While I was looking for a job I started writing a little about the jobs I've had in my past which run the gamut from mundane to kind of insane. Last time went from 16 to 18, basically my junior year in high school to the summer after my freshman year of college.
Upward Bound: During my sophomore year of college, I worked for Upward Bound, a federally funded education program for "at-risk" youths. I was a tutor working with a couple students in Tacoma. Once or twice a week I would go up to Tacoma to meet my students after school and go over their homework in specific subjects. As someone only a year and a half removed from hardly ever doing their homework for the majority of the second half of high school, it was difficult for me to put much feeling behind convincing my students that it was indeed important for them to take care of their homework. Looking back on it, this was probably the first time I was really prompted to think about how having an ambivalent attitude towards achievement and success means something completely different to someone of whom those things are expected and the groundwork is laid for versus someone who is not particularly expected to do anything special (by themselves, their family, society, etc.) While I didn't do a particularly great job of following up with my students towards the end of the school year, I did have a couple of moments of success and feeling like I was making some sort of impact. At one point I was explaining to one of my students something very basic about how the economy works, and at one point he stopped and said, "damn, that's the first time that's ever made sense to me." That was pretty sweet.
Next was a very short-lived but quite memorable experience. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college and I moved off campus with a couple of friends to live in Olympia proper. As per my (quite reasonable) agreement with my parents, while I was not in school and not living at home, rent would now be completely my responsibility. I went to an employment agency in town, took some test, and was called in a couple of days to start work as an assistant maintenance worker on the 4 PM-Midnight shift at the Dart Styrofoam Factory. Did I have any type of maintenance experience? Absolutely not. Luckily the job didn't take too much technical know-how.
While I had clear moral issues with working for a styrofoam producer, it was actually pretty fascinating. If you've never actually been in a real factory before, it is like an elaborate game of Mouse Trap. In a styrofoam factory there is a huge vat of little particles which are basically like a fine dusting of powdery snow. The particles are then sucked up through a tube and sent to the various stations, each of which make a different product. Some combination of the particles and very hot water are pressed onto a mold for a couple of seconds forming the particular product. A poof of air then shoots the cup (or bowl or what have you) off the mold and onto a conveyor belt where they stack themselves as they are packaged in the bag then get shot into a plastic bag which is cut off, and voila! you've got a styrofoam product ready to be shipped.
I worked at the factory for an epic 6 days, cleaning out the moldings, vaccuuming styrofoam particles, mowing the grounds on a riding mower (!), taking naps in the warehouse, and fanticising about starting the worker revolution. The my roommate hooked me up with a job at the bakery half a block from our house, and I said to myself, "two minute walk to work? unlimited bagels and baked goods? Sorry worker revolution, but I'm a sucker for a chocolate macaroon."
Next Time: Bakeries and selling my body to science