Monday, October 22, 2012

A Summer Ago

Last summer was the summer I graduated from college. As excited as I was to venture forth to my perception of the real world's open, expectant arms, the only job I got was that of a mosquito larvae killer. I'm sure that I have discussed the job here before, but one day I took a camera with me. And today I will share pictures I took of my day.

Before the pictures started, my day began at 6am at our (Clarke's) office/ home base in Manassas, VA. Given that the day was without a rainfall hindrance, co-workers and I receive our sections of Fairfax county map to cover for the day. We grab about 30+  bags containing 40 sacs of the biological larvicide called Vectolex that we will be using for the day (15+ bags to each person). After stuffing those 30 or so bags into our respective company bikes, we lift those into the beds of our truck(s), and head toward the ever- worsening traffic on route 66 West back toward Fairfax and the sections of map we are to cover.

Let's get this day going!
After dropping my coworker off on his map, I drive around to find where on my map I should start.
Also, this job made my arms skinny.
Good enough.
Then I unload this puppy, and contemplate my strategy to knock the map out. What a beaut...
I have a company gps/phone to note when I toss each packet found in those white bags you can see in the pannier.
Inevitably, this muscle straining steed would have a number of breakdowns (not far from the number of breakdowns it would cause me to have) and I would have to get to the nitty gritty and fix what wouldn't stay fixed.
Somehow, that third chainring couldn't seem to catch that chain.
The days were long. I would ride for 5-6 hours covering up to 40+ miles of whatever Fairfax county had to give me that day tossing up to 600+ of those Vectolex packets down the curb-side drains (catch basins). I would miss a lot, but my throwing technique somewhere between that needed to toss a throwing star and frisbee rendered me some good numbers for the days.

Everything would vary with the type of map I had... hills, traffic, catch-basin density of the map, residential versus commercial, my legs, my mind, my co-worker's work ethic and motivation.

Red dots covered the sections of maps noting where catch basins were to be located. A red slash through the dot denotes a successful packet toss down the drain. A circle was put around ones that were not there, and triangles were placed to show uncharted catch basins. We were supposed to mark our travel along the map with highlighter, but that horrible waste of time only slowed me down on the bike on top of having to press a button on that phone of ours every time we tossed... no thank you. Just be happy I get better, honest numbers of tosses.
This map is clear! 
Salt lines... you should see my shorts from that summer... not to mention tan lines.
Anyway, once it was time to head back I will have received a call from my coworker as to where would be good to pick him up.
Don't look at me, bike. I hate you.

Long day, folks.
This job had some obvious set-backs. 1. It took a lot out of me. Physically, riding 5-6 hours in the 90-100+ heat and humidity of the Northern Virginia summer was draining. 2. Sure, I didn't have a night-life, girlfriend, or much else to do apparently, but it also took away from my cycling outside of the job. I couldn't train for racing while the stop-and-go heaving of that company bike was going in for most of my days. Simply... 30-40 miles in 5-6 hours is not training. 3. I HATED hills. They were made so much worse with that 30lb+ bike and all of those bags to toss. I had to stop and start both up and down them. Not cool, ya dig? 4. It lost it's fun and novelty after a bit. Sounds like a cool, perfect job for a cyclist, but for a guy that wants to train and race, it kills the legs. 

However, I will say that looking back, there were obvious advantages this job had. 1. Novelty. Sure it waned on me, but it is quite the conversation piece. 2. The pay was actually pretty good. At $11/hr, that was better than my next, retail job for a while. 3. I could escape. My days were long, but they were my days. I could go as fast or as slow as I wanted and I LOVED hills (they made me work hard and suffer as a cyclist). The only things I had to deal with was the map, missing the target on my tosses (especially by only like an inch - having to stop my momentum to turn around to only kick or pick back up and re-toss the little packet), and the pathetic bike my legs pumped away at (and okay... sometimes dehydration, exhaustion, mental and physical burnout, sweat down to my skivvies like I had just jumped in a pool, and the occasional lazy coworker or two). 

Writing this post out makes me think - maybe I should do again it next summer... The time since, working retail, is wearing on me in a number of ways (no pun intended). It actually might be really good for me to taste this kind of summer freedom before I really head back to school full time. I'll put more thought into it and I'll let you know.

I said to myself during the job that no matter how tough the day was, looking back I would rather be out riding and suffering there than be unhappy somewhere else. Indeed there were more bad days than good, but the good always made up for the rest and I appreciated it.

And I must say that holds true on all accounts, friends.

Thanks for reading.


  1. It's pretty cool they based "Premium Rush" after your summer work though. JGL was spot on.

    Glad to see some updated posts here!