Vail Daily columnist Allen Smith: Money for nuthin’ | VailDaily.com
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Vail Daily columnist Allen Smith: Money for nuthin’

Allen SmithVail, CO, Colorado

It’s that time of year again, when newly minted college graduates flood the work force with their shiny, new bachelor’s degrees, headed for the first wrung on the ladder to the American Dream. But unless they’ve already been recruited by a high-falutin’ Wall Street investment firm, new graduates will be faced with duking it out with all of their other classmates, as well as thousands of military veterans and laid-off middle managers who have been unemployed for the past five years. It may come as a surprise to some, but there is a paucity of good-paying jobs for people with bachelor’s degrees in comparative French recreation. But fear not. If you’re humble and willing to toil under a variety of adverse conditions to get your foot in the door, there’s plenty of work out there.When I started college, my parents agreed to pay for my tuition, room, board and car insurance — at least until I graduated. Once I left campus with my diploma in hand, I was on my own. But I wasn’t frightened. I knew that someone out there was clamoring for a bright, young man with my skills, and all of those late nights in the library would finally pay off.The first job I landed was working as Cluckee the Chicken at Magic Mountain. My job entailed dancing around in a bright yellow, 7-foot chicken costume (feathers and all) in 110 degree heat, passing out fliers to visitors as they entered the searing asphalt parking lot. Even though it was sweltering inside my chicken suit, it paid well and had lots of benefits like free, unfettered access to Lex Luthor’s Drop of Doom and Yosemite Sam’s Flight School.After the summer season ended, I started working in the criminal investigation field as an apprentice for a crime scene cleanup crew. Sometime after the “Law & Order” and “CSI” boys left, it was my job to pick up all of the body parts, remove the blood stains and scoop up the fluids that ran like a river through the house.I didn’t feel that my college education prepared me for that type of work, so I asked to be transferred to another department that was more in line with my degree, like the Porta Potty department. I followed every weekend circus, carnival, rodeo, drag race and rock festival, emptying the portable toilets and making sure they were stocked with plenty of toilet paper and paper seat covers. It wasn’t much better than working a crime scene, but at least it was outside.By the end of the year, I had my fill of body fluids, so I decided to pack my VW Bug and head for the high country. Winter was rapidly approaching, and I knew that with my degree, I’d have no problem landing a job as an apprentice ski lift operator at Mount Snowsalot. In the beginning, working as a lift operator was oodles of fun. I got to spend every day outside shoveling snow, picking up overweight women who couldn’t get up and watching everyone else have fun — all in exchange for one free day of skiing a month. Three months into the ski season, I was promoted to supervisor of the mid-mountain unloading station on Chair 1 — most likely because of my academic achievements and the prowess I demonstrated on the job. They didn’t let just anyone handle that level of responsibility. My job was to ensure that guests skied down the ramp safely, clearing the chair, and on to the beginners area. To counteract the insidious boredom that inevitably crept into my day, I built a large ski jump at the bottom of the ramp, shaped like the Lost Pyramid of Giza — the same pyramid I studied in freshman world history. As the skiers hit the jump, it launched them into the air at 45 degree angles, depositing them into two heaps on either side of the ramp. It was loads of fun and supplied me with hours of entertainment until someone complained to management. I thought for sure they’d reward my creativity with another raise and promotion, but instead they banished me to the beginner’s rope tow for the rest of the season.When the ski area closed, I moved back home with my parents and once again started my job search. I managed to find a series of challenging positions through one of the local temp agencies. For the next six months, they sent me on an endless stream of two-week assignments at the Home Depot, Gas Depot, Lumber Depot, Plumbers Depot, Video Depot, Glass Depot, Office Depot and every other type of do-it-yourself store that used college-educated, unskilled laborers — some with masters degrees and Ph.Ds. Then it was off to another series of short-term assignments as a service station attendant, doughnut maker, taco slinger, dish washer, ball bearing counter, road kill remover and a telemarketer for a cemetery. I liked calling people at dinner time to discuss their immediate plans after death, but eventually quit when I discovered how hard it was to generate repeat business.After two years, I managed to find a bonafide career with a firm that was looking for someone with my credentials — someone who was young, college-educated, impressionable, obedient and willing to work for less than $8 an hour. The same things employers are looking for today.Allen Smith, of Vail, is the author of “Watching Grandma Circle the Drain” and “Ski Instructors Confidential.”


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