Summer Breeze, Makes Me Feel Fine

The Mecca of summer jobs

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

-Henry James

Ten years ago, if you asked me what my favorite season is, the answer would have been instantaneous: summer. The reasoning is pretty obvious: summer was the three-month reprieve from school and studying. It also worked out nicely that summer was the greatest time for playing basketball, swimming, and other outdoor exploits. Summer was the greatest.


That all changed in 1998. That's the year I graduated from college and started my first full-time job, at CSC. I started training outside of Chicago in mid-June of that year. It was eye-opening, to say the least. For the first time, I had to sit... inside... on a warm sunny summer day. "Preposterous," said me. "This can't last."

Yet here I sit, over six years later, looking out the window at a warm sunny summer day. To be completely accurate, I need to get out of my chair and walk ten feet so I can see the window.

The job is fine, though. Pays nicely. And I'm fairly free to get out and walk up and down Nicollet mall when the spirit moves me to do so. Especially on days like today, when the boss is gone. (evil laugh)

But summer has lost its stranglehold on first place in Wade's Top Four Season Extreme Countdown. The mighty autumn is now champ. It's partially because I now get uncomfortable whenever it's warmer than 75 degrees. But it's mostly because, well, summer just isn't so special anymore. Just another season, that happens to be sunny and usually (too) warm.

Summer has a chance, though, to rise back up to the top. It's slim, but it's there. How, you ask? A simple two-step process.

1. I win the lottery.

2. I get a job at the Austin Municipal Pool.

Can't be that hard, is it? I know you can do it, summer.

C'mon, I can win. I'm part Mexican.

You may remember me waxing in flowery prose about the pool before. I worked there for three summers, 1995 through 1997. Because I'm not a lifeguard, I could work in any of these three places:

  • Concession Stand Easily the favorite spot. It wasn't rocket science, but the concession stand required the most thinking-- making change, remembering what the little slugs ordered, trying to change the radio station when making a Slush Puppy because hearing "Wannabe" from the Spice Girls one more time might lead to something drastic. It's also where I learned the art of making the perfect soft-serve cone. I'm the greatest, despite what Jason claims. Come to Scoreboards sometime and I'll display my mastery. You also worked with at least one other person in the concession stand, and usually two. So that was fun.

  • One of the few workplace hazards.

  • Admission Booth If the concession stand was like a swingers party, the admission booth was like solitary confinement. You sat in a brick enclosure, surrounded by bulletproof glass and metal. Your only interaction to the outside world consisted of a 3 by 10 inch rectangular hole in the glass, through which all transactions (monetary and social) occurred. One nice thing was that, after the first half hour, most of your work was done so that loitering in the concession stand (party!) was acceptable. Unless, of course, you didn't feel social; at that point, the admission booth was a nice reprieve. I'm sometimes a loner and like to read Stephen King novels, so I didn't really mind the admission booth. Especially, when compared to...
  • Locker Room Oy... Awful, by any standards. Some days were less bad than others, but you would be bound to run into at least three of these scenarios daily: 1) naked lawyer guy standing in front of you asking for his bag after adult swim, 2) kids screaming, 3) kids fighting, 4) kids rubbing their poop on the walls. On slow days you could get some good reading done, but punk kids were a constant. Luckily I was looked upon favorably by the managers and didn't get stuck there much after the first summer.

  • Typical example of your standard adult swimmer. I got to see the bottom half, too.

    Oh wait... One more.

  • Top of the Slide Depending on the day, this was the best spot to be at. The slide had to be supervised so that dumb kids didn't go down six at a time, thereby either getting stuck or falling over the sides to their death. So a person sat at the top of the slide all day, and watched dumb kids go (safely) down the slide. When dumb kid #1 hit the pool at the bottom, you said "go," "next," "yeahhp," or something similar to notify dumb kid #2 to start sliding. It sounds pretty mindless and, well, it was. But you got to be outside, which was nice unless it was 104 degrees. And, well.. ahem.. sometimes older girls liked to go down the slide. And then sometimes I'd let them cut through the bars on the bottom so they wouldn't have to wait in line to go down the slide again. I'm going to hell.

That, in short, was the pool. You're probably saying "Wade, that sounds all well and good... but a little mindless. Isn't the dazzling world of business analysis much more energizing and engaging?"

Well... no.

While the pool was mindless, what made that job better than any I ever have had or will have was this: the intangibles. Sure, I've got nice intangibles at this job: free coffee in the lunchroom, good co-workers, all of the manila folders and green highlighters I could ever desire. But they don't really compare with these:

(And yes, I have list issues. Ask my wife.)

  • Dress code: how about shorts and a t-shirt? That's it. If you factor in ironing and washing, it takes me about ten minutes each day to assemble what I wear to work. At the pool, ten seconds. And none of this nonsense about shirts with collars and dress socks and undershirts and finely-coiffed hair and shoes that cost $90 at DSW. White t-shirt. Umbros. Hat. Sandals. That was it.

  • Nope. Didn't need to look like this.

  • Munchies: All of the popcorn you could eat. You could sneak a Snickers whenever you wanted to. Or a Butterfinger or six. You could stick your mouth under one of the soft-serve spigots and fill yourself up with vanilla ice cream. Not that any one of us ever did such a thing. Of course not.

  • mmm.. Slush Puppy.. and we do NOT make suicides.

  • Hours: If you exclude the once-a-month mandatory Saturday clean-up shift, the earliest I ever had to be to work was 11:45. (And the "early" Saturday clean-up shift started at 9:30 a.m., four hours after I wake up now.) Granted, you worked until 9:30 at night, but what else did I have to do? Jason and I would frequently head right to band practice after our shift, play til 1:00 a.m. or so, hit Taco Bell and go home. Repeat.
  • Co-workers: How many of us have gotten the chance to work with one of our best friends? I've gotten the chance twice, but I'd have to say my tour of duty at the pool with Jason topped my time at CSC with wadE. wadE and I only spent a couple of weeks on the bench together at CSC in Golden Valley-- which, while fun, still required us to get up early and wear khaki pants. Jason and I worked together during the summers of '96 and '97 at the pool, and it was pretty awesome. Besides him, 90% of the people that worked at the pool were close to my age and great to work with. And did I mention that I worked with lifeguards? OW! Um.. Yeah.
  • Commute: It was Austin. To be at the pool at 11:45 I needed to leave my house at 11:43. Of course, I often got a ride from Jason meaning he showed up at my house at 11:49. What were they gonna do, fire us???
  • After-hours: More than once we locked all of the doors after night swim was over and cracked open beers. Nothing like underage drinking while on city property, right? A lot of fun stories from those nights, the least of which features me falling ass-over-teakettle and breaking Joe Becker's cooler. I sure hope Denny and Val from Austin aren't reading this. Is there a statue of limitations on stupidity?

  • The cooler I broke. (artist's rendition)

    There you have it, summer. Get me that job back, without me having to worry about making the mortgage payment next month.

    By the way, I realize that even if summer miraculously got its act together and granted me what I wanted, it wouldn't be the same. You can't go back to 20 again, even if you surround yourself with whatever you were doing at that age. It's a lesson I need to keep learning, similar to my idea that moving to Northfield and/or working at Saint Olaf won't bring me back to that stage of my life. But it's fun to think about.

    So I guess my challenge to summer is false, since you can't turn back time. It looks like it'll be looking up at autumn for the rest of my life, or at least until I get a teaching job.

    However, summer, if you did fix it for me to win the lottery, your standings would improve greatly. Promise.



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