One more sign that I’m getting older.
I just took my youngest to drop off his first resume. I gotta laugh at the values of this generation. I’m sure I was just as bad at the same age, but he came down the stairs, ball cap on his head and a Nightmares T-shirt on. For those not in the know, a Nightmares shirt is a skull with the Nightmares logo.
Yeah, this is what he’s going to wear. To try and indicate to a prospective employer that he would like to work in their respectable establishment.
When I pointed out that he may want to spruce up the image a bit, I got the “That’s stupid” comment. I said it wasn’t stupid, it shows your initiative and your motivation to work for them. “That’s stupid.” Ah, the fourteen-year-old mind. Gotta love it.
So, we managed to get the shirt changed. Then it was a quick trip for a haircut to tame that particular wild beast and we were ready to actually drop off that resume.
Like I did with his sister before him, I told him I wasn’t going to have anything to do with it, and would not stand by him while he dropped it off. I never liked seeing a helicopter parent hovering near their young whenever I received resumes or applications, so I won’t do it either. Instead, we practiced what he should say, and I sent him off on his own. For a five-second conversation, that was a lot of prep, but you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and all that.
Still, it’s a lot different from when I got my first summer job. It was 1979 and it was at Murray Bros. Lumber in Madawaska. I didn’t have any choice in the matter. My step-father decided it was time I got a job and he put his son, who was a cop in the area and therefore well-connected, on the trail of sniffing out something suitable for a sixteen-year-old stick thin shy kid. I remember my step-brother coming up to me one Friday afternoon, telling me I had to get a pair of steel-toed boots for Monday when I started work.
I made the ridiculously princely sum of $3.17 per hour. My buddy was currently working part-time at a McDonald’s in Oshawa and making $2.15/hr, the standard part-time rate. Hell, full-time minimum wage was $3.00/hr. And here I was, making an absolutely insane 17 cents more than minimum wage. I thought I’d hit the jackpot.
And the job actually wasn’t that bad. I worked 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, with about a half-hour drive there and back. My step-brother had even thoughtfully arranged for one of the regular full-timers to pick me up and drop me off. All I had to do was stand up on Highway 62 and wait for him. It actually tended to be bloody cold at 6:00 am in Barry’s Bay. I distinctly remember one morning–and yes, it was only one morning–when I stood, watching in amazement as, in the middle of July, I saw very very tiny snowflakes come down from the sky. I’m not kidding.
So there I would stand, in my steel-toed boots and my layers and layers of clothes: t-shirt, sweatshirt, Kenora dinner jacket, and finally, a coat.
By noon, I’d be sweating like a pig. But still, I was making hoards of money and the work wasn’t hard.
Well, not initially. Then they put me on a job toward the end of July. It was only going to be for a day, maybe two. No more than the end of the week.
There was three of us. One would pull a long piece of eight inch by eight inch pine down and roll it up to a stopper that was set in front of me. The stopper would get the wood in the exact position so that when that guy brought down the saw, a perfect four-foot long chunk of timber would be cut. So, just to reinforce what we’re dealing with here. Eight inches thick. Eight inches deep. Four feet long. And as he cut it, I would catch that four-foot block of wood, then turn about 90 degrees and throw it across a small platform to a third guy who would catch and stack it. As he was doing that, I’d hear the bump of the wood being moved up to the stopper, so I’d turn in time to catch the next one, then turn and throw it again.
Catch. Turn. Throw.
That damn wood was heavy. I remember the three of us breathing a sigh of relief that Friday afternoon as we knocked off for the weekend. “Won’t miss catching those,” I said in disdain.
Monday morning, we were back doing the same damn job. In fact, we did it until the end of the summer. I have very few memories of actually doing the job. I more remember stupid little facts… Like the lunches I was packing by mid-August. Well, I should say the lunches my mother was packing for me.
She’d take an entire loaf of bread and turn it into sandwiches. She’d pack a full pie, usually apple. A bunch of fruit, like a full bunch of bananas, or a big tupperware full of strawberries. A massive thermos full of some sort of juice. A couple of full cucumbers. For one day. And there’d be nothing left by noon. I’d pound through most of it on first break, and polish it off at lunch. The thermos would be empty by noon and refilled at least twice with water.
When I came home, it was a struggle deciding whether to get a shower to get rid of the itch of the sawdust scattered all through my clothes, especially around my belt line, or to tear the door off the fridge and attack whatever foodstuffs may be hiding within.
So I was making, what? $25 a day? How much was my mother spending a day just to feed me?
Over the course of August, I gained almost forty pounds, and all of it muscle. For the only time in my life, I actually had a body I wasn’t ashamed of. A definite V-shape. Pecs and abs.
That’s what you get when you work out for eight hours a day.
Finally, the summer came to an end, and with it all the work and sawdust and lunches and misquitoes and exercise. I lost the extra weight and all the muscle in probably three weeks. That sucked. I was back to normal by the time I turned 17 that October.
And when I think about how much work I did back then, for the money I received, and having no choice in it, I have to laugh at my kids.
They think they’re so hard done by.