See Tyler Cowen, over at Marginal Revolution, talks about working in a grocery store, but mentions he never actually dug ditches or anything like that. My story is similar, except I actually dug ditches for a summer, was a plumber’s helper, so had to handle sewage piping and help with sewer work. I’ve been in ditches that filled up with water in under a minute because we broke off the feed at the main, and been told “You think this is bad? Imagine having to do this in January.”
After that, in junior and senior years of high school, I worked for a well known Philadelphia meat packer stamping expiration dates on sausages. Once they came out of the freezer, the clock started ticking, so I got the dates on the next day’s trucks for delivery. I had a stamp gun and was pretty good about using it. But I can relate to a lot of Tyler’s stories about being the awkward kid in the shop.
I worked with teamsters. One day I was busting one of our route salesman’s balls, as the warehouse guys often did (we weren’t union, but the drivers were). He was a stout polish guy who was built like the truck he drove, who then proceeded to pick up my (at the time) skinny teenage ass and hold me over the dumpster, to remind me of my place. I lied about my age so I could get certification to operate a forklift.
Those were good times, but it’s what convinced me to start taking getting into college more seriously, and be serious about what I wanted to do. These days a lot of kids coming out of college haven’t ever had to hold down a job before, and even fewer ever did anything physically demanding. Not sure we’re better off for it.