ALL OVER the world, people are getting ready for that warmest of seasons, summer. Except, of course, in the Southern Hemisphere where it is now autumn. But we in the North can well afford to laugh at their misplaced seasonalities.
In France, fashion designers peddle their latest bikinis; in the United States, cub reporters crowd the beaches for news of the year's first drownings; and in dictatorships all around the globe, armies roll out the tanks for dry season counteroffensives.
At Harvard, of course, students are preoccupied with more weighty matters, namely, getting summer jobs.
The summer job dilemma, like everything else, can be broken down into three basic parts. These are: if, what, and where. First, you have to decide if you are going to work at all this summer. After all, it's the only time of year you can lay a proper base tan. And it may be the last chance you'll have to mooch completely off your parents.
However, if you choose not to work this year, you will have a blank space on your resume that will be difficult to explain to prospective employers. Chances are, you will be laughed right out of their office. You will become depressed and alcoholic. So let's assume you decide to look for work.
You now have to decide what kind of job you would like to pursue. How about working as an investment banker, or as a political aide?
GET REAL. Nothing is worse than some smart-ass who thinks a half-finished liberal arts education is of any value or use whatsoever. Summer jobs only come in two flavors: menial and boring. Behind door I is construction, road work, and painting. Behind door 2 is shuffling papers, adding long columns of numbers, and sleeping behind the Xerox machine. Take your pick.
Exceptions to this rule only prove it. For example, every year about this time attractive advertisements begin to circulate offering high wages for what is described as ethical work. The key word to look for in these pamphlets is "fundraising."
Ethically, fundraising operations are based on the fine distinction between wheedling and theft. As far as wages go, they never tell you what you will earn; quoted figures are absolute maximums. Remember the ads in the back of Marvel Comix that said, "Earn up to $100 per week in your spare time by whistling in the bathtub"? Same deal. Unless you have an infinite number of relatives to pitch to, forget it.
LET'S ASSUME you've settled upon a realistic type of job which you think you can stand. The next decision to make is where you want to work. Perhaps in the sunny splendor of the West Coast? Or in the bustling metropolis of New York city? The United States harbor many regions with distinctive styles, smells, and sights. Every city has its own charm.
On the other hand, every city has its own annoyances as well. Cities are by nature crowded, polluted, and crime-ridden, and inhabitants are expected to shell out exorbitant rents to live there. Nevertheless, most jobs are to be found in the city, so the prospective employee must try to make the best of it. To help you out, I have prepared an updated 1987 edition of the Michelin/Rutger Fury Guide to Metropolitan Living.
Boston. Last year it rained all summer.
Features: racism, abundant precipitation.
Los Angeles. The big fad in L.A. these days is "channeling," which involves paying someone money to talk with a spirit out of the past. For laughs, ask advice from the ancient master, and then say, "Well, if you're so smart, how come you're dead?"
Features: no smoking.
New York. New York City is home to nearly as many fads and trends as its West Coast counterpart. Last year the rage was sucking subway tokens out of the turnstiles. This year, apparently, it's hustling long-distance phone calls made with stolen access codes. In the Big Apple, creativity is king.
Features: knowledge of English can be handy.
Houston. News item: A 10 year-old boy shot his mother and father with a .38 pistol because "they refused to let him go outside to play."
Features: Rich people wearing cowboy hats.
Although this guide is not intended as a complete description of urban living in America, it does try to portray the general feeling. Life, as Hobbes once put it, is "nasty, brutish, short, and the rent's way too high"--a statement even truer today, since the invention of carcinogens and condos.
However daunting the task of working for an entire summer may be, though, remember that after graduation the scene will be even bleaker. For the time being, one must make the best of a bad situation.
Personally, I'm heading south for fall semester at Bolivia U.
Rutger Fury, formerly chief political writer for The Miami Herald, is a close friend of Jeffrey J. Wise.