So bad news first.

If you’re considering getting summer work at a fast food or retail place, it will suck. Supervisors will tell you otherwise, but that’s like the dentist saying it won’t hurt at all. “At all” really means “a butt load”.  

I know from experience after working the drive-thru at an Indiana fast-food franchise from my senior year of high school to sophomore year of college. Where? Uh, I don’t want to use their name because they’re litigious.Our site keeps a lawyer on retainer just in case, but this outfit has the legal equivalent of a tsunami made of chainsaws. Let’s just say it’s one of the biggies.

Here’s what is in store for you.

Cleaning the restroom.The horror…oh, the horror you’ll witness in cleaning the restroom would make Stephen King pull away from his writing desk and say, Whoa, that’s nasty! No port-a-potty or pit toilet can hold a candle (or a match) to fast food or retail restrooms. You’ll need PTSD therapy after a summer cleaning them. 

The joys of constant scrubbing. Grease spills, soda spills and the worst culprit of all, ketchup. As it dries, the sugar in ketchup naturally forms a strong bond with surfaces. In a setting where everyone uses buckets of ketchup and casually tosses refuse away, guess what builds up like maroon shellac on nearly every surface? You’ll try degreaser and bleach, but only elbow grease clears away dried ketchup completely. And sometimes a chisel (the funniest part is you think I am joking about the chisel. I am not).  

No sun, no sky. Just confining walls.This was the worst of all. Fast food places, and most retail businesses, aren’t big on making space for employee comfort. I spent several years eating in a break room that was six feet by six feet, covered floor-to-ceiling in company propaganda and OSHA posters, watching the clock crawl through my shift.  At fast food joints, you work in tight spaces, move in tight walkways, all with the constant heat of the fryer and grill at your back…or in your face. The only time you go outside is to empty trash.

Am I exaggerating about any of this? Not a bit. 

Time for the good news…

I have a line on dozens of summer jobs that, if I could go back to being my nineteen-year-old self, I would have sold a kidney-and-a-half to get. The Lake County Department of Parks & Recreation is filling about two dozen seasonal positions across all of its parks, lasting roughly from the middle of May to the middle of August (perfect for college students).

They’re looking for people who enjoy working outdoors. Chances are, if you’ve agreed with anything I wrote above, that’s probably you. So what’s this job offer that fast food and retail do not?

Uh, for one, how about actually seeing the sky? How about not standing or sitting in the same spot for eight hours? How about not having to stare at the clock as it inches painfully around? How about eating lunch on a picnic table instead of a stool staring at minimum wage posters? How about having a job where your priority is making a county park look pretty? How about a job that will bring good workers back, summer-after-summer?

Here’s a good one—how about coming back to school looking tan and slim, instead of sickly from the grease and fluorescent lighting?

I could go on and on. If you’re looking for work and have basic experience or enthusiasm for working outdoors, THIS is the job you want. You can apply in-person at the Lake County Parks & Recreation Department’s main office at 8411 E. Lincoln Highway in Crown Point (just a couple miles west of Deep River Waterpark), or you can apply online HERE.

I’ve had enough crappy jobs in my life to spot a good one when it comes along. Don’t waste days, weeks or years of your life earning gas money a value meal at a time. I wish someone had steered me toward a position like this, so I could have dug out of that fast food hole where my only fond memory was walking out the door. I didn’t do better, but you can.

Enjoy the summer! (I hope)