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My Worst Job

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I’m throwing my story into the worst job meme.

When I was 17-ish, my friend Andy started driving a maroon 1969 Camaro SS – a true muscle car. I’ve never been a big gear head, but the sound and fury of 400 horsepower was enthralling. We used to cruise the streets downtown. Andy had a theory that the smell of burning rubber would attract females, but we soon realized the only interested females wore badges and wrote traffic tickets.

Live and learn, I always say.

We also came to terms with another, more serious problem. Andy’s parents refused to pay for traffic tickets, gas, and new tires. It’s not easy to have a summer of high-speed adventure without gas and tires, so Andy went in search of a job.

Within a week, Andy had found a job with a company building a new miniature golf course, and talked me into applying, too. They hired us. The lure of extra spending money was part of the reason I agreed, but I also figured miniature golf courses were fun to be at, so they must be fun to build. Maybe I’d get to drive a backhoe!

Live and learn, I always say.

I told my dad that I was going to work on building a miniature golf course. I still remember the strange smile that came across his face. I realized years later the meaning behind the smile. He realized his never-worked-a-day-in-his-life-I-hope-he-goes-to-college son was about to receive a lesson in life, and the lesson was not going to require a trip to the police station, a trip to the hospital, or a trip to his bank account, as so many teenage lessons do.

Andy and I arrived for our first day of work in our brand new work boots, and I surveyed all the cool equipment around the grounds. Mechanical digging things. Mechanical roller things. I started to wonder if I would need a special license to drive a backhoe, or if they could just teach me on the job. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when the boss gave me an un-mechanized shovel and told me where to dig.

I’m pretty sure the Earth experienced a major orbital variation at this point, and for the next 8 hours we hovered a mere 5 meters above the surface of the sun. The heat was unbearable. I only kept digging in hopes I would uncover some alien artifact, and secret government agents would whisk me away in a non-descript, but air-conditioned van.

After what seemed like 20 years of digging we got a new assignment: pull back a tarp that was covered with rain water. The tarp was massive, and it took 9 people to pull the tarp free. When the tarp did come free, 8 people let go and remained standing. One person stumbled backwards and fell into a large pit of mud.

Rising from the mud, my first thought was to go clean myself off. I spotted a garden hose and headed for it. After two steps I tripped on a piece of rebar that was sticking out of the ground, ripped a whole in my new work boots, and fell face first into a second muddy pit.

Standing up again, I thought of continuing to the garden hose, but I suddenly appreciated something that pigs and hippos have known for a long time. Let me illustrate with an excerpt from The Hippopotamus Song:

Mud! Mud! Glorious mud!
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
So, follow me, follow, down to the hollow,
And there let us wallow in glorious mud.

I decided I’d keep the soothing mud. Unfortunately, mud left under a hot sun forms a sort of plaster like substance. In fact, some previous civilizations have built living structures, temples, and freeway overpasses using only dried mud as a building material. It took three days with soap, hot water, and a steel brush to remove mud from my skin.

Live and learn, I always say.

I think I’ll end the story at this point by letting you know the day only got worse. I permanently retired from golf course construction work after 8 hours, and I’ve still never driven a backhoe.