My Favorite Job   11 comments

This week’s Blog Hop topic is “What was our favorite non-writing job and why?”

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I don’t know what it feels like to be able to write full-time. I’m not independently wealthy, so I’ve always had to work a “real” job. My first job was working for my mother’s daycare after school. My second job was sweating to death in a laundrymat washing, drying and folding other people’s clothes. I’ve been a waitress, a newspaper reporter, all different kinds of cashier, a janitor, a house cleaner, a window washer, a hotel front desk clerk, a hotel maid, a professional photographer, a tour guide, a legal transcriptionist, a psychiatric transcriptionist, an administrative assistant and an administrator (which is basically an administrative assistant with responsibilities). I went to college to be a journalist, so you would think that would be my favorite job, but it really wasn’t.

Related imageMy top favorite job was as a front desk clerk for a campground here in Alaska. At the time it was the largest campground in Fairbanks with over 500 sites if you included all the tent sites. Norlite provided full-coverage camping – shower, laundry, dump station, motor home wash, water fill station, a convenience store, a liquor store, a small eatery, tourism information, about 40 full hookups, 100 electric and water hookups and hundreds of tent sites. On a full-to-the-gunnels day, we could host 1500 people from all over the United States and many foreign countries. And this site had a lot of tree-shaded sites, the owner’s garden and a watch goose. Yes, she was a goose who thought her job was campground security. If you’ve never had your behavior corrected by an irate goose, you have not learned discipline.

It was a great job! It paid minimum wage, but the owner Sarah was a gourmet cook, so we ate well. The first summer I worked there, it poured down rain from July 4 to Labor Day. And, I mean, POURED. Because we had to leave the office regularly, we were wet constantly — until I got smart and started coming to work in a tank top and shorts with rainproof sandals and a slicker. I’d come inside, hang up my slicker and be dry and warm because all of my clothes were dry. It took my coworkers weeks to figure out my secret.

The tourists liked me a lot. We weren’t allowed to solicit tips, but we could accept them if offered and the tourists would hire me to give them local tours during my off-hours. Sarah was big on us telling them about all the little out-of-the-way places they could visit, the tours they could book, the restaurants they could go to. I could convince tourists who planned to spend one night to stretch their stay to a week and bypass Anchorage entirely (they weren’t missing much).

The other three summers I worked there were HOT! These were also huge years for Alaska tourism, so we were always full. And there was always something going on. Snow on the 4th of July … yes, snow. It was HOT out when some of the visitors came in to tell me that it was snowing. I didn’t believe them because I was covered with sweat, but there really was white stuff coming out of the sky and melting into rain about two feet from the ground. There was the bear that wandered into town and spent a couple of hours rooting through a dumpster some tourist left open. There was the biker gang that stayed with us all one summer and acted as unofficial security. As their leader put it “We don’t piss in our own nest.” They might have been murdering people at the Rendevous, bu they were wonderful to us. One day some guy showed up to demand that we tell him where his wife was. She was staying with us to get away from his abusive self. When he started yelling at me, I wondered if I could get to the shotgun (yes, shotgun) fast enough to get him before he hurt me, but in walked two of the biker gang ladies who backed him out of the office and slapped him silly all the way to his truck. His wife stayed with us for the rest of the summer before she caught a flight to the Lower 48, but he never came back. While some people might think an incident like that was scary (and it was for a moment), it is one of those I look back on fondly.

There was the prostitute who pulled her trailer into the campground every spring and stayed until Labor Day. She was from the Mat-Su area, but had discovered that the construction crews here liked a nice tumble between jobs. Fairbanks has a long history of prostitution and we have our home-grown lot, but Wendy was very professional. We all knew what she was doing, but Sarah had an agreement with her that she would keep it subtle and it was fine. Sometimes the regular tourists would come in all atwitter about “that trailer”, but when asked, they had just realized that there was a different guy there every few hours. She wasn’t noisy or rude. They just thought that sort of thing was illegal, so why weren’t we doing something about it? Sarah would always say, with a wink, “That’s our entertainment committee.” Nobody ever called the cops, and because she worked all hours, Wendy was an additional set of eyes for nighttime campground security.

My third summer there was hot and the forests around Fairbanks were aflame. We had about 1500 people in the campground that day when a big rig pulled up outside, followed by two vans. A couple of men got out and asked if they could rent a tent site and some place to park this huge truck. Sarah and the brash man in charge agreed on three tent sites and she told me to lead them back to the “field”. It was hot and dusty and I had to go 5 mph on the little moped we used to led campers to their site. The young man driving the big rig remembers that my tank top was soaked in sweat and my braid was dripping water (I think I’d rinsed myself with the hose not long before they arrived). It wasn’t a great first impression, but he was amazed by this tiny little girl who took absolutely charge of a giant truck and his father, who is known to be a maverick. I admit that I didn’t see Brad other than as the guy behind the windshield. A couple of days later, we met formally as I was doing a rent audit and then later that day he came into the office to buy ice cream and just wouldn’t leave. We went out that night and the rest is somewhat infamous.

I could tell a hundred Norlite stories, but you should get the idea. It was outdoors, fun, interacting with the public, extremely service oriented, owned by entrepreneurs, casual, a little different every day, and filled with a lot of unexpected encounters. It was also a great place for a writer to get to know people.

And, wow, now I feel like writing a story based on it.

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Posted March 6, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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11 responses to “My Favorite Job

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  1. I take it Brad’s your old man, then?

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    • He is. We’ve been married 31 years.

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      • 31 years. You get less for murder, you know. Jejejejejejejeee!

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      • It feels that way some days, but we’re mostly happy with one another.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And in Alaska, you get 99 years for murder. If you’re a model prisoner, they’ll take up to 33 years off that … not a day more. The incarceration industry in the United States is really something slimy to behold.

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      • OMG. Yeah, I’ve seen the programs that talk about death rower’s. It’s something to try & get your head around, but really quite astounding.

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      • I honestly think Death Row is compassionate compared to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Personally, I’d rather be given a lethal dose of something and not wake up than spend decades staring at the same grey walls. The idea that most of the people on Death Row or in prison are innocent is ridiculous. About 1% have been found to be falsely imprisoned. And, some of those convicted with a life sentence should not be allowed out in public, ever. Robert Hanson, the serial killer, only recently died after serving 20-odd years of multiple 99-year sentences. There’s a schizophrenic man serving 99 years who stabbed a coworker of mine to death. There were witnesses. Those are just two examples of people where there is no question they are guilty and there’s also no question that they will always be a danger to ordinary people if let out into society, so why are we keeping them alive to spend life behind bars.

        On the other hand, America has the largest population of incarcerated individuals in the world. It didn’t used to be like this here and there is a lot that needs changing.

        I think that’s why Trump was so attractive … people were hoping he’d think out of the box on a whole range of issues. I don’t think that will happen, but I understand what they were hoping for.

        Hopefully, in four years, we’ll move in a better direction … away from both major parties to something more sane.

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  2. It was fate that you secured that job!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome times! Thanks for sharing this. I can picture it so clearly.

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  4. If you can’t go traveling, it’s great to have the travelers come to you!

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