Ten years ago I had a job working at my city’s public pool. I thought it was a decent gig. Every day I would come in and sit at a desk inside the mens locker room and listen to the radio until the kids from the summer camps would leave socks everywhere and show very poor accuracy when pooping. One time I opened a stall and it looked like a bomb went off in the toilet. I’m talking walls and everything. They used their hands.
I remember coming in one morning after it had rained all night and seeing the floor. The whole locker room was flooded. My boss was a washed up football player trying to find his place in society after the game. He walked in, looked at the floor and just said, “Fix it”. Then he walked out literally like bosses do. I had to get one of those squeegee things with the broom handle and push everything out of the conveniently located garage door. It took a long time.
Some of my buddies I played basketball with came over once and one tried to sneak in with out a wristband on. I told him he needed to pay. He left and came back with a obviously trashed wristband. I didn’t say anything because I knew him. Later one of my assistant managers came over to me and motioned to him and said, “Just because you sell a little something, that doesn’t make you hard.” I still don’t understand why this was said to me.
There was a girl that went to my high school that had my same position. She had just graduated that year. She was going to the south for college. She was cute. Actually, just about all of the girls that worked there that summer were cute. That was nice. I probably did more flirting than working.
Near the end of the summer, I was sitting in the main office with my boss, that same assistant manager and some lifeguards. It was a slow day so I think my boss just made something up for me to do. Before I left, the assistant manager said, “He is the hardest working locker room assistant we got”. Now, I was grateful and it meant a lot but looking back I think about how much the job sucked, how I only made $6.25/hr, and how hard I worked and it makes me think about how humbling that whole experience was. I always respect people that work their butts off in crappy positions because I’ve been there. That job enabled me to see that side of business. I promise it keeps me grounded.
Every once in a while, an old black dude in the plant will pull me to the side and tell me he’s glad to see me doing what I’m doing. They always tell me to keep it up because they know it’s not easy. They tell me how they want their kids to be engineers. I always get it. I always appreciate the encouragement. I always appreciate the history. It wasn’t that long ago that I wouldn’t have had this opportunity and they make sure I know it. Especially in Detroit.
My dad always told me that the janitors and garbage men should be highly regarded because they’re the only ones that would take the jobs no one wanted. Those jobs were all black men had back in the day. I hold those old guys in high regard. That’s real hard work. I understand.