Outdoor labor takes a certain kind of person, both physically and mentally. And for those who are not well equipped (like me), this comes with a price. Just the sound of motorized gardening supplies triggers a memory, deeply rooted (no pun intended) in your subconscious. You flashback to nightmares of a weed whacker chained to your arm with your finger permanently glued to a pulled back trigger. Your whole body cringes as bits of shredded poison ivy explode all around you, painting your legs, arms, and face like blood. And before you start peeling off your skin to stop the itching, you wake up and realize it wasn’t a dream… that really happened. And though these foul memories haunt you now, they will fade with time. After it’s all over and you’ve moved on to other things, you walk away with a deep appreciation for skillfully mowed grass — and the work that goes into it.
2. Hostess/Bus Boy/Waiter/Cook
I don’t really know if you need to be a “people person” to work in a restaurant, even though being a customer’s slave is the basis of your job. You get paid mostly in a portion of that week’s tips; which is an awful economic system, if you’re not already aware. Often you had to serve extra customers in place of your coworkers, John and Kimmy, who were taking yet another smoke break and playing grab-ass. And not only do you have to wait on these extra customers, but they’re all pissed off that their Muderous Chocolate Tower Exploding Mega Cake isn’t out yet. Even so, of all the people you hate waiting on, the worst is waiting on your frenemies from school. When one of them makes a snide comment about your attire or makes you take back something they “didn’t” order, you just want to get in their face and say, “I have a f-cking job, douchebag. Why don’t you grow up, get your immature ass out of here, and go to Chuck E Cheese.” Instead you crawl back to the kitchen, licking your wounds and telling yourself they’re just mouth-breathing Nickelback fans anyway.
3. Data Enterer
At first, data entry doesn’t sound too bad — air conditioning, a chair to sit in, snacks and drinks just a vending machine away. Maybe the first week you have fun pretending you’re one of those characters in The Matrix that just looks at falling green numbers all day. But soon enough, you can vaguely feel your soul slowly escaping all the orifices of your body. Your eyes spend so much time looking at numbers, you start making emotional connections with them, reassuring number nine that you will never let number seven eat him. I once had a friend who said a job in data entry was a right of passage in the corporate world. Five years later, data entry is half my job.
4. Mover of Heavy Things
Whether it’s moving furniture or setting up those big air bounces for children’s birthday parties, after only a week of work you feel like you’re going to have a rare case of latent spina bifida. Your friends all get together at night on a Tuesday to eat and play games, and you sluggishly tag along. Tonight’s theme is “nostalgia” and the game of choice is split between a more sexual version of Twister or Hide and “Seek.” You put the last of your energy into voting for Hide and Seek, just so you can find a place to pass the f-ck out for a few hours. Your night ends with “face-first blue.” The end of summer seems so far away at that moment — however, the good news is, since you’re now a pro at moving heavy things, move-in day for Fall semester of college will be significantly easier to endure than for the usual euphoric, obtuse underclassman.
Lifeguards were the jocks of the ‘first job’ world. The pool was the cool place to hang out, mainly because it’s where your teenage crush went to tan or do back flips off the diving board (which were only cool the first time). But you could never go to the pool, because you were landscaping or waiting tables or entering data or lifting heavy sh-t. But you know who was always there? That f-cking lifeguard kid you hated. And what’s worse, the only thing they do is be half naked and sit in a chair six feet off the ground all day, looking good for their audience. God forbid there’s ever a real emergency and someone in the water needs help. That two-day Red Cross training course they took to be a lifeguard might as well have never happened, not to mention their complete mental immaturity at that age. It’s always reassuring, however, to watch them practice diving for 10-pound bricks. So when the landscaping kid, who finally made it to the pool during a day off, has a seizure from recalling past memories at work, all 160 pounds of him can sink like the Titanic to the depths of the deep end, but at least that lifeguard’s got the drop on the brick beside your corpse.