Order up!

By Erin Maduck

I am very troubled and confused about something. No, it is not school, a relationship, or any kind of hormonal outburst. I am disoriented about my general position in the work force.

I have put in two long years of university education. Does this mean that I am moving up on the summer job ladder? Should I be worked along french fries or executives? There was a time when I naively believed that summer jobs got progressively more dignified every year. I was wrong. They are never dignified. That is, of course, if you are an unfortunate and "unconnected" soul like myself. People like us only have a few options, and it goes a little something like this.

We begin the months of February and March with fairly optimistic outlooks. We convince ourselves that this summer is going to be different. Some lucky employer is going to grab us and all of our exceptional skills before it is too late. Lunch in the staff room? No way. We will be dining downtown with the big guys. But just when the dark cloud of due dates and final exams looms above our heads, this foolish outlook is simultaneously crushed. We hear about the summer jobs that our friends have secured, and even though we are fully aware that having a daddy employed in the oil patch is just a tiny factor in job placement, we are equally distraught. We accept that this summer’s employment may only be slightly improved from the last.

Now it is late March and we have yet to hear anything from ideal potential employers. We assume that they must be doing last-minute hiring. But just to be sure, we decide to seek back-up employment. We open the classifieds and notice that several local restaurants are hiring. We apply, but do not really care if we get hired because we are sure the other guys are going to call.

April rolls around and we cannot fool ourselves any longer. The ideal job is not going to materialize and neither will the "okay" job. We notice the student painting flyers that are disgustingly littered over campus. Are we going to have to stoop this low? Then there are those advertisements on the side of ever classroom chalkboard: "STUDENT WORK STARTING AT $12.85/HOUR." We do not want to call the number provided, but the onset of desperation is relentlessly approaching.

In the midst of exams we finally receive a phone call. No, not from Telus or PanCanadian Petroleum but instead from one of the wonderful restaurants we visited in March. We attend the interview and get hired immediately-training starts next week. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. This means four months of serving, scraping and setting-four months of basic human slavery. For what price, you ask? Minimum wage plus tips, of course-the entire summer is going to be a gamble. Our "connected" friends urge us not to give up and to keep searching for something better. There are lots of jobs our there, they assure us, lots and lots of jobs. We ask our "connected" friends where those jobs might be found and they respond with giggles and shrugs. Oh right! These friends did not land jobs because of perseverance and tireless searching.

Exams end and we are caught in a sea of ambivalence. Although the semester end brings forth a sense of excitement and accomplishment, we know that the reality of summer employment is waiting to devour us. And then the saddest and most detrimental event of all occurs. We have forgotten how terrible our last
summer job was, and all of a sudden the idea of going back does not see
so terrible anymore. Time has brainwashed us into believing that the job might be better this year. Maybe there will be new management. Maybe there will be a wage increase. We contact our old supervisors and they welcome us back with open arms.

May 1 finally arrives and we attend our new, old summer job. Only minutes go by before we realize that this desperate measure was a tragic one. Nothing has changed. This job and all that comes with it still suck. No wonder we promised ourselves last year we would never do this again.

And so this is how the summer unfolds for us "unconnected" folk. We bounce around for four months working three part-time jobs. If we are really lucky we might find a decent position for August, but the damage has already been done. We are tired, stressed our, and have yet to leave the city for a holiday. We do not see our nine-to-five summer job friends at all. We do not even see the sun. Once again, time brainwashes and twists our perspectives.

School in September does not seem like such an appalling concept anymore.

Erin Maduck can be reached at ejmaduck@ucalgary.ca.

Leave a comment