Here lies summer, rest in peace
The girlfriend is in the midst of her first work summer.This is her first summer away from home, her first summer where nothing stops and nothing changes.
For years she worked as a lifeguard, spending her summers worshipping the sun like I worship that new Doritos flavor.
Sidenote: You know why Americans are fat? It’s because they can make a fried tortilla chip taste like a cheeseburger.
Anyway, watching her come to the realization that there is no summer break made me remember when I came to that realization. She is still in a good mood and hasn’t cried once, so she is handling it much better than I did.
I was working for a newspaper in Nebraska, in a town of 12,000 people where the last fast food restaurant closed at 10 p.m.
One May afternoon, I was sitting at my desk – having just finished a killer story on a record-breaking tomato that was sure to win me praise during my lunch the next day at the senior center – when I came to the realization that it would never end.
There would always be more tomatoes or quilting circles or macaroni artists the paper could profile.
I admit it, I cried a little.
When I was in school, no matter how bad the classes, no matter how horrible the workload, there was that big pot of lazy at the end of the rainbow, and I could always visualize it.
“Just make it to summer,” became my mantra. Well that and, “Hand-washing is for sissies.”
Summer was sleeping late. Summer was having money in your pocket and staying out late doing what you wanted, even on a Wednesday.
Summer was freedom.
So there I was, living in a town where the median age was 42, just trying to hang on until I could get a visit from my old buddy Freedom. But that summer I discovered that he wasn’t coming. No, my new associate, Work, had taken Freedom for a ride and “Old Yeller”ed him.
This realization is especially hard for the girlfriend because her summers were spent outside. Unlike now, where she is stuck inside wearing pants.
Everyone has summer rituals, either spending every day at the pool or taking that cushy summer job or attempting never to see natural sunlight for three months.
In my defense, I rocked at Mario Kart.
I’m told it gets easier the more summers you spend in the work world, but that first one, man that first summer was horrible.
I don’t think it helped that right at the end of the summer, during the dog days of August, was when the county fair came to town, and I spent every day covering it.
Nothing makes you evaluate your career decision like spending a sweltering afternoon asking a 12-year-old girl – who is taller than you – what her secret is for raising the biggest chicken.
It’s paprika in the feed, in case anyone is wondering.
My friends were very supportive. One of them called one afternoon and asked what I was doing.
“Covering a rabbit show,” I said.
“(Pause) really? (Hysterical laughter) That’s awesome!”
I spent a week covering the fair, and the whole time I was sure I wasn’t going to survive this year-round work thing. But, through the grace of Doritos and $1.50 beer nights, I survived and realized that not getting a break just makes your vacations even better.
So as I watch the girlfriend come to this realization, I know that she will survive, and I hope I can help make it a little easier – unless they stop selling Doritos.
Then we’re all screwed.
Do you have a sad summer story? Tell me about it on the Party of One blog at http://www.nevadaappeal.com/partyofone
• Jarid Shipley is a reporter for the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at email@example.com or 881-1217.