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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Summer Life-School: Lessons from the Carwash

Written by  Sherri Mandell

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The summer after my senior year, I had one of the most boring jobs imaginable. But since I needed the money, I was grateful to work at anything, even if my job was washing cars for a university that rented out its fleet of cars to its staff and visitors.

I had to be at work each morning at 6 a.m. Getting up was hell, but I saw the sunrise on my way to work in the morning. Part of the problem with this job was that I worked alone. It was a little spooky being there all by myself, plus it was boring (did I mention that it was also boring?).

Now even though this job was totally mind-numbing, there were a few things I found that I could enjoy. I had boots that I got to put on that were like fireman boots. I liked spraying the water hose, and I enjoyed sqeegeeing. I also enjoyed finding things in the cars, things left behind.

Once I even found an old necklace in the car and returned it, and the owner sent me a check for $10.00.

So I got through it. Of course it helped that I had no boss. I played the radio and daydreamed and waited for the time that I could punch out.

The next summer, after my freshman year in college, I worked in a bookstore. At that job, there were lots of people around. Not boring at all. I read all I wanted and I talked to the customers about what I had read. It was intellectually stimulating and socially beneficial, and I didn't have to get up at 6 a.m.

But the boss was cranky. I still remember her showing me how to add up sales. Even though I'd never used an adding machine (yes, this was the 70's), she expected to me to know how to do it instantly.

When I made a mistake, she yelled at me: "I thought you said you were in college. What are they teaching you there anyway?"

During that week she said other nasty things to me.

I wanted to quit. But I needed the money so that I could pay for books for the next year. I shared my feelings with my Dad. He said, "There's no reason to put up with crap. You can always find another job." He said he'd send me some money. "Go ahead and quit."

I did.

I learned something important from my summer jobs.

It's okay to leave something. In fact, sometimes quitting is the best decision.

And I do a great job washing the family car.

Last modified on Sunday, 03 July 2011 10:29
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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

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