Category Archives: Summer Jobs


So I had this job once as a dishwasher at Bonanza.  (Wow – I just Goggled that, and they are, in fact, still in business.  Who knew?)  Given that you are supposed to learn something from these experiences, this might rank right up there with the great experiences of life.  Don’t be lazy, never let up, and don’t trust people.

No wait.  Strike that last one.  Trust people, but recognize that not everyone is trustworthy.  Yeah.  Maybe that’s it.

While my primary role was to be the dishwasher, I was occasionally drafted into other roles, some of which did not go well and eventually got me fired (I think).  When I was told to mop the kitchen floor, I did.  I just didn’t put everything I had into it, and the boss was not impressed (surprisingly, after you mop, the floor is supposed to actually look clean).  So, I was pretty lazy and could have been accused of doing only what I had to to get by (and I use the past tense somewhat loosely, here).

Once, and only once, I was asked to work the dining room.  Briefly.  I don’t know how Bonanza works now, but this was when you went through the line and ordered your steak.  After it was cooked, someone (like me) would bring it to your table.  I was given two hamburgers to take to table 5.  I heard Table 9. The people at Table 9 had, in fact, ordered two hamburgers.  For the kids.  They weren’t happy that they didn’t get the rest of their food, that the burgers they got were not kids burgers, and the people who ordered adult burgers were not happy that it took so long to get theirs.  (So let that be a lesson to you, too, Mr. Restaurant Manager – don’t send the dishwasher kid out into the dining room.)  And when I was trying to help a little girl with a coke refill, apparently the manager thought I was being rude and decided I didn’t belong.

The official reason I was fired – the reason I was given – was that my language was inappropriate.  Admittedly, I did use some inappropriate language back in the kitchen – which was pretty much in line with the general conversation everyone else used back there.  What I really know is that I was a slacker.  So why couldn’t the manager just tell me that?

Regardless of why she couldn’t be straight with me, I learned that when you are a slacker, people notice.  I know when I’m not doing my best, and I know that other people know, too.  (I almost lost another job before I actually learned this lesson.)

Oh.  And one more thing.  100% polyester shirts are not only very uncomfortable, they absorb all those kitchen odors and smell really nasty by the end of the shift.


Concession Stands

I can’t remember if I had the scorekeeping job or the concession stand job first. Seems like they were, at times, intermingled.  I do remember discovering that standing on my feet for several hours caused some intense pain in my ankles (multiple doctor visits, blood tests, MRI’s – no diagnosis; one doctor suggested gout, maybe).  And sometimes “several hours” can happen without really noticing – like Sunday, for instance.  I thought I spent an hour or so moving a couple of car loads of stuff into Alyssa’s new dorm room.  Apparently, it was more than an hour – or maybe there was a lot of standing around and waiting associated with the actual moving (waiting in line to check-in, waiting for the hordes of other people moving in to get out of the way, waiting for Debbie and Alyssa to finish “decorating” and arranging the room, and so forth).

I learned a couple of other interesting things working in a concession stand, too.  Some of them useful.  Like when someone comes to the counter, it is apparently rude to say “What do you want?” – I learned this after the boss gave me the evil eye, and told me to ask them politely if I could help them.  I also learned that if you drop a spoon into the 5-gallon bucket of popcorn oil, you should just let it go – diving in to grab it and getting oil up to your elbow is not only gross, but the boss seriously does not like you sticking your arm into the popcorn oil.  Who knew?  And if you drop a case of glass coke bottles off a hand truck (yes, they were big glass bottles then; we didn’t have a fountain), the boss might not make you pay for them, but you’ll wish he did (so he would shut up about “stupid kids”).  And there is a lot of mopping associated with a case of broken coke bottles!!

I’ve continued my concession stand learning into adult-hood.  In order to help raise money for Camp Smiley , I’ve worked at concession stands in Death Valley, and at our high school stadium.  What a WORLD of difference.  The high school is a lot like the city softball park – a bit disorganized, a bunch of stuff on the menu, and somewhat laid back.  Death Valley concessions, on the other hand, is very hectic (especially during SEC games), VERY long (12 hours in the stand for a 3-4 hour game), limited menu (faster service), and a lot of fun.  Working New Orleans Saints games at Death Valley following Hurricane Katrina was also different (besides selling beer in the stadium, adult crowds are quite different than college crowds).  But that nagging ankle problem still hasn’t gone away, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it any more.  Usually, my ankles would be sore for a day or two, and I’d limp around a bit.  Last time I worked the concession stand, I could hardly walk the next day. And now, two days after what I thought was a simple dorm-room move-in turns out to be worse than I thought.  Even good shoes aren’t helping right now.  This could seriously hinder my chances for running in a marathon-sprint.  Maybe I’ll have to get a pool instead, and hire some kid to keep it clean (so he, too, can have a summer job story to tell).

Whether I work another concession stand or not, I do know how to count change (a dying art), make a hot dog, pour a coke, and be polite when I need to.  And, I know I do NOT like working the front counter.  Just like the rest of my life, I generally prefer working in the background.

Back-to-School Report

NPR has been running a series on summer jobs which has been pretty interesting.  People tell stories of summer jobs they had – some weird, some interesting, some really awful.  I thought about writing in to tell of the summer I spent grinding dirt (more on that later), but as I listened today, I realized they not only had interesting stories, but they came away with great life lessons form these jobs.  Me?  I came away with a small paycheck that I promptly spent on some Country & Western album – big, shiny black vinyl LP’s.  (Fear not readers – I’ve been redeemed – I now listen to classic rock when I’m not listening to NPR, or “Learn In Your Car – Spanish”).

As I thought about it, I realized that maybe I did learn something from these jobs.  And if not, well, some of them might make good stories.  So, here we go – “What I did on my summer vacation, part 1.”

The first “real” summer job I had was as a scorekeeper for the City Parks & Recreation Department softball leagues.  “Real job” being defined as getting a paycheck with taxable income, an expectation to be at a certain place at a certain time, and a supervisor watching over me to make sure I did what I was supposed to do.  I remember two distinct moments in this job – one when the fans disagreed with my assessment of the score (apparently they had mercy on this poor kid, because I did not get any bruises or lose my job).  The other outstanding memory was getting “promoted” to keep score for the youth league baseball (high school age players, but not school teams – don’t recall the names).  Anyway, they played at the local minor league stadium (which is now gone), and I was in the height of learning to be cool.  In that time and place, that meant chewing tobacco.  Red Man.  Copenhagen.  Whatever it took, I was gonna be cool.  For the most part, I pulled off the chewing tobacco part without losing my lunch – but I don’t think I was ever considered “cool” by any stretch of the imagination, or in any circle of society I was associated with.

Once at the stadium, I decided to try this new Beech-Nut Wintergreen chew.  While I didn’t lose my lunch, this had to be the closest I ever came.  I don’t know what happened in the ball game, or who kept score – because I know I spent more than a couple of innings in the bathroom trying to keep my lunch down.  WHEW!!

And what did I learn?  Apparently nothing.  I did give up chewing tobacco for a while, and I’m still not a regular user – but I just can’t shake the habit completely.  Yeah, I know.  You are officially grossed out.  That’s why I keep it “in the closet” and don’t let anyone know (oops, did I say that on the interweb??).  And despite the fact that I’m still not cool, I just don’t think I could open a pack of Beech-Nut Wintergreen without turning green.

Later:  concession stands, washing dishes at Bonanza, mopping floors at Lerner’s, delivering mail for the power company, cutting grass for the power company, and grinding dirt for the power company (hmmm…could it be we had family ties with the power company??)