Let there be light

Illuminating thoughts on Summer Jobs

Ah, summer. Time for vacations at the beach, ringing bells on an ice cream truck making its afternoon rounds and retreating from the heat into the nearest swimming pool.

The change in weather has me thinking about another constant of the season: summer jobs. Specifically, my time working at a grocery store during the summers of the early 1990s. I spent my eight hours each day bagging groceries, retrieving shopping carts from the parking lot and performing stock duties. It was actually a great job and a whole lot of fun. Even though it was a big store, it had that “mom and pop” feel that I really enjoyed.

The manager would make folksy announcements on the store’s intercom system and I was first to grab Frosted Flakes special edition boxes featuring Tony the Tiger wearing the jersey of the 1991 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. There’s one week in particular that I will never forget.

One day I looked at the schedule that was fastened to a wall in the break room and saw I would be working midnight to 6 a.m. for five days in a row. “Midnight to 6 a.m.?” I thought to myself. “Has to be a mistake. That ‘a.m.’ should be a ‘p.m.’.” Turns out it wasn’t a mistake. I had to work midnight to 6 a.m. with another employee cleaning the hundreds of fluorsecent light bulbs stationed in the ceiling of the store.

“Why me?” I whined to my mom when she dropped me off in front of the store at midnight on the first night.
“Why do I have to do this? I just wanted a regular summer job!”But I soldiered through and the experience makes a great story all these years later.

We pushed a rolling scaffold around the store, with my co-worker standing on top and removing the long, fragile bulbs from the standards and handing them down to me so
I could utilize a cloth sprayed with glass cleaner.

What I most remember about that week is the relative emptiness of the store at 3 a.m. There weren’t any managers around watching us so we could do our jobs in relative peace. However, there were customers around.

One guy had a peculiar craving and came in to buy a lone cantaloupe in the middle of the night. I still can’t figure what that was all about. I’m sure you also have your own stories of summer jobs you’d like to forget. But sometimes it’s good to remember where we came from. If you are a high school or college student reading this
during your summer job at a grocery store, take heart.

You may not want to clean the ice cream freezer or make 20 gallons of chicken noodle soup but, trust me, you will look back at the event with much fondness in, oh, about 25 years. I didn’t want to clean those fluorescent bulbs in the middle of the night all those years ago but perhaps it helped me build character. Matthew 5:16 sheds some light on the subject: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your goods deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”