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Danny Wallace on why summer jobs aren't just for children

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Danny Wallace
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Danny Wallace summer job

“The world is packed with jobs that I don’t want to do for ever, but just for the summer”

Colin is delighted because he’s made a decision.

“I’m doing a summer job!” he says, and he says it with such gusto that I am immediately convinced this is completely normal.

But then I frown.

I thought summer jobs were something kids did.

Not grown-ups who already have jobs. It’s like having dinner somewhere, and then halfway through having a pizza delivered.

Yet Colin is adamant: he’s going to take a break from being self-employed and instead be other-employed, just for the rest of the summer.

I am initially confused by this, but something about it fundamentally appeals to me. A working holiday, where the work is totally different.

I am filled with romantic images of myself, rising from my desk and locking my keyboard in a cupboard, to do what I was always born to do: to work the land, toiling in the fields, wiping oil from my fingers using a carefully chosen hygiene gel, while fixing tractor wheels with a big child-sized spanner.

Or something I could actually do. Just for the summer.

That’s sealed it. I’m sold.

It feels like the sort of thing Google or someone would encourage. “All employees have to take four weeks off to perform tree surgery or learn to be a potter.” And the possibilities are endless. The world is packed with jobs that I in no way want to do for ever, but just for the summer. Maybe I could work in a key cutters or be a park warden. I could be a postman or a high-court judge or Rylan from The X Factor. I worked at Argos when I was a kid and like to think I still have all the moves, though life’s about moving forwards, not backwards, so it’d have to be Head Office.

There’s a bookshop in Scotland called The Open Book that lets you stay in the flat above it by night, and run the bookshop by day. How fun would that be? You get to curate the books, do the displays, recommend what you like.

You could make the whole bookshop about spiders if you wanted. But crucially, you get to pretend that you’re a bookshop owner.

Imagine if every company had to let you do this. Just for the summer. Imagine if every year, you could stop whatever you were doing for a while and do something completely different. Imagine the cleansing effect on the mental health of the nation. Sure, the economy might tank, but it’d be fun.

“What’s the job?” I say, my interest now piqued.

“Boat driver!” he says, and he gives a double thumbs-up.

What? Wow!

“You’re going to be driving a boat?”

“Tourist boat!” he says. “Up and down the river. I’m going to be a sea captain, Dan!”

He is incredibly pleased by this, but although I am initially wowed and even envious of it, I remember that this is Colin, and that on reflection, the last thing that would help the mental health of the nation would be knowing that somewhere out there, Colin might be driving a boat.

Still. I must not rain on his parade. What he is doing is to be commended. We should live in a society where we are free to blend ourselves into other careers, other jobs, all working in a free and fluid way, no matter the effect on public safety.

“But… have you ever driven a boat before? And is ‘driven’ the right word?”

“Dunno. Sailing. Whatever. And no, but how hard can it be?”

He has a point. But still. Surely there are… rules? I mean, free and fluid is fine, but it’s not like you could just get a summer job as an airline pilot.

“Don’t you have to have training? Aren’t there laws? What about insurance?”

“Dunno.”

“You don’t know?”

“I think it’s fine. There’ll be another fella there, doing commentary and making jokes about buildings, so between us it’s cool. I met him in a pub by the river and he told me about his boat and I said, ‘I like boats’, and he offered me a job driving his boat.”

I am trying to remain convinced that summer jobs are a good idea, but I am struggling.

“Colin, you’ve never driven a boat.”

“Again, Dan – HOW HARD CAN IT BE?”

Anyway, to cut a long story short, this column has really just been a very long-winded way of saying that if by some twist of fate you’re thinking of using a tourist boat anytime soon, perhaps don’t.

Just for the summer.

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