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A Summer You Won't Be Able to Forget

By Hally Pinaud

Almost everyone has that one summer job that was so horrible it sticks with them forever. Maybe it was the heat or the customers, but something about the job was just dreadful. Recently, Experience polled readers about their worst summer jobs, and here's what they had to share.

Most people have had at least one really, really bad job. It's almost a rite of passage for high school and college students. Free for the summer, they often take whatever they can get--a choice that sometimes means the worst of the worst in terms of work. Usually, by the time they realize just how bad the job is, summer is half way over and there's little choice but to stick it out until August. In the interim, though, many students build unforgettable summers around some pretty heinous work.

Food service may be the quintessential rotten job among students seeking work for the summer. More than one person said they learned to hate scooping ice cream. Fast food places and cafeterias were also unpopular summer destinations where the kitchen is "usually hotter than it is outside" according to LaReese from Western Illinois University. Waitresses and waiters also said they had some bad work but Mairi from Michigan Tech did note that the tip money paid for her text books.

More than a few respondents admitted that their worst summer jobs involved working with children. Sarah from Gettysburg babysat a little girl who threw rocks at her, and Ashley at Princeton taught "petrified" children to swim. Retail work was also a least favorite; from pet stores to toy shops, these jobs usually promised extreme boredom, annoying customers, and nasty tasks to go with employee discounts.

Many who were lucky enough to stay on campus ended up doing a lot of custodial work--sweeping floors, cleaning classrooms, grounds keeping, and for the very unlucky, like Michele, scrubbing residential buildings. "College students are pigs!" she said, "Their apartments smell like old shoes and beer.?" Thankfully, she spared the rest of the details, but cleaning at any school would definitely be a dirty job.

What was the worst of the worst? Factory work, by far. Robert at the University of Maine vacuumed eels out of the drains at a paper mill--a job he said was "disagreeable," in the understatement of the century. Deborah at Central Michigan stood for up to twelve hours a day working at a pickle factory and learned to hate the "repetitive work." Jess from Mount Holyoke had the unenviable job of supervisor at a tampon factory. And the weirdest? Joanna from Bradley University counted worms for bait to save money to go to Disney World.

Despite all these rotten summer jobs, most students admitted they learned from the experience--patience, camaraderie, and the value of a dollar among other virtues. More than a few said they were very grateful to be going to college as a result. Finally, if nothing else, they could all look forward to a hard-earned paycheck at the end of a long week!

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