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Big Words: Summer Help

Big Words: Summer Help

 

 The TV show Sunday Morning recently had a segment that there were plenty of summer jobs out there this year, but America’s youth didn’t want them.

 

Now I don’t want this article to turn into one of those whiny “kids today” type pieces. The TV segment pointed the finger of blame in many directions. Lazy kids, lame parenting, low paying jobs, more kids going to college in the summer and Doug Pederson, were just some of the many reasons cited.

So I’m not even going to bother with any of that, but simply get into the single greatest South Jersey summer job I ever had—and I’ve had plenty. And still do. I actively run trivia nights every summer in Maple Shade, Sea Isle and Wildwood. And over the years, there have been plenty of others in Palmyra, Cherry Hill and Mantua, among many other South Jersey towns.

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But they are summer jobs as an adult and that’s not what most people think of when they think of a “summer job.” Caddying, working on the Boardwalk or a swim club, movie theater concession stands, mall positions, correcting Donald Trump facts. Whoops, that’s a year-round job.

Many summer jobs when I was a kid weren’t really even summer jobs at all. They were positions that were created by employers as a way of giving back to the community, which is pretty cool if you think about it. That doesn’t happen as much as it used to.

Almost all of my South Jersey summer jobs were on the Wildwood Boardwalk including running the Hell Hole, which will go down in history as the most insane ride ever. You entered a round room with cushioned walls. The room would then spin at such a speed that when the floor dropped down you stuck to the wall. Imagine, and I’m not making this up, I ran that ride (I’m sure illegally) when I was 17 years old. I got fired when it was discovered that I had developed a method of spinning the room at a rate that would turn a woman’s full sized top into a bare midriff one. What can I tell you? Hormones.

I even worked at the White Tower on Route 130 in Collingswood when I was dating this girl who lived nearby. I worked the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift and because I was living in Southwest Philly at the time, I had to get up about 5 a.m., take a trolley, then the high speed line and then walk half a mile. I lasted three days. But even that was still two days, 23 hours and 50 minutes longer than my most notorious summer job ever, a trash man.

Here’s how it went down: My senior year was coming to a close and I knew I wanted to spend the summer in Wildwood. Practically my entire senior class was going to be working down there and I didn’t want to miss any of the action, particularly the house on Poplar Avenue that Gina DiMuchi was in on with six other recent girl grads. (I somehow managed to strike out with all six that summer.)

I was in on a house on a two-block “alley” that was appropriately called Dock Street because that’s where it was, at the back on the docks. If you counted the endless trek through the Lawrence of Arabia sand that you had to conquer once you got to the beach, the Dock Street house was over a mile away from the ocean. Not one of the 73 drunken lowlifes that I was in on the “house” with went to the beach one time the entire summer.

It was June and graduation day was rapidly approaching and I still had not lined up a summer job. Then my buddy Wiggles told me that his uncle who lived in West Wildwood was a trash man and that they might be hiring. We dropped by his house to inquire about this. Funny what you remember your whole life. For some reason his uncle had two spare tires in his living room next to the TV. Hmm.

I asked him what I had to do to get the job and he said, “Show up.” I kid you not. No application, no interview. How hard could it be to throw trash into the back of a trash truck? I had been throwing crap in trashcans my whole life. I was already a seasoned pro. The Wayne Gretzky of trash. Just be there on June 15 at 3 a.m. ready to work the 3-11 a.m. shift. Fantastic! I was in.

When we left, Wiggles pointed out the fact that we were generally still up partying at 3 a.m. When was I going to go to bed? 9 p.m., when the stereo was blasting and the nightly partying was in full swing? I needed the gig so bad I had not given that much thought.

Our rental was a tiny one-and-a-half bedroom second floor dump with a cot in the kitchen. Going to bed at a decent hour, even if I wanted to, was totally out of the question. Then it hit me. I’ll just stay up all night and go right to the trash dump at 3. Genius! I’ll sleep in the day.

June 14 was upon me and like most of our parties back then, it started at two in the afternoon. By the time midnight and June 15 appeared I was already three sheets to the wind and I still had more than two-and-a-half hours to go before I was going to jump on my bike and cruise the approximate 20 minutes to the dump where I was going to meet my foreman and my fellow brothers in trash.

Well, I was pretty far gone when I jumped on my bike and I arrived at the dump 10 minutes late. My foreman walked over to me and even amongst the mountains of banana peels, empty tuna cans and watermelon rinds he could smell the liquor on me a mile away. He snarled at me, “Son, how do you expect to work in the condition you’re in?” I replied, “How hard could it be?”

And that was that. He fired me on the spot. That’s if you can call being employed for about 10 minutes and not once lifting a finger “employed.” To make matters worse I got a flat tire on my way back and just left my bike “hidden” under a tree and walked back. When I went back the next day, my only mode of summer transportation was gone.

Yet, you know what? I’ve told this story a million times and more than once I’ve said to my kids that they were “spoiled” and didn’t know what “real” work was. That’s when I tell them I once worked as a trash man, but I always conveniently leave out the part that I never lifted one trash bag.

You won’t tell them, will you?

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 5 (August, 2017). 
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Author: Big Daddy Graham

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