Skating Rink DJ to Conservative Talk Radio: My #firstsevenjobs
The following tale of my first seven jobs has no real moral to it other than this—I do not like work for work’s sake. Spare me drudgery; give me something interesting and fun.
Yet, if the drudgery must be done, let it have a good soundtrack.
Skating Rink DJ to Conservative Talk Radio: My #firstsevenjobs – Construction Clean Up
My father is an engineer. A civil one at that. So, not only is he courteous when he needs to be, he also knows many contractors from his civil construction work. Many of those contractors build houses, lots of houses, and long before those houses are finished, they need to be cleaned, preferably by people willing to work for cash.
I was 16. I wanted a kickass stereo system for my station wagon. Oh yes, I thought, how cool my station wagon (a crimson red ‘94 Honda that looked like a suppository) would be if I only I could crank up some classic rock at mind boggling levels. So, in need of cash, I drove my station wagon on many a muggy summer morning to residential constructions sites and got to work.
The work was awful: back-breaking when it was not tedious, and potentially dangerous. Rusty nails stuck up from discarded lumber. Shingles, bricks, and drywall galore needed to be hauled to the dumpster. Dust and dirt was everywhere along with old soda bottles, pizza boxes, and even condoms (I didn’t ask.)
After a while, my wheelbarrow and headphones became my best friends. Moving a ton of bricks to a dumpster didn’t seem so bad set to Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” One day a drywall contractor took a liking to me and gave me this advice. “Son,” he said, “stay in school, or else, you’ll being doing this for the rest of your life. It may be an honest day’s work, it may pay well, but it destroys your body.”
I reluctantly drove around the city of Montgomery, wondering what on earth I should do. Then I saw it in all its glory on the horizon—a large sign that said “Fun Zone.”
After I made my money and bought my station wagon stereo, I took his advice. There had to be a more enjoyable way of making money. There was, but my next job taught me some things are too good to be true.
My next job was at a retail store called Hollister. They sold overpriced west coast themed clothing. The job they offered me seemed easy enough at first—fold the inventory and help the customers find what they wanted—but I would soon find out it was a racket. You see, while on the clock, I was required to wear Hollister brand clothes. Even with the discount they gave me, their clothes ended up costing just about the amount of hours they were willing to give me. Their scheme wasn’t fair, and I made hardly any money compared to my construction clean up job. But I soon realized I wasn’t obliged to work for them. I quickly learned the beauty of respectfully giving an employer two weeks notice. And it’s telling: I can’t remember that job’s soundtrack.
After quitting my retail gig, my parents harangued me to find another job. It was my junior year in high school, and I wanted to focus on school and sports, but they pushed me anyway. Literally, one Saturday afternoon, they pushed me out the door and said, “Don’t come back until you have some job prospects.”
Did you know that children, as innocent as they may be, often stink and are petulant for no reason?
So, I reluctantly drove around the city of Montgomery, wondering what on earth I should do. Then I saw it in all its glory on the horizon—a large sign that said “Fun Zone.” I pulled over and went inside. They hired me on the spot and asked if there were any other “good Catholic boys” from my high school who needed jobs as well. They did, so three other friends and I were soon fellow employees at the Fun Zone.
Fun Zone had a skating rink, an arcade, a rock wall, bumper cars, a rollercoaster simulator, a trampoline basketball game, and a massive “soft play” playground akin to what you may find at McDonald’s, ball pit and all. I started off as a game attendant, putting kids into harnesses for the rock wall or strapping them into bumper cars. It was easy enough at first, but then I began to notice the smell. Did you know that children, as innocent as they may be, often stink and are petulant for no reason?
I can’t tell you how many times I was told something about poop. Yes, poop. Kids pooped in the ball pit. Kids pooped on the sidewalk. Kids pooped their pants. And when they weren’t pooping there pants, they managed to find all sorts of other trouble. For instance, as I was walking to the bathroom so as not to emulate the kids’ poop parade, I noticed something in the claw machine out of the corner of my right eye. I stopped and turned and there it was—below the claw was a machine full of large stuffed animals and a toddler. He looked at me through the glass with a surprisingly sanguine ease. After thinking to myself, “For a dollar, you can win this kid!” I quickly got out the barrell key and set him free.
After paying my dues for a year and a half and getting over all the poop, I worked my way up to the position of DJ and game technician, which essentially involved me eating free food from the kitchen while playing music for the skaters. Only occasionally would management page me over the intercom to fix a jammed ticket dispenser or a faulty game board. I was golden. I have so many memories from that place. Too many to share them all here. I grew up there. Made new friends outside of school. Had my first real kiss with a woman. Learned that even though management is always right, they are not always right, and that’s okay. But, I do have a favorite memory I would like to share in detail.
Parks and Rec taught me the truth about government work. With few a exceptions, we hardly worked at all.
On Sundays, I would play music for our “old-school” skate, and without fail, every Sunday afternoon this older gentleman would put on his quad skates and roll to the center of the rink. He would look up at me in the DJ booth, his eyes challenging me to put on something good. One time, as I put on Al Green’s “Love and Happiness,” he smiled at me as he heard the song’s opening guitar riff, but he did not skate around the rink. No, he only danced. In the center of the rink, he danced on skates in his own funky way. It never failed to make us both happy.
Eventually, after working there for nearly two years, Fun Zone was hit by a tornado.