Before They Were Teachers – Part 1
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Most of us never give a second thought to teachers’ lives, past and present, outside of the classroom. It can be difficult to envision them as anything else besides the figures that teach us everything from mathematics to science to practical life skills, giving us papers to write and tests to study for. To shed some light on this subject, I decided to go around asking various teachers around the school alternate job experiences they’ve had throughout their lives.
Mr. Cogdill had a job as a Port-a-john cleaner while he was in college. His friend’s father got him the job, and while the pay was great, “to say the job was brutal is a wild understatement.” They used suction tubes to extract all the waste from the portable toilets, and he recalled the time when one of the tubes burst sending excrement flying everywhere.
Mr. Lancaster was a marine for four years, starting ten days after he graduated high school. It gave him the opportunity to travel all over to places such as Europe, Japan, Africa, and South Africa. He remembers having to sleep in the mud and rain outdoors as the worst part of it, and it makes him all the more grateful to have a home with a roof over his head now. His most vivid memory was the boot camp experiences, especially one time when he got into trouble. Once he was soaking wet, they had him roll in a sandpit until he looked like a warped powdered donut, do countless pushups like that, and then he was ordered to stand on blacktop until he sweat off all of the sand on him.
Mr. Wertz worked as a busboy and short order cook in a deli while he was in high school. While he got free subs/food whenever he wanted, he did have to deal with smelling like food after every shift, and he recalled getting fry grease all over his clothes and under his fingernails which was by far the worst part. The deli was located just outside of his hometown of Montoursville in a town ironically called Jersey Shore, Pa. He shared with me that one night, a man came in asking where the casinos and beaches are, and he had to break the news to the guy that he went to the wrong Jersey Shore and that he had to drive six hours more to get to the right one. This happened twice more while he worked that job.
While he was in high school, Mr. Maher had a job at the Bergen County Utilities Authority. He was part of a grounds crew assigned the task of de-weeding a massive plot of land in the middle-of-nowhere meadowlands, which he said was done for “absolutely no reason”. He weed whacked during the hot summer for hours at a time wearing a heavy jumpsuit, which he confirmed was the worst part of the job. He was also required to operate a massive manual transmission dump truck at times, using it to pull up to cars coming onto the property to stop unauthorized commuters from driving through the property. Since he had no clue how to drive a manual transmission, by the time he got the truck moving, the commuter cars he was supposed to stop were already long gone. He did admit that he would kill time by throwing bricks at catfish swimming in the various mini lakes around the plot of land, with that and the paycheck being the only perks of the job. One time, he took one of the catfish he killed and used it to prank a co-worker who consistently slept on the job. He placed the catfish on his co-worker’s stomach, who woke up screaming when he saw this mangled, dead catfish on top of him.
Prior to teaching, Mrs. Burke had a completely different career in the hotel industry. After graduating from college with a degree in hotel administration, she managed computer systems and integrated technologies into hotels for 21 years. She started in Chicago, went to Hawaii, and finished in New York City. She remembers being able to live in all those places being the best part of the job. Her worst memory was dealing with the fear that all technology on the planet was going to crash in Y2K, and having to come in from her maternity leave on New Year’s Eve to assure everyone that that was not going to happen. She also recalls working at a hotel across from the World Trade Center on 9/11, and in its aftermath letting people come in to call home.
Ms. Schram spent five years from high school into her first year of college working as a counter girl for a Chinese Restaurant in Mendham, New Jersey. While the best part about it was the free food, she often had to deal with overly rude customers over the phone. The chefs always used to joke around with her, giving her a massive plate of food for dinner trying to guess how much of it she could actually eat, almost like a contest among them. She recalls one memory in particular of someone calling in for exactly $543 worth of takeout, and when said customer came in to pick it up it was Whitney Houston and her husband Bobby Brown. She distinctly remembers Whitney dressed in a Campbell’s soup can patterned button down shirt.
Ms. Shack opened up her own business at 23 years old, which she had and was a part of for 13 years. It was a graphics design company, specializing in designing custom logos for invitations, general custom design work, and custom photography. She got to go on tons of trips on business, seeing places such as Florida, Vegas, and New York City, but she dreaded working with bride’s finicky mothers on wedding projects more than anything else. At the point where her children were very young and had to bring them into work, she cringingly recalled all the unfiltered, inappropriate, and unprofessional comments they would blurt out to her customers, utterly embarrassing her.
For three years during his 20’s, Mr. White had a job as a DJ going to gigs such as weddings, anniversaries, and reunions playing music mixes and giving verbal introductions for the couple of the hour. His older brother had the job before him, and connected him with the company. He saw it as an opportunity to see how he handles being in front of groups of people as he was in the middle of earning his undergraduate degree in teaching, thinking that if he can’t handle being in front of groups of people like that maybe he picked the wrong career. While some parties were brutal and having to lug around heavy equipment everywhere was tedious, the great parties with welcoming people made up for it. He recalled working a shift during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the biggest game in Mets baseball history. Being a Mets fan, he ended up getting into a verbal fight with a guest who was an avid Red Sox fan and was gloating, at least until he “miserably watched a ground ball roll through Bill Buckner’s legs” giving the Mets their most famous victory.
To be continued…..