A summer job was an app

Summer jobs come in all shapes and sizes.

Last week, I heard a radio program where a lady announced she worked as a teen doing detasseling.

It had been years since I heard the term. But it’s a way of life for many teens in certain U.S. regions. Google it if it’s foreign to you.

My youngest son, now a high-school senior, has had the benefit of watching two older brothers test different jobs over the years: restaurants, adult care, party work, etc.

He wasn’t sure what summer job would excite him. But an off chance to shovel snow turned into an entrepreneurial summer job option.

The storms of last winter yielded a chance for he and a buddy to hit the streets and shovel snow for a few bucks. As the phone number was passed around for hiring, one person posted the number on this phone app called Next Door. Shoveling business boomed.

Next Door is a social media community like a Facebook or Linked-In.

Unlike Facebook and its planetary reach, Next Door restricts you to interactions with people only within a 4-mile radius of your home.

(Well, it also allows in any advertiser they wish. I’m looking right now at an ad for the Ring – the video camera doorbell/security system company. And there’s a Lowe’s ad, too.)

But most of the information is posts from neighbors – a smattering of things you’d ask a neighbor or see posted on a corner store bulletin board.

Right now on my Next Door page, I see the Bertolinis joined the app this week, someone needs a roofer, someone wants better internet service, and someone wonders why U.S. 224 isn’t paved yet. (My apologies. We live in Poland. Any delay in construction is felonious.)

So when spring came around and talk arose of summer work, I mentioned the success of the Next Door-shoveling event could happen just as easy over the summer. People need a set of hands around the house.

He agreed, and we posted a request for “odd jobs helper” or something like that. It didn’t strike any interest.

We applied some marketing prowess and simply changed the title of the ad to “Rent a Son.”

Work requests boomed. There was even enough work requests for the older brothers to join in.

It earned nice pocket change. They set their own hours. Figured out their own work limitations.

What was neat to experience were the tales they brought home from the people they encountered.

One client was newly widowed with an elderly handicapped son. She needed a trustworthy set of hands around the home for landscaping, furniture moving, back-bending, etc. The work became a routine visit.

Another client was a small business owner who was remodeling his property and a relative’s property next door. Over the hours my son spent working with him in the yard, he imparted business experience that differed from my world.

The neatest client might have been a Vietnam veteran. Weeks after working with him, my son attended a summer camp hosted by American Legion. He had to write an essay on what the Legion could better do to serve vets.

Military was not an experience for me or my wife, nor my parents. My son quickly recognized that one of his bosses – the Vietnam vet – might be a great resource. He asked him, and what followed for my son was a 90-minute look into the Vietnam experience that he never would have had in a normal workplace and likely deeper than any classroom discussion.

We’re quick to kick technology under the bus for its prominence in our lives.

Tech is not bad. It’s how we use it that can be bad.

We had a great summer with tech in the form of the Next Door app. It was a blend of new age tech that allowed for old-school summer work that was manual and personal. Strangers became friends via a vehicle that we’re too quick to accuse of limiting real interaction.

This week, we sat out front of Handel’s (peanut butter parfait, if you’re curious). My son’s classmates were working there. A neighbor now in college was managing the store.

I asked my son what he thought of his summer work experiences vs. Handel’s or something like it. (He had the benefit this summer of also working two days at the Canfield Fair slinging lemon shakes.)

I was surprised at his answer.

He liked what he accomplished and the neighbors he met.

But the fair experience made him realize that he enjoys work when he can interact with many people.

Summer work allows for such tests of life.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.