gallons of bleach, and a hastily rented pressure washer later, and we couldn't get the building presentable again. The director had to hire an emergency contractor to come out and sanitize the place. We had a bonfire to rid ourselves of the clothes we ruined trying to clean that quagmire of poop.
Needless to say, there was no Sheriff's Camp the next year.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter@drewmagary and email him at email@example.com. You can also order Drew's book,Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.
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