With a title like that, this post must be about something awesome, right? Something delicious, maybe even a little bit sexy?
Sorry, no. It’s about a summer job.
Many of us have stories of summer jobs that were less than fun. Whether you were flipping burgers or painting houses in the blazing sun, summer jobs were usually a drag, but most of us suffered through them so that we could save money for school (or at least for the pizza and beer to get us through school). After one summer working as a ice cream counter attendant/waitress and another as a hostess at a restaurant (where I met Tom Wopat), I decided that I was better suited for a summer job that did not involve dealing with the public. Don’t get me wrong, I generally like people, but the public…the public is another story. (Note: Of course, I do not include you as part of the public because, if you are reading my blog, you’re probably pretty cool). The public is an annoying group of whiny dipshits I would punch in the face if I weren’t a pacifist and didn’t fear arrest. The public makes you wonder why the human race hasn’t had the decency to die off by now.
In an effort to avoid the dreaded public, I opted for factory work. Specifically, I worked for a factory that produced Christmas decorations. My job was to tie bows all summer. Well, tie isn’t exactly the right word. The bows were made by making a series of folds in velvet ribbon, scrunching the folded ribbon, and then fastening it all together with a twist tie. Some bows were simple–criss-cross fold, scrunch, twist, done. Others were more complicated, involving several folds and an extra piece of velvet fastened over the twist tie. At first, I was quite sure that one required four hands to make some of these bows, but after a few hours, I was cranking them out like I had been doing it my whole life. If you think my description of bow making is not the most fascinating thing you’ve read and are considering abandoning this blog and doing something more stimulating, like watching paint dry or reading Cry, the Beloved Country, hold on! Just imagine doing it instead of just reading about it.
I’m not going to claim it was the worst job ever, but an hour when you are folding and scrunching bows is roughly equivalent to four years…on Saturn. And I did it for ten hours a day (overtime was mandatory). Management asked me to work half days on Saturdays too, but I had to tell them I was unavailable due to a standing appointment to have bamboo shoved under my fingernails.
I did my best to keep my mind occupied during the mindless work. I had my Walkman (yes, this was the olden days), of course, but who has time to keep flipping over and changing cassette tapes when you have bow quotas to meet (your pay was docked if you didn’t meet them, but you were paid more if you exceeded them). I also chatted with my coworker Mindy, who was seated across the table from me, but it wasn’t long before we pretty much had heard each other’s entire life stories and resorted to singing show tunes to pass the time. Even that gets old after a while though. It was during this time I developed the habit of playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with myself. Mindy claimed she was horrible at it and didn’t like to play. So, I’d pick an actor or actress, the first person to come to mind and formulate the connection to Kevin Bacon in my head in six steps or fewer. Ah, the things I will do to entertain myself. Whenever the job seemed almost unbearable, I reminded myself that there was an end in sight. In August, I would go back to school. Although the factory employed a great deal of temporary summer employees, there were a number of people there who worked there all year (except for the month or so at the end of the year when the whole thing closed down for the holidays). The people were, no doubt, made of stronger stuff than I am. I don’t think I could handle having velvet snot all year.
“Wait,” you’re thinking. “Did she just say velvet snot?” Indeed, I did. As I worked all day with velvet ribbon in the height of my allergy season, it didn’t take me long to discover a peculiar side effect of my job. When I blew my nose, my snot was bright red and flecked with velvet. The first time I saw red, I immediately thought nose bleed, which isn’t uncommon for me during allergy season and “Oh, crap! I can’t take time to stop a nose bleed! My quotas!!!” Depending on your outlook, velvet snot could be better or worse than a nosebleed. I tried not to think about how much velvet was ending up in my lungs and what that might do to me in the long run.
Considering all this, maybe the public isn’t so bad after all.
Toward the end of that summer, I decided to take one of the bows home with me. I hesitate to say I stole it. I made it after all, and they didn’t pay me for that one since it wasn’t in my count for the day. I would hang it prominently on my bedroom wall when I returned to school to remind myself why I was in school–so I could avoid scrunching bows for a living for the rest of my days. In my estimation, I created approximately 60,000 bows that summer. That Christmas and for several thereafter, the sight of a velvet bow would make me cringe, but I’m happy to say that holiday bows now simply serve as a reminder of my former job and do not actually induce flashbacks of sore fingers and sneezing.
As a final note, I must mention that, as a bonus, the Christmas after I worked there, the company sent me a five-pound bar of chocolate with the company logo and “Happy Holidays” on it. Free chocolate is almost always a good thing, but five pounds is a lot of chocolate. I was happy to share with my friends, but a chocolate bar that large presents the problem of how to eat it. If you’re sharing with others, you don’t necessarily want to just take a bit out of it. The chocolate’s thickness was also no match for my cutlery, which was cheap and flimsy and had plastic handles. Finally, I found that a (cleaned) screwdriver was the weapon of choice for chocolate fragmentation. Live, learn, and eat chocolate!