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Unless you’re a trust fund baby or an offspring of the independently wealthy, you likely had a summer job while you were in school. I know I had a variety of summer jobs and the experiences could be turned into a novella someday. Hmm.

While many were mundane, most of them had their moments of interest along the way.

I can almost hear you and the Pink Ladies and the Thunderbirds singin’
“Uh Well-a well-a well-a huh …Tell me more, tell me more.”

I’ll share one such unique happening from my jobs of summer.

This one is from a summer in my college days when I worked in a shipping department for a local manufacturer.

As summer jobs go, it was OK. It involved packing and shipping boxes to clients in a decent working environment. I even learned a few packing tricks that helped me out later with personal mailings.

It was a department of 7 or 8 workers. I seamlessly filled in for employees during their week or two of summer vacation.

About mid-July, there was one week when nobody had vacations. The supervisor, Mr. Carlson called me into his office the preceding Friday.

He said, “I need you around because two more guys have vacations coming up. But nobody is off this week. If management sees you standing around, they’ll make me let you go. You’re a good worker, so I want to keep you on. So, for next week, I am going to give you a special assignment.”

Now, about twenty or thirty yards north of the plant were several Quonset huts used to store parts. My special assignment was to stay out of plain view of management, reorganize parts that were already organized, and fill an occasional order when necessary.

There really wasn’t a lot to do in the hut I discovered when I arrived for work on Monday. After a quick mental inventory, I learned that some of the parts were roundish plastic balls and since nobody else was there and not much else to do for the week, I decided to make a life decision. I taught myself how to juggle.

I dropped a lot of balls at first but soon I progressed from 2 repetitions to 10 to 20. I set my personal goal at 50 by week’s end. Not that I wanted to go to the circus or anything, I was just trying to keep myself sane.

Now in this factory, the guy who drove the forklift was higher in the food chain than the other workers. Jose was the forklift driver.

While exiled in the Quonset Hut, occasionally Jose had to retrieve parts for an order. He’d wheel the machine into the hut flamboyantly declaring, “Jefe Jefe, I’ve got a HOT one.”

I’d pull some plastic parts of the shelf and fill the order for Jose.

He’d smiled and politely say, “Gracias.”

I’d reply, “Your Welcome.”

Then we both nodded and smiled.

As the week progressed, we bonded. Jose must have felt for my exile to the hut because he’d stop by to chat on occasion.

Personally, I didn’t care about the solitude. I was getting paid $5.25 an hour to learn how to juggle. But, every day, I’d hear the familiar whir of the forklift, then hear Jose saying, “Jefe Jefe, I’ve got a hot one,” and I’d fill the order.

On Friday, my week long banishment was about to conclude. I was up to a consistent repetition of 40 juggles by then and the shelves looked pretty good.

I recognized the familiar whir of the forklift.

Now if you ever watched “That 70’s Show” on TV, what ensued won’t seem that unusual to you, given the culture of that era.

True to form, Jose came in the hut, albeit a little later than usual, about 4 PM, an hour before quitting time. He rang out his familiar greeting, “Jefe Jefe, I’ve got a hot one.”

Then he looked over his shoulder to make sure the coast was clear and added with a grin, “I’ve got a hot one …and seex cold ones.”

He pulled a 6 pack of cold beer from behind the forklift and we cemented our friendship in the Quonset Hut over the brew until the shift was over.

That was my favorite summer job moment. I welcome you to share yours.

EPILOGUE: I don’t specifically recall, but I think my quest for 50 on the juggling was not achieved. I was up to 47 before the “cold ones” arrived but retained the skill proficient enough to entertain folks from time to time.

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