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  • It's nearing the end of summer. Some of my friends, friends with children in college, are packing those kids up and shipping them back off to their respected residences of higher learning that they will call home for at least another year. This got me to thinkin' about what summer vacations meant to me when I was in college. And what I came up with is that summer break really meant a shitty summer job.

    I began thinking of my shittiest summer jobs. The jobs I hoped I would earn enough spending money for meals, beer, art supplies, and weed, just your basic necessities for college living, for the next two semesters, until I could return back to my small, Southern mill hometown for the next crappy job that awaited me the following summer.

    It was a tough call deciding which was the worst job I ever had because there were several really, really bad ones. The un-air conditioned sock factory changing labels on socks, or the one in the furniture store moving heavy furniture off loading and unloading docks. The sales clerk job at a trendy but cheap boutique that I thought was really uptown. Hair had to be just so, lip gloss in place, but remarks and glances by the other female workers that could slice a cow's throat.

    I've had my fair share but the job that really takes the cake is the one I had in a box making factory. It's hard to explain, but A.Klein of One Heart Drive, Claremont, N.C., was a factory that made all the heart-shaped boxes that candy manufacturers used for selling and distributing their chocolates in for Valentine's Day. Strange to think there is, or I guess I should say, was such a place responsible for making those boxes in America. But back in the day there was. A.Kleins has since closed down, couldn't keep up with the production cost of foreign competitors which is strange since most of the employees were of Hispanic ethnicity anyway. At least while I worked there.

    I was lured to A.Kleins by the promise of a cushy office filing job by a parental connection. I filled out my application and was hired on the spot, at which time the big boss proceeded to give me a tour of the dimly lit factory floor that roared with heavy machinery and a menagerie of minorities.This is where I would actually be working, not in the coveted air-conditioned nirvana veiled behind two-way mirrored windows. Suckered by the ol' bait and switch. I would be making red velvet-ribbon bows and other fancy trimmings that decorate a heart-shaped Valentine's box outer cover. The last thing I remember the big boss saying was "You're hired, sit here, you get two 15 minute breaks and 30 for lunch. You start Monday. And no talking while you're working."

    The only other thing I remember being said during my 3 month, 8 hour-a-day, Monday-Friday tenure at A.Kleins was out of the mouth of a toothless man named, you guessed it, Toothless Mac. Toothless Mac lived up to his name. He had no front teeth. All eight were missing. The only words I ever heard him say, or maybe the only words that seared my brain with their fiery mental imagery were these: "My woman, she really like it when I go down on her. That's all we do."

    As I recall, there wasn't an exchange of words only a conveyance of my total repulsion that only a self-absorbed college snot that thought she was too good for that kind of work could communicate. I'm not sure why he told me his private business, that part was never explained, but I recall being so completely mortified and how should I say it, grossed out, at the thought of cunnilingus between Toothless Mac and whatever worthy damsel that had caught his cross eye, that I never let our paths cross in the break room after that again.

    That was then, before life had kicked my own teeth out.

    Now I think, that girlfriend of Toothless Mac, she must have been a happy little thing.

    Now I think of the many hundreds of jobs that were displaced when the factory closed for good in a county that touts an unemployment rate of over 8%. I was lucky to have that sucky un-air conditioned, mindless summer job.

    Now I think of what will happen to all those deteriorating, vandalized mills lying vacant in my hometown waiting for a revival of some kind.

    Now, I think, perspective is really everything.
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