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Opinion

Summer jobs stifle sensitivities

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September 28, 2007

Summer sucks. It’s taken me a long time to admit it, but summer can bite me. Besides inducing chronic swamp-ass and terminal laziness, the college summer is only good for one thing: cold, hard cash. For most of us, money is a fleeting and scarce resource that must be hoarded and earned in short bursts of labor-intensive suffering. These three or four months are usually spent working long, tedious hours in conditions that are not much better than those in your local labor, refugee, or prison camp. Attempting this can stunt or even reverse physical, emotional and intellectual growth. I should know, because I am far weaker, more immature and stupider (I can’t even spell properly anymore) than I was before summer began.

I can’t believe it; I spent more than three months of my life toiling away in the dank, blood-stained dungeons of St. Paul’s Department of Public Safety. The gleaming skyscraper that houses this agency looks modern and inviting from the outside, but I quickly discovered its hidden Cubicletopia: a sprawling, subterranean labyrinth crawling with memo-shooting middle management types bent on political-correctness.

My daily routine was boring and endless; I was nothing more than a keyboard-pounding rhesus monkey, given simple tasks in overwhelming quantities. My primary job was to take a stack of MSO forms (I still don’t know what “MSO” stands for) and enter them into an ancient computer. I conducted a quick carbon-dating study to see how old this computer actually was, but quickly discovered that it pre-dated carbon-dating. Hours, days and weeks zipped by. Then I realized I had become something worse than a rhesus monkey: a rhesus monkey working for The Man. At first I couldn’t sleep; I would wake up drenched in cold sweat as the guilt from suspending someone’s license infected me. But a frightening and ominous change took place: this rhesus monkey started liking suspending licenses. Sometimes I would even get cocky, saying things like “Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Wilforth G. Hufflefrump, it looks like you didn’t pay your registration fee on time! BLAM, your license is TOAST buddy!”

Looking back on it, I feel terrible. But working for the government does something evil to you. I wasn’t the only one experiencing moral disintegration. About a month after I started, the office was rocked with scandal when one woman’s salad completely disappeared from the communal refrigerator. Accusations flew as paranoia took over. There were no longer Snickers bars or cans of Diet Pepsi left in the fridge; these valuable commodities were stowed inside locked cabinets and thankfully, the thief never struck again.

The summer finally ended one pristine August day. My ascent to the surface world was a glorious one. I was able to leave the demons that had haunted me in that soul-sucking abyss.
Next year, I’ll do it better. I’ll take a trip to Europe, go scene-surfing in Minneapolis and meet someone famous. Then again, I need money for all that stuff. Maybe I’ll just go back to the Department of Public Safety and start killing licenses again. Yeah, I guess I kinda like that idea!

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.