❝There's no problem so awful, that you can't add some guilt to it to make it even worse.❞ -"Calvin" in Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
It's a nice morning as I pedal my bike across town. It's cool, and I really enjoy looking at the sunrise. The only downside is I'm not used to getting up this early.
It's 1994, and I'm on my way to my first real job. I got a job working with custodians at one of the dorms on one of the campuses in town. Our job is to clean up the dorms from last year's students and get them ready for next year's students.
I get to work by seven o'clock, and everybody else is already there having coffee and chatting. Work starts at seven technically, but we don't ever do any work until eight o'clock. I'm tired, and they know it, so that let me go off to one of the student lounges to sleep on one of the couches. They'll come to get me when it's time to work.
After my hour nap, we head up to the dorm rooms to take the mattresses out. We have to get them out of all the rooms, to the elevators, and down to the basement, where there will be picked up and cleaned. Besides me, there are two other kids working here. We all got this job as part of the same program to get kids exposed to work. The three of us gamified our job. We have races, seeing who can run the mattresses down the hall fastest, hoping the mattress doesn't clip a door, causing us to get the wind knocked out of us. We make up a game called mattress jousting, where we run the mattresses into each other to see who could stay on their feet.
After goofing off for an hour, it was time to take our nine o'clock break. I'm told these are supposed to be 15-minute breaks, but we sit around and talk until ten o'clock. After the break, we work again until noon, when we get an hour for lunch. Then we take an hour-long break at two o'clock and work until four o'clock.
I'm surprised by how much fun I'm having. Everybody I know hates work. My grandpa comes home dirty and tired. My mom dreads going to work and looks forward to days off. Every television show I watch has characters treating work as if it's a necessary evil.
Yet, here I am having fun. And I'm being paid for it. They pay me every two weeks, and I've never seen over $200 at one time. I can't believe I get this much every two weeks.
But then it hits me. I start to doubt whether or not I earned this money. We're supposed to work from seven o'clock until four o'clock with an hour lunch and two 15-minute breaks. That would amount to seven and a half hours of work. Instead, I'm not sure if I even work five hours even though I get paid for eight. On top of that, I'm not sure my goofing off counts as work.