- What I Learned At . . .
- . . . The Motel Room
- . . . The Health-Food Fast Food Place
- . . . Wrigley
- . . . The Fancy Restaurant
- . . . The Bagel Shop
- . . . The Zombie Fest
- . . . The Concession Stand
- . . . The Golf Course
- . . . The School Grounds
I worked at a public golf course in Massachusetts during the summers before my freshman and sophomore years at Notre Dame. Boosted by a recommendation from my friend Austin’s older brother, I was somehow hired. I didn’t know how to play golf. I’d never even picked up a club.
Nevertheless, that first year Austin and I started work in March. On day one, the Greater Boston area was hit by an unseasonable snowstorm. As we walked up to the pro shop, we saw a confused face peering out the window at us. The man’s eyes were wide and his brows furrowed. He was baffled that anyone else was on the premises. We walked in and introduced ourselves, telling him we were new hires.
“Oh,” he said. “Well I’m Eddie. No one is going to be here today so you can just leave. You’ll still get paid.”
Not a bad start.
Austin and I walked back to the car howling with laughter. We still call that day “the five-minute stay for five hours’ pay.”
And so went the rest of the summer. The course was in horrid condition. The greens were yellow. The fairways were rough. The roughs were hazardous. Locals looking for a good time or a cheap round would come by, but rarely was the course crowded. My job booking tee sheets and clearing the driving range could not have been easier.
Filling the downtime was anything but easy. I threw tennis balls off a wall, ate too many chips and checked the same five apps on my phone. More and more, though, I became restless and curious. I asked my co-workers about their lives, their families and the life lessons they learned.
Roy was about five years older than me. He’d struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. He was raw, unfiltered, and scary when I first met him. By the end of the summer, though, he had shared important tips on how to recognize true friends and remove yourself from unsafe situations.
Sean was a golf phenom. He could drive a ball over the back screen of the range 10 times in a row. He was the best at remembering customers’ names and always found something to laugh about, no matter how bad his day might have been.
Steve used to work for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, famous for the Boston subway system, the T. He told me stories about cops who’d follow drunken drivers home to make sure they got there safely. He read a lot of history books, several of which I bought to read myself.
By the end of my second summer, I was sad to go. I still stop by the course occasionally, though the faces have changed. While the work didn’t teach me much, the people did. Every now and again, I think about them and their lessons — for five minutes or so.
David Korzeniowski is a graduate student in the journalism program at Northwestern University. Roy’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.