OK, well I wasn’t EXACTLY a migrant worker.
Since I am out of work at the momento, I have been thinking about a few of the more interesting job experiences I have had in my life. I think numero uno would absolutely have to be the summer I sorted cherries in Northern Michigan. This is the job that made me realize why I needed to go to college. Growing-up we had a cottage on South Lake Leelanau where we spent every summer. One year my best Traverse City friend and I were searching for a summer job, so her mother hooked us up. We were to sort cherries (Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World after all!) for 10 hours a day for a 6 week period. We started at like 7am. The job consisted of standing at a moving conveyor belt and picking-out and throwing away the yucky (brown, rotting, damaged) cherries. It was grueling work and everyone else (except for the supervisors) that worked at the small plant, and outside actually picking the cherries were Mexican migrant workers. None of them spoke any English. I feel kinda bad about it now, like I was stealing a job that someone else really needed.
My friend and I would listen to our Walkmans all day and shout back and forth to each other, “Change it to (this) radio station!” when a good song would come on. We wore regular clothes…shorts, t-shirts and tennis shoes, a huge plastic apron, plastic gloves, a mask and a HAIR NET (ugh). When we got home in the afternoon, exhausted, we would leave everything on, including our shoes and socks, and dive into the lake to clean off. The Mexican ladies wore nice normal clothes…slacks and a blouse, and didn’t wear aprons. They never got a drop of cherry juice on them. I remember it running down my legs.
The very first summer my mother told me that I was going to get a job was a little traumatic for me. I think I was 16 years-old. A job? Huh? I was used to fabulous summers lounging in the sun, reading and swimming. So, we drove over to Leland, the charming harbor town on Lake Michigan and I started to apply for jobs. I was thinking, if I am going to work, I am going to have a glamorous job! No uniform for me!
I decided that I wanted to be a hostess at The Cove, a beautiful, upscale restaurant overlooking the dam right in downtown Leland. I got an interview, and I was told they would call me. Of course I made a follow-up phone call but they still hadn’t decided or the manager was out of town or something.
At this point my mother was over it. I had been lying in the sun for weeks and I still didn’t have a job. She had been pressuring me to go to the one place I was most afraid of working and the one place I would be guaranteed to get a job…McDonald’s. Now let me say that I now think McDonald’s is a great place to work, and um, sorry, but I love the food, but at that age, I was a snobby girl from Ada, Michigan and the thought of working there just made me want to die. My mom dragged me there kicking and screaming (and literally crying) and of course I was offered a job on the spot. I told them I would call them with an answer in the afternoon. I went home, devastated, and called The Cove. The assistant manager went into the office, found my application and said that it had “Hired’ written on it. Salvation! So my mom made me adorable cotton summer dresses to wear and I normally worked in the evenings so I would lie in the sun in the mornings and in the afternoons I would go to work, very tan, very blond and wearing a brand new dress. I worked there for 2 or 3 summers, and so did both of my brothers.
Well, I had better stop writing and get to looking for a job…hmmm…I wonder if McDonald’s is hiring here in Cancun?