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I bought a pair of unbelievably awesome boots. You know the kind I'm talking about - you see them in a store and you absolutely need them, even though it's the middle of August. They're the kind of boots that you need courage and daring to wear in public. They're built and shaped like heavy work boots and enhance my height by a welcome two inches. But there's no way you're ever going to see some burly construction worker wearing these marvels. You see, they're made of this rainbow vinyl material and they flash different colors when I move just like an oil spill in a parking lot. And they come equipped with fantastic, neon orange, glow-in-the-dark laces! As I've indicated, they're very special boots or, in my father's rather dated opinion, "funky and psychedelic." My mom just rolls her eyes and refuses to comment,
Anyway, I used the money I earned at my summer job and I wore them the very last day I worked there. I worked at this horrid water slide park. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of those lucky people whose sole purpose is to tell people when to go down the slide while they lazily sit under an umbrella and listen to a radio. Not a chance. I was only fifteen, so they only called me in for conventions to help prepare and serve food. Not only did I get to work in three different picnic areas, but they let me borrow a pumpkin orange T-shirt, too. (Yes, I do mean borrow. If I had confiscated the shirt, they would've taken ten dollars from my paycheck.) But, no need to fear, none of my frustrations were taken out on any food that you may have consumed! Since it was only my first (and destined to be my last) year there, all the more experienced workers handled the food. When I say I worked in the food department, I actually mean that I mainly hauled ice from the main dispensary to various outlets all over the park in a tiny plastic bucket. If the older workers felt they needed to take a break, I mopped floors, cleaned tables, served customers, and did other chores. Once, on a sweltering July day, I even got to stand over a barbecue and flip hamburgers because, strangely enough, no one else felt like doing it.
All summer long, I sweated, developed calluses, and burned a blistering red. Finally, I rewarded myself with this pair of awesome boots. When I was called into work that fateful August day, I wore my awesome boots to cheer myself up. I didn't yet know that it was my last day there.
I punched in at the ancient clock at exactly 8:13 a.m., two minutes early. Face downward, regarding my boots, I headed to the main building to retrieve my ice bucket. On my third trip back to the main building for ice, sweat had stained my T-shirt, my back ached from stooping, and my boots were chafing my feet. And I'd decided that I hated ice. And I hated water, because we all know it's just ice in disguise.
In the main building, Krystal, my supervisor (for the uninitiated: Supervisor roughly translates into eighteen-year-old on a power trip), reclined on a cooler, chatting with five other kids in orange shirts. They all glanced oddly at my boots. Hah, I thought. I am daring. I am a person who doesn't care what other people think! You can make me carry ice until my back breaks, but you can't break my spirit!
"You can stop delivering ice," Krystal conceded.
Free! Free at last! I nearly fainted from relief but my conscientious supervisor would never leave me with nothing to do. Armed with a new pail and a chisel, I trudged away, deflated and blushing as guests and other employees raised their eyebrows at my tools. Or maybe it was the boots. I tried to smile. I am an ice-hauler demoted to a person-who-scrapes-gum-off-the bottom-of-picnic-benches-and-tables. Each step was becoming increasingly difficult and painful, particularly since my new boots proved to be at least two sizes too big. I should have worn socks, I moaned inwardly. I should have tried them on at the store.
Let's skip this demeaning part of my job and fast forward to my triumphant return to the main building. Oh, my entire body ached and creaked. I was sore and limping. My hair was tangled. I was dirty and disgusted. But weren't those tables spotless!
Hobbling into the main dispensary, I confronted a group of orange shirts surrounding a kid clutching his stomach and moaning pitifully. All eyes, including his bloodshot ones, turned to stare at me and then they fell to my boots with obvious scorn.
I hate these hoots with a passion. I dumped the chisel and the bucket in a comer. Krystal explained, "Matt's not feeling well."
Tell me something I don't know. It's also known as a hangover.
"Go get him a Sprite at the restaurant."
I should have seen that one coming. I trudged across the entire length of the park to return with a small paper cup.
"There's no ice!" Krystal complained, patting Matt on the back sympathetically. I glance significantly at the ice machine that stood six feet away, but she missed my pointed look. She handed the cup to Matt, but he pushed it away, mumbling something about not being thirsty.
"The corner food stand needs ice," Krystal announced. All six of them looked at me so I obediently left. Somehow I forgot the ice bucket, but I didn't go back for it. Instead I ended up in the employees' area in front of the clock. I swear my boots led me there. Well, okay, I can blame that on my boots, but what happened next is totally my fault. Or maybe I should blame my delinquent fingers. My brain argued with itself for about five seconds.
You were planning on quitting when school started anyway. You told them that. But school's two whole weeks away. You'll probably only work two more times in those weeks anyway.
Before the voices could reach a decision, I'd picked up a stubby little pencil used for writing in breaks.
Well, technically, I'm writing in a break. Just an extended one. Won't poor Mr. Jonson be surprised when he read this Sunday night when he's calculating our salaries. I don't suppose they'll pay me for the three hours I worked today.
I printed carefully in the dull pencil. Dear Mr. Jonson, Thank you so much for hiring me. But I have to quit. No rational reason. Bye. Shaking, I almost returned the card to its slot. Then I hastily added P.S. I'll return the T-shirt ASAP.
I headed for the nearby gate, hoping fervently that nobody would see me. My hand grasped the latch. I was almost free when my boots glinted in the sun. I smiled and a mischievous idea permeated my brain. I had to run back, not an easy feat in my boots. I retrieved the card and a pencil. I scratched out P.P.S. I AM NO ONE'S SLAVE FOR MINIMUM WAGE. Suppressing a giggle, I dashed for the gate again and left it clanging behind me that last time.
Exhilarated, I flew across the street, nearly getting flattened in the process by a truck. Panting, I disappeared into the bushes bordering the small pond. I plopped down on a rock. Glancing down at my watch, I realized I still had hours before my father arrived to pick me up. But I couldn't call home. My parents have a strong work ethic. They both hate their jobs, but they go every day. How could I explain to them that a pair of boots made me quit?
I went through the complicated process of untying and yanking off the boots. I cradled them in my lap as I submerged my feet in the icy water. Well maybe water isn't too bad in its liquid form. Sighing with relief, I relaxed and waited.
Honestly, I'm not bitter. I'm smiling as I write this. I got a pair of really awesome boots out of this deal, just in case you hadn't figured it out yet. However, next year I believe I'll usher at the movies or bag groceries. Or maybe I'll sell shoes. 1