One of the worst jobs I ever had was in the summer of 2005. I was a student and back home in Medicine Hat trying to save some money for my next year of university. Looking for anything that paid better than service gigs, I found work as a picker in the yard of S.F. Scott Manufacturing, the company that makes Blue Imp playground equipment.
This job became the kind of work that you end up telling your kids about. Understaffed, overworked, and totally exhausting in every sense of the word, the summer only became bearable because of the amazing coworkers who helped turn misery into (what I can now see was) character building. In the four months that I was there I worked two of them as the sole picker in the shipping department before any help came my way. My job consisted of driving a forklift to pick components for playgrounds and organizing them into bays to load them when the trucks came in. It wasn't rocket science, but we were all doing more than our share to keep the operation going.
As the summer rolled on and the orders increased it became commonplace for us to work 12-15 hour days. I hadn't realized before this how little of a personal life it was possible to survive with. There were a few weeks in there where I literally did nothing but go to work and sleep. Endless manual labour did prove to be the best work out routine I ever had though.
When it came right down to it, the overtime was the only thing making the job seem decent. Looking at it now, it wasn't lucrative by any stretch of the imagination. I couldn't imagine doing a job like this now, that not only robbed me of my free time, but required so much rest when I had it. The funny thing is how much we all seemed to bond over the frustration, because we were all in the same boat. In the back of my mind I was always counting down to school, so the fact that it was temporary had everything to do with me sticking it out for the summer.
I remember making jokes about doing an office style mockumentary of our summer working conditions. We'd laugh at our own misfortune, recognizing that we couldn't possibly put in any more hours and yet we still couldn't meet the demands they were putting on us. Misery loves company as they say, and the entire experience just made me so grateful for my life back on campus. My friend Travess, who I worked with that summer, actually ended up helping me out a year later by acting in my 4th year film project, Elliot.
What I've realized about this job now is that because it was so outside of my comfort zone, I discovered just how much crap I could really deal with. Like I said about telling my kids some day, it was the kind of job that forced me to grow up a bit. It made me want to work harder, take bigger risks, and focus on finding opportunities that I actually enjoyed so I didn't have to do something that totally consumed me for a living.
It's what makes summer jobs like this invaluable I suppose, because you end up getting a life lesson that you didn't even know you needed. I'm just glad we snapped a few pictures of our crew before I left that summer, because now I'm grateful to have had that job as a plot point on the road to where I actually wanted to go. It makes me appreciate my journey a bit more, and it makes me recognize that as tough as it was, having people to share the ride with made all the difference.