Daily Archives: June 30, 2010

My first summer job, or Life as a 13-year-old counselor. And John Isner on Letterman

So it’s summer, a time when so many teenagers are looking for their first summer jobs.

I was thinking about my first summer job the other day. It was right before my 14th birthday, and I figured it was time to start earning some coin. For reasons that still aren’t that clear to me, Park Shore Country Day Camp, a place I loved as a kid when I was a camper, hired me to be the fourth counselor in a four-person group. Basically, I started the summer as the lowest possible life form on a day-camp site: the CIT. (This is Park Shore today, below).

I was assigned to a group of 5-year-olds, the first time in my life I had really been around little kids. It was a six-week gig, because for the first two weeks of that summer I was at sleepaway tennis camp (and that’s a whole other story).

My wage for the five day a week, seven hours a day job? One hundred bucks.

For the whole summer. Seriously, I know nine-year-olds making soccer balls in India who have better deals than I had that summer of ’89.

I think one day I figured out I was making, like, 38 cents an hour.

Still, it was a hell of an interesting summer. I taught Jon-Albert Rovello how to tie his shoes. I took away, then reinstated extra ices for Adam Singer at least 412 times. (Ices withholding is the absolute No.1 weapon in a camp counselor’s arsenal; seriously, you’d think there was cocaine in those Mario’s Italian ices, the kids worshipped them so).

And yes, it frightens me, too, that I still remember those kids’ names.

I learned that just because a 5-year-old can act grown up for a few minutes, he can revert back to infancy when it’s time for instructional swim.  I learned that kids never forget a harsh word; weeks later one tow-headed boy repeated back to me something I’d said in anger, and I was amazed at his recall.

I may have worked harder, and sweated more, for less in those six weeks than I ever have in my life. But I learned so much in my first experience at pseudo-parenting.

When the summer ended, and I got my measly tips (the parents had four counselors to thank, you think I was going to get much?), I remember thinking it was the best money I’d ever received. Because I’d worked hard for it. For the first time in my life, I had the responsibility to look after others, and I didn’t screw it up.

You can ask Bob and Chuck Budah (Park Shore’s co-directors, then and now; that’s the ageless Bob leading the charge in the phot0) themselves: I didn’t lose a kid that summer, nor did any of them drown.

I remember on the last day one of the kids thanked me for teaching him something.

I wish I knew then that, really, he had taught me so much more.

**So you can always count on David Letterman to commemorate a history-making event with a really funny Top 10 list.

Here’s John Isner, winner of that 70-68 fifth set match at Wimbledon last week, with the Top 10 things he was thinking during the match. This is great: