I’ve held five jobs in my life. The two in food service – working as a waiter and at Taco Bell – were simply because I was a warm body at the right place and at the right time. The other three – a Boy Scout camp counselor, my time in the Army, and my current job – all had some kind of relationship with the social factors around my life.
The weakest of these relationships was my time in the military. Perhaps moreso than other environments, enlisted troops in the military are not particularly interested in one’s social ties outside of the service. The support of my family – financially during times of marital crisis or with childcare during temporary duty assignments – made things easier and smoother than they would have otherwise. The greatest factor there, however, was my aptitude. The ability to score well on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) meant that I was desirable to recruiters, and was largely related to the enriched environment that I grew up in.
I do not know the other people who applied for my current position back in 2002. It was not social networks; I had passed through Dayton only once before. (Though it is my understanding that social networking is a primary method of finding a job in my profession, especially here.) However, I know one thing for certain. The manager who hired me had done military service himself. For several years, every male in my department had served in some branch of the military. That perception of common values and social class due to our shared experience in “green-collar” work overruled the otherwise dominant social networking paradigm.
I spent three summers as a Boy Scout camp counselor during my teenage years. The pay was minimal, but it was fun work. I enjoyed myself greatly; moments there count among some of my most memorable ones from my early teens. The last summer was different. There were four of us who were close friends. We assembled two A-frame tents into a giant single one. We all worked at the same area, and hung out together afterwards. Towards the end of that summer, I also discovered that we were viewed as delinquents. It was the last week of camp, and one boy was suspected of doing drugs. The other three of us were questioned individually behind closed doors. One of the questioners – an adult I had long disliked as a pompous self-righteous jerk – told me: “If your father had not done so much for this [Boy Scout] council, you would never have been hired here.”
It had never occurred to me that my father had anything to do with my presence there. I wasn’t the best Boy Scout ever – largely because my troop engaged in hazing rituals and thought camping should always be accompanied by shooting animals. But I had always considered my achievements (or lack thereof) as being my own. I had fought bitterly with my mother about our family’s social status, and how I did not think my actions should reflect on them. I believed the opposite as well, even though I had never bothered to articulate it. The shock of that statement stayed with me for the remainder of that week, and for years to come.
I never went back to that camp. Not as a counselor, not as a resident. Being at the camp was the only thing keeping me in Boy Scouts, so my participation essentially ended then.
My moment for schadenfrude came later. The next year that man, the one who said I never would have been hired, was charged with encouraging the teenage boys at camp to watch pornographic movies with him. I laughed darkly to myself, though my parents never quite understood why.