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Everyday Economy

Thu., April 23, 2009, 10:09 a.m.

The hours are awful, and it pays bad

In the next couple of months, a lot of high school and college students will be looking for summer jobs.

And some of those jobs are going to provide young people with horror stories they can tell the rest of their lives. Whether it's a job that's brutally hard, miserly in pay or just stultifying -- we've all had those kinds of jobs, and those of us who had them just for a summer are lucky.

(Of course, finding any kind of job right now is tougher, with more people out of work. So it may be harder than usual for teens to find work this summer.) 

But I'm interested in hearing from readers: What was your worst summer job?

Here's a couple of mine to get things started -- a good bad job and a bad bad job.

-- When I was 16, I got involved with a program that took teens to Hawaii and put them to work for Dole Pineapple. It was a kind of "we'll make you a man" thing. We all lived in dorms and worked five days a week, earning minimum wage, picking and planting pineapple on Lanai, the smallest island. The work was backbreaking, especially the planting, which involved bending over and planting pineapple crowns in rows all day long. But, like most adversity, it was good for me: I learned some independence, saw a part of the world I hadn't seen, met people who expanded my view of the world, and toughened me up a bit physically. I didn't make any money, though.

-- Several years after that, as a college student, I was hired for a summer position at the Tupperware plant in Jerome, Idaho. (It's gone now). The pay was much better than my alternatives -- working at grocery stores, on farms, etc. But it was impossibly boring. I removed plastic bowls, cups and lids from the molding machine and put them in boxes -- three or four a minute, all day long. The noise made it impossible to talk -- or think. My first day felt like it lasted a week. I didn't last very many more.

Tell us your story: What was your worst summer job? What did you do with the money you earned?

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Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He currently is a columnist for the City Desk.

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