Something at The Notorious BHJ made me try to think back to my first job, but instead of remembering my first job, I remembered this horrible summer when I convinced my parents to let me stay home while they went on vacation and I promised my little brother that I would take over his flyer route while they were gone.
I had this idea that if I promised to take over my brother's flyer route, my parents would be more likely to let me stay home on my own, because if I did something nice and responsible like that as a favour, they might be convinced that I had a sense of adult responsibility that I really didn't possess at the time. I was aware of my lack of maturity, but I was smart enough to fake it when I needed to.
I had it in my head that my brother's flyer route would be no problem. It was late July, so I was fairly sure that I wouldn't have to drag around heavy Christmas wish catalogues. I figured that I would head out with a sack of drugstore ads, stuff mailboxes, and get several blocks of extra exercise a couple of times a week, and, in exchange for my good deeds, I would get to have the house all to myself. It seemed perfect. I was going to be fifteen, parent-free, and have a job that mostly entailed going for a walk. Sweet.
The first round of flyers arrived on my doorstep on day two, and it went down almost exactly as I had expected. They were thin leaflets that extolled the value of water pics for better dental hygiene. My brother's route was way longer than I had anticipated, but it only made the beer I was going to steal from my dad seem even more beautiful.
The second round of flyers came around day five of my week of freedom. I was woken up by the the delivery guy thunking them down on the front doorstep. I knew immediately that something was off. Pamphlets advertising discounted televisions wouldn't be loud enough to wake me in my basement bedroom. I approached the front door cautiously, wary of what I would find. I looked out the window and mouthed "Fuck. Me". There on the front step were 150 individually boxed, full-size bars of soap.
Those 150 boxes meant that I had to carry 150 bars of soap to 150 houses — I glanced at the temperature guage — in 31°C (88°F) heat. I thought about my family up at the lake and realized that my decision to appear mature enough to be left alone had sorely misfired.
I loaded up a toy red wagon with half of the soap and hauled it all the way to the end of the block before the surprising heft of 75 bars made me pause. I looked down the stretch of street, calculated the muscular pain and heat exhaustion I would suffer during the six long blocks I had to cover before even getting to the flyer route, and sat down on the curb. I seriously contemplated dumping the soap and pretending like I had never even heard of the stuff.
And then it hit me. I had to deliver this soap. As much as I felt like a huge dork dragging soap around my neighbourhood in a little red wagon, I had fought to stay home alone with this as my promise. If I was ever going to win this sort of freedom again and not completely fall off my big-sister pedestal by losing my little brother's first job for him, 150 bars of soap had to find their way into 150 mailboxes.
That was my first taste of my impending adulthood, and it sucked.
I went back home and whittled my load down to 50 boxes, which I hauled over three trips spent trudging across searing asphalt and shoving soap into sweltering metal mailboxes stretching over several miles of sunburnt suburbia. In between each trip, I lay in the shade in my back yard sipping ice water, waiting for the throbbing swell of sun stroke to ebb away.
By the end of the last trip, my arms and hands were heady with the soap's chemical perfume. My stomach convulsed, forcing me to abandon the wagon on the lawn so that I could hurl in peace behind some junipers.
When my family returned home from their vacation a couple of days later, the blisters on my feet were festering under strips of gauze. I explained what had happened with the flyer route, that I had suffered heat stroke and bloody feet.
"You did it all in one day?" my brother said, laughing.
"Yeah, why?" I said.
"You could have spread it over two or three, you know."
"But I thought it all had to be done at once."
"No, of course not. This is a job they give to little kids like me."
So, all my suffering had been for NOTHING, but do you know what the worst part of the whole deal was? My little brother was trying to save up money, so, as part of my bid for freedom, I had promised not only to do his job for him, but also to do it for FREE.
As far as I was concerned, I was done with birthdays. Maturity could suck it.