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Opinion

Once-upon-a-time summer vacations morph into laborious hours of pain

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September 25, 2008

Yours truly was sitting in an unnamed class on the first Friday back from summer vacation – which, by the way, is not a vacation at all. Back before I traded my ninja turtles for a check card and college debt, I had real summer vacations.

I had vacations that would make Chevy Chase blush. I would sleep until 10 a.m., get up to turn SportsCenter on and then sleep for the rest of the morning…until 1-2 p.m. I know we all remember those days.

I’d spend all day making up games in the yard involving wooden tennis rackets (until they broke), a homemade water balloon launcher (until it broke) and a cardboard box/spaceship (until it broke). I broke a lot of stuff – but never my own bones, which is nice.

After it all broke I’d retire to my room with a buddy and play some Tecmo Bowl. Personally I never got into Tecmo Super Bowl. I respect those who made the transition to Bo Jackson, but I could never get over the brilliance of Walter Payton and Willie Gault.

The point is this my friends: somewhere along the line summer vacation turned into an involuntary summer work program and, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I never got it back.

It all began four years ago. At the time I didn’t realize it, but after my senior year of high school I embarked on the final summer “vacation” of my life. No worries, no responsibilities. I just blew all of my high school graduation money and headed off to Augustana College flat broke (except for a little financial assistance from the old man).

After breezing through my freshman year of college, I came back home ready for some summer relaxation. But to my surprise the financial support had all but run its course and my parents expected me to work.

After a little bit of diligence, I got an interview with Bradley & Sons Maintenance. My job interview consisted of the owner, Duane Bradley, screaming at me in a bank parking lot using a lot of expletives (that I will not include in this column because I, unlike many of the other “writers” for this paper, hold myself to some journalistic standards).

Long story longer, I aced the interview and broke into the work force by mowing lawns (actually I didn’t mow, I ran the trimmer aka weed whipper) with a retired police officer in Woodbury.

That was the worst summer of my life. I used to see myself trimming when I closed my eyes. I almost quit like five times, never talked to anyone but the boss at work because I didn’t speak Spanish and vowed to never mow lawns again.

And I never did, except for the summer after that.

I look back at my former summer vacations with appall and the ten-year-old kid inside me wonders how anyone could ever be excited for summer to be over and school to start back up.

That is where I am at: sitting in school ecstatic to not be working manual labor for 50 hours a week. I look forward to a lifetime of non-manual labor jobs because I     it, but after working them I respect the men and women who work them even more.

I worked my final manual labor job this past summer. I built retaining walls, which is much better than mowing lawns, for 50 hours a week. Let me tell you, it sucked. But on July 4 my wife gave birth to my son Levi and, even though work stunk, and even though it wasn’t a vacation, it was the best summer of my life.

Caleb Stevens is a student at UW-River Falls.