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Wanted: Go-Getter for Really Demeaning Job

June 03, 1993|JIM WASHBURN | Jim Washburn is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition.

F or reasons I can only explain later, this column is divided into two parts today. Would half of you please immediately jump ahead to Section B, while the rest of you kindly begin here?

Section A.

If you're a high school or college student, chances are you're looking for a summer job. This column's for you, since if you're an adult you probably gave up looking for a job ages ago ("Hi, gang, Gilligan's on at 1. See you on the couch").

However, if you're just bursting out of school, a "Young Go-Getter," a "Highly Motivated Individual," a real "Work Warrior," then today you stand a good chance of landing a "Really Demeaning Job" in telemarketing, exotic dancing or fast food. Whoops, sorry, don't know how I forgot to mention the challenging world of data entry.

If working these jobs isn't depressing enough, to even get the thing, you first have to jump through flaming hoops in a job interview and show an ability to aim, with at least some degree of accuracy, your private fluids into a beaker.

Remember the song "Maggie's Farm," when Bob Dylan intoned: "They say sing while you slave but I just get bored/Oh, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more"? These days, Dylan's probably negotiating to lease the song title out as the name for a fried chicken chain, and they won't tolerate your being bored.

Here's an actual quote from a recent local employment classified ad: "Grill cook. . . must have enthusiastic interest in food service industry's back of house." What do they expect you to do, high-five the mop guy every time someone orders fries?

You know, it wasn't always like this. Time was when a kid could go straight from grade school to the coal mines. Even in the '60s, there was a plenitude of summer jobs waiting for young folk. You only have to look at the movies and TV shows of the time to get some idea of the opportunities then. You could be a Monkee! You could drive a Corvette from town to town with no visible means of support! You could shack up with Mrs. Robinson!

Even women, who were expected to become housewives, could still carve out careers as a girl from U.N.C.L.E. or a singing nun.

And just look at what a rich selection of jobs Elvis Presley held in his fine cadre of 1960s films. There's: race car driver, fashion photographer, pineapple heir, helicopter taxi pilot, roustabout, Acapulco lifeguard, rodeo instructor at an all-girl beauty spa, and judo expert. Not to mention my all-time favorite, frogman demolition expert, in his 1967 release "Easy Come, Easy Go."

"Frogman demolition expert" really stands out on a resume, and it rolls so well off the tongue. Try saying it to yourself. Now, turn to the person nearest you, and immediately say:

"I am a frogman demolition expert."

Make eye contact and say it earnestly. Thank you.

Section B.

With summer just around the corner, I thought I'd tell you a little about the sort of summer jobs that were around when I was a teen.

Some were just one-shot deals. Once, I washed and waxed a neighbor's huge Cadillac so I could make enough money to buy an album called "Lord Sutch and His Heavy Friends" that featured Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and a number of other hefty buddies of British peer and pop star Lord David Sutch. The Caddy owner was rich, so he made me wax his car twice so he could be sure I wasn't gypping him. I was still waxing hours after it was dark.

I finally plunked down my earnings at Wallich's Music City, brought the album home, and found it was the most whole-heartedly awful record on Earth. It turns out Lord Sutch had only got his famous buddies to agree to play anonymously on an album of rock oldies, on which he then sneakily over-dubbed new lyrics, claimed composer's credit for the "original" songs, and slapped the thing out on the market with his dismayed buddies' names and photos all over it.

The album is now quite a collector's item, so you might want to keep Lord Sutch's regard for veracity in mind when you're filling out job applications.

My first real daily summer job was in a janitorial position I and a friend took at the Fashion Island Robinson's. I liked it in some ways: It was menial enough to free you to think, and ridiculous enough to keep you aware.

Once, during a busy sale day, I'd left my trash hamper unattended to fetch something, only to return to find a very well-dressed elderly woman eagerly browsing through it. This went on for a long two minutes, before she finally looked up aghast and exclaimed, "Why, this is. . . this is trash !" That and the times we'd spend exploding Freon canisters in the loading dock's giant trash compactor made it all worthwhile.

The head janitor, Jake, was the single most unintelligible person I've ever met. I don't know if he came from some lost bayou or what, but I've understood poodles better.

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