Pretty much everybody that I talked to in the first couple weeks of school had the best summer ever. They learned six languages while volunteering for the UN in Botswana, rescued 400 prisoners from an Iraqi prison, and ended hunger in the Congo by planting magical fucking beanstalks. Then they flew around the world and went shopping.
I, on the other hand, installed sheet metal in Port Alberni, voted “Canada’s Worst Town” three years running by some magazine based out of Toronto. My social life consisted of dollar beers on Thursday nights at the local “Club FX” where I watched a 40-year-old woman in a tracksuit snort coke out of her hand while dancing to country music. And I did all of my shopping at Wal-Mart.
Working sheet metal this summer meant the following: my name changed – to “dumb-ass” or “fuck-stick” – and I was encouraged to be racist, curse unnecessarily, and flirt with Frank, my boss’s best friend and self-proclaimed “operator.” It also means that I went to the dump a lot.
I made a bit of a scene at the dump once involving a metal bin and me throwing cardboard in it by accident. This was, according to the dump lady, totally unacceptable, and she let everyone know that I was a bad person. I told my boss that I couldn’t go to the dump in the afternoons anymore because that’s when she works and I was scared of her. Because safety was not particularly a paramount concern at Dolan’s Heating Ltd – our motto being, “Don’t spend half the day setting up wimpy scaffolding when you can throw up the 50 footer and git ‘er done in ten minutes” – my boss told me to get over it and to not pay her the next time if she was being bitchy.
One day I stopped at a gas station to fill up my pickup truck. While doing so, I looked down and noticed that the fronts of my steel toed boots had worn through. At the same time I noticed the rips in the knees of my jeans, the cloud of construction dust that poofed out from me every time I shifted my weight, and the stick of pepperoni in my hand. I was pretty much a 45-year-old man.
Not that I want to be one of those girls who thinks their waitressing job is so hard because Tiffany, the new totally under-qualified hostess, triple-sat their section during the rush and how impossible groups of lunching middle-aged women are because Judy wants two and a half ice cubes in her glass of water, and Linda wants four cubes halved, and Shelly wants a slice of lemon-lime fusion in her room temperature water, and Sandra wonders if it would be too much of a hassle if the entire menu could just be rewritten because nothing seems to be gluten-free and that will give her a rash. Giving salads to a couple of women that play bridge and take golf lessons in their free time is not difficult. Moving a 500-pound furnace into position is difficult. It takes about two hours to move it six feet, which makes you cry.
This article originally appeared in The Red Herring. The rest of the story can be found at theredherring.net, alongside other pieces on summer jobs. For now, check out the focus in the coke-doers’ eyes!