After my 8-week service project the prior summer, I had to work for cash moneys. And so in 2009 I obtained a summer position at the public power district. Paying $5/hr more than my awesome position at SuperTarget, I had nothing to complain about except for the general arrogance of the engineers I worked with.
With an American Studies degree, you get used to the fairly standard questions, “What are you going to do with that?” and “So you’re going to teach history?” But the engineers at OPPD regularly asked if—no, more like stated that—after graduating with highest honors from a prestigious university, I was going to become a secretary.
Make no mistake—secretaries, administrative assistants and receptionists do not have easy jobs. Their jobs can be incredibly demanding and involve varied and demanding skill sets. In most work situations I’ve had, the first piece of advice given is, “befriend the secretaries.”
But the question they were asking wasn’t, “What will you do after graduation?” It was a statement of arrogance intended to put me in my place by reminding me that by choosing to follow my interests instead of chasing a money degree, that I would be “below” them on the social and work ladder.
Based on more recent experiences at a different branch of the power district, I’m inclined to believe a company-wide culture encouraged an arrogant elitism and sense of entitlement in the engineering class. When the crafts people asked the same type of questions, it was done in a friendly but apathetic small talk manner. They didn’t care what I was doing with my life as long as I was capable of the work I was assigned in the moment.
The summer dragged slowly on. My primary work involved deciphering engineering drawings and reorganizing repeated work orders by machinery part rather than by craft to maximize efficiency. Imagine a steamfitter and electrician both need to work on the same piece of equipment–say, the boiler of unit one. My reorganization would notify both when unit one was offline and available for evaluation and repair, thus minimizing the likelihood that we’d need to take the part out of service twice.* With over 4,500 work orders to analyze, my summer work was just as thrilling as it sounds.
Like a Rolling Stone · Bob Dylan
Hard Day’s Night · The Beatles
July July! · The Decemberists
Silver Lining · Rilo Kiley
You Don’t Know Me – Ben Folds & Regina Spektor
Back In Your Head · Tegan & Sara
Machine in the Ghost · The Faint
Electric Feel · MGMT
Hi-Ya! · Headlights
When I Say Go · The 1900s
Highschool Stalker · Hello Saferide
Summertime · Kenny Chesney
Dancing in the Dark · Bruce Springsteen
Heatwave · The Who
Where Does the Good Go · Tegan & Sara
Paper Planes · M.I.A.
Put Your Hands On Me · Joss Stone
Yesterday · Atmosphere
Falling Without Knowing · Tilly & the Wall
Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) · Lady Gaga
Buddy Holly · Weezer
The Astronaut · Something Corporate
Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) · Looking Glass
My summer mix anticipated the repetition of my work. From the pedestal-toppling “Like a Rolling Stone” and the work-anthem “Hard Day’s Night,” the mix moves into staccato songs. From “You Don’t Know Me” to “When I Say Go,” Summer Mix 2009 embodies the quick, repetitive movement of menial work with its sound.
The second half of the summer mix is pure summer feel-good songs. There’s nothing special to note about this mix because that summer wasn’t special. My strongest memories of that summer are reading romance novels and speeding to work. With a 7:30 to 4:00 schedule, I didn’t go out much at night. But I did usually make it home for Jeopardy at 4:30. Trebek’s questions (“answers”) are somehow a lot easier to answer than “So, you’re going to be a secretary.”
2009 Musical Highlights:
While I still absolutely love this mix and everything on it, the only musical highlight for me is a classic that hopefully everyone is super familiar with already–“Brandy” by Looking Glass. I named my current car Brandy. It’s not a perfect fit, but it makes me happy.
*This is not a real-life example or scenario–just a gross oversimplification of the process.