It’s summertime, that time of year when university and college students work for a few weeks to pay off some debt or get some extra money. There’s something of an annual ritual in journalism to write summer pieces reminiscing about the awfulness of summer jobs – the boring, the repetitive, the gross and the dangerous. I did many of these jobs and have a 20 year old scar from where I nudged my hand against a working industrial pillar drill.
As a teenager we watched Happy Days as a family – the episodes were at least 10 years old when I watched them so I was probably about 15 when I saw the episode ‘Richie’s job.’ Richie, on summer leave from college gets a job loading up newspapers at the Milwaukee Journal. He is frustrated that his brilliance and potential is not being recognised and he tries to take charge and increase efficiency, annoying his temporary work colleague in the process and messing the whole operation. I’m a bit sketchy on the details of the plot, but eventually Fonzie comes onto the scene. Richie wants Fonzie to take his ‘side’, but instead passes on some important wisdom. He reminds Richie that his colleague does this job all year long. This job supports him and his family. He does not have the opportunity to return to college at the end of the summer.
When I had a temporary job I always remembered that I was working with people who did this job, year in, year out. Summer jobs are only summer jobs for the privileged – for most they are a way of earning a living.