I am a Working Fool

As I did last year, today’s post is a story about past jobs in honor of Labor Day.

2002 was the summer of three jobs. Upon arriving at the camp in Montana (and promptly breaking camp property), I learned one of the great truths about working in the camping industry. The perks have nothing to do with finances. Sure, camps are great at covering things like room and board, but if you want money to pay for gas or Lego sets, you better find a way to supplement your income.

So supplement I did. The camp director had recently been approached by an mentor-ship organization in town. He didn’t have the time to do it, but suggested that they give me a shot. The organization was something like a state-run Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, except mentors got paid for spending time with children whose parents were in jail. And so, after a quick interview and credential check, I was hired.

Of course, spending a few hours a week playing billiards with a nine-year-old at the local college only brings in so much money. Don’t get me wrong. It was a great job, but it wasn’t going to bring in the money I needed.

thAnd so I got another job. This time, at a diner a half hour away from the camp and in the opposite direction from my mentor-ship job. I was a short-order cook at Jan’s Cafe, the finest little diner in Lima, MT. Again, it was my connection to the camp director that got me the job. I had limited experience (working for a few months in my uncle’s eatery in high school, most of which was as a waiter/host), but I was available for evening shifts for most of the summer, so I got the job. My specialty was “chicken-fried steak”, which was a dish that people said was wonderful but one which I had never personally eaten.

Between the two paying jobs and free room and board at the camp, I was able to save up enough gas money to get me from Southwestern Montana to Central Iowa, but not all the way home to Michigan. The rest of the way was paid with by my parents’ kindness and understanding (which is great currency that renews regularly if not overused).

I probably would have made it all the way home if I hadn’t been pulling an early 60’s camper trailer behind an underpowered Chevy Blazer through the mountains, where even semis were annoyed at my slow up-the-mountain speeds. But that is a story for another time. Suffice to say, I have neither held three simultaneous jobs nor pulled a camper cross-country since.

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