Fireside with Mr. Fritsch


by David Fritsch
Guest Writer, English Department

What kind of summer jobs did you have as a student?

Ok, I have to admit that I’m probably a little bit of an outlier here, in that I’ve only ever had four jobs.  In my whole life. 

This is my fourteenth year working here at St. Thomas, going back to the Summer of 1998.  I love my job here — if I wasn’t working here, I don’t know what I would be doing.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I always thought it would be cool to do photo analysis for the CIA.  You know, look at satellite photos and stuff, and try to figure out what’s going on in the picture.  Like being a spy, but without the immanent risk of death.  But anyway, I love my job here.

I worked for my dad’s machine shop over summers and Christmas holidays while I was in college.  That was a pretty good job. 

Actually, it was a horrible job.  I did pretty much the same thing all day every day.  It was dirty, noisy, I got cuts all over my hands and burns all over my arms.  My dad came up and told me one day that he sure was glad that I was doing that job for him.  I asked him why, and he told me that the last guy he hired to do that job, he paid him $14 an hour, and the guy quit after two weeks.  He was paying me $8 and I had been doing it for two and a half months without complaining.  My dad thought that was hilarious.  I did not.

But for a summer job, $8 an hour, 40+ hours a week was pretty good.  And I got off work at 3:30, so that left plenty of time in the evening to do whatever it was I wanted to do.  I think I saw twenty movies with my friends in one summer.

The down side was that a lot of the people who worked there were knuckleheads, and pretty much every day was exactly the same.

I also worked in the Social Science office at Spring Hill College, where I went to school.  I was the Scan-tron machine, and ad hoc copier repair man.  It paid $4.25 an hour, but I only had to work about five hours a week.  Which meant I didn’t make much money, but I could order a pizza a couple times a month, go bowling, whatever.  And the people were nice. 

One of the Political Science professors I worked for used to nurse injured squirrels back to health.  I’ve no idea why.  But every once in a while, I’d go into his office with a package or something, and he’d be in there with a squirrel.  Which was kind of weird, but he was a nice guy.  He’s still at Spring Hill, and has been working there since 1971.

That job was okay, but pretty much every day was exactly the same.

The first job I ever had, though, was the one I had when I was here at St. Thomas.  For almost a year, from the winter of my Junior year until the fall of my Senior year, I worked at a Kroger.  The one on Fairbanks North Houston and Highway 290.  It finally closed about three years ago, because it was a terrible, dirty store.  I made ten cents over minimum wage, $4.35, and worked between fifteen and eighteen hours a week.

I remember going to apply for a job there.  Well, I remember four things about applying for a job there. 

First, I had to wait in the back of the store, by the restrooms, with about ten other people.  It smelled.  Bad.

Second, of the ten or twelve of us who applied, I was the only one who got hired.

Third, the lady who interviewed me was really nice.  She had a great mass of curly hair, a very pretty smile, and incredibly white teeth.  I do not remember her name.

Fourth, while I waited to be interviewed, I read the book Look Homeward, Angel, by Thomas Wolfe.  It was for my English 3 class, taught by Mr. Schumacher in Room 104, which is right about where Fr. Fulton’s office is now.  All I remember about Look Homeward, Angel is that … well, let’s just say that I was a little surprised by one of the scenes in that book.  That’s all I’m going to say.

I applied at that Kroger because my best friend was working there.  I thought it would be kind of cool to work with him.  As it turns out, though, we almost never worked together, so things did not exactly go the way I had planned.

I convinced myself that the reason we never worked together was that we were the only people who worked there who could add a book of stamps onto a grocery total in our heads.  There was no button on the register for that at the time, so you had to just add six dollars and twenty cents (or whatever it was) on at the end, and ask them for that much money. 

It seemed nobody could ever do it themselves, they would always holler across the store at me to do it for them. 

For those of you who have never worked in a grocery store, it’s pretty much mindless drudgery.  Nothing much really ever happens, and what does happen is usually bad. 

Every once in a while, I’d pull the extra duty of emptying the trash can in front of the store, or cleaning the restrooms.  Neither of which were good jobs. 

The trash can was outside, and since I worked over the summer, it was always sitting outside in the sun all day, overflowing with food, dirty diapers, and who knows what else.  There always seemed to be about a gallon of mysterious white fluid in the bottom of the trash can, and God help you if it leaked on your clothes.  It stank so bad.

And the bathrooms.  The less I say about them the better.

The off-duty sheriff who worked evenings there as a security guard tackled a guy one time.  I think he was trying to steal a lady’s purse, and the sheriff totally blew up the guy and a display of greeting cards with a Grade-A form tackle.

Another one of the security guards, an old guy who just worked for some civilian company, asked me if I had ever killed a guy.  Because he had.  That was sort of creepy.

I got a call at home from the District Attorney one time, which scared me to death.  It turns out that somebody was passing stolen checks in our store.  They caught the guy, and the DA wanted me to call him if the guy’s lawyer ever contacted me about the case.  He never did, which I’m still pretty happy about.

That store was open 24 hours.  One night, I worked until 11:00, and when I left, the lady who worked the night shift, and the overnight stock crew, were the only people in the store.  Which always seemed odd to me, because the stock crew worked mostly in the back, and the woman who worked the register out front was deaf.

Anyways, I left at 11.  About six hours later, a guy walked into the Shipley’s that was next door.  His wife, who was pregnant, sent him after some early-morning donuts.  While he was in that Shipley’s, another guy came in to rob the place.  Something went wrong, and the robber shot and killed the husband.

I quit about a week later.  I still think about that every once in a while, that guy who went to go get his wife some donuts and didn’t come home.  I wish that I could tell you that I learned something from that, or that I effected some change because of it.  But I can’t tell you that.  Instead, it just makes me really sad.

Like I said, though, that job was terrible.  The place was full of knuckleheads, and every day was exactly the same.  And when it wasn’t the same, it was more terrible than normal.

Maybe that’s why I like my job here at St. Thomas so much.  The place is full of knuckleheads, all right.  About seven hundred of you.  But no two days are ever the same.

More importantly, though, do me two favors:  Go have a donut, and when you do, tell your family and your friends that you love them.