I'll bet you've seen those groundskeepers out at golf courses, and thought to yourself "wow, what a great job that would be! Fresh air, trees everywhere, wow!" Yeah, well I thought so too until I actually started working at one. *Shudders* for God's sakes, don't make the same mistakes I did. The following is a typical day in the life of a golf club groundskeeper.
A loud screech penetrates the air, jarring me awake. Still in the throes of dreams, I smack the snooze button and look at the time: 4:45 AM. I roll out of bed, and put on my work "pants" (though gas-and-grass-held-together-by-thread would be a more apt description), throw on my dark blue golf club golf shirt (gotta look good for the rich folk), and stumble into the kitchen to eat a breakfast of crispix cereal, all the time vowing to myself that today I'll sleep in after work and tomorrow I'll quit this lousy job...
I sit on the steps in front of my duplex, waiting for my friend to pick me up (who also works at the course and got me a job there in the first place). I'm bundled up in a fleece coat and two layers of pants, because even in the summer early mornings can be extremely cold, often dropping to 5 degrees C or lower. Sometimes I bring a lunch with me, but today I've got ten bucks in my pocket to buy lunch at the course restaurant, which will get me a box of fries. If I'm lucky.
It really surprises me that we've never got in an accident during the 10km drive to work, because for most of the way there both me and my friend were nodding off. The fact is, you never really adapt to getting up ridiculously early...you just learn to suffer through it. As we drive through the woods, the sun is cresting above the horizon, bathing the Eastern sky in a symphony of oranges and reds and magentas, and all around the mist of morning envelops meadows and trees. I almost fall asleep amid the beauty, until my friend jams on the brakes (on a hill's decline, no less), because some retarded deer didn't feel like waiting .5 of a second to cross the road. Well, at least the car wasn't damaged. Much.
Upon arrival at the "shop" through the employees' entrance, I walk into the employee dining room and see some of the most pathetic figures I have ever seen; everybody who works there, save my friend and I, is either a teenaged stoned pothead or a 40-something male who has given up all hope on life. The following is just a sample of the bright minds working to keep your golf course pretty (names altered of course):
- Jim: He's something like 45, always farting and had this demented look on his face. I once asked him why he worked here, of all places, and he just looked at me and said "well y'know I wouldn't be doing anything else anyways, so I figure why not come here instead." Touche, Jim.
- Kyle: When he's not stoned, he's incessantly talking about pot and its glories. Probably the most incompetent person I've ever seen anywhere. But that's for another node.
- Brian: This guy is the aforementioned Jim's brother. He's very nice, and pleasant, but is the quietest guy ever. You're never quite sure when he's talking, and when he does it's an unintelligible mumble. He also has a tendency to sidle up on you - you just turn around and all of a sudden he's there. Freaky, that Brian.
- Josh: some little fucked up 20-something pothead, who considers himself 3rd boss of the place and has probably quit 5 times (only to come back to the boss and beg for his job back).
We arrive at the place at 5:30, but the actual work doesn't start until 6 AM. We're sitting in the room, falling asleep until our boss, Tim, strides in and starts giving orders. Jim takes the big mower down to 9 fairway, my friend cuts greens 12-18, and once all the jobs are dispensed he just looks at me and says (in his typically Canadian accent), "well, I guess you better go whip a ditch. Start with the one on 11 and work your way down."
Well for those of you who don't know, "whipping a ditch" means taking your industrial-sized weed eater to a ditch, and whipping all the long grass and weeds from it (because the lawn mowers can't reach it. Same goes for around trees). And it's got to look perfect, otherwise you'll just do more of it until you practically collapse.
Oh, I can hear you now. "But isn't whipping weeds fun? I like to do it." Well the fact is, your weed eater is a little wimpy green thing no stronger than a hand fan. The weed eater I'm talking about is about 15 lbs, gives off piles of choking blue smoke and whips at 2000 rpm, so your hands pretty much feel paralyzed. Add that to the fact that you get literally covered in grass, and water too if there's any water at the bottom of the ditch. Then, do this for 5 hours straight. Yeah. Not to mention that the 11 ditch is about 1.5 kilometers long.
So I gather everything I need, gas, gloves, goggles, earplugs and extra wire (for the whipper), hop in the gator ( a little green buggy, made by John Deere. Extremely fun to drive), and drive off to the ditch off hole 11.
Fast forward five hours, to 11:30 AM. I've been whipping for hours, the ditch is almost done, and I'm covered in grass and spilled gas. My back is killing me (from the weight of the whipper), and the exhaust makes the area around me 5 degrees warmer (though it's like 35 C outside already). I'm starving, and I haven't had a break, since our boss combined our morning and afternoon breaks with lunch to make one big break. Luckily, I see my friend coming over the hill in his Gator, because it's time for lunch. We go to the clubhouse restaurant, and order some much-needed grub. Lunch ends at 12:30, and work ends at 2:00, so that hour-and-a-half is usually pretty lazy. Nobody does much of anything, then we go home tired and hungry and cranky.
Oh, but I hear you. "That doesn't sound so bad. A little manual labour never hurt anybody! You're just a wimp!" Well, I got used to the manual labour, that's not the half of what's bad about working at a golf course. The following is a list of the crap I had to go through there, and this probably happens at any other "exclusive" golf club:
- Patronage: The aforementioned Kyle's father was a member of the Board of Directors of the club, who is responsible for keeping Tim's (the boss)job. So naturally, this guy Kyle would fuck up practically everything, and never get punished or have to do whipping. I mean, this guy once filled up his gas tank from the giant tank out front while smoking a cigarette. We pointed it out to him, and he just looked at his smoke and said "hehehe, oh whoops!", then dropped the cigarette on the ground, nearly igniting the gas. He barely even got a talking-to for that.
- Shitty Hours: We had to work 5:30-2:30 every weekday and every other weekend, which meant that sometimes you had to work 12 days straight like that.
- Sadistic boss: No breaks meant no breaks. You were expected to do everything perfectly right from the first time you did it, and if you had to take a whiz you'd better do it behind a tree because you didn't want the Boss to catch you taking a break at the bathroom. God, no. Same goes for taking a drink of water from the many coolers scattered around the course (in the 35 C heat, mind you).
- Outrageous amounts of black flies: I once killed over 40 flies buzzing around my head in the space of an hour.
- Needing seniority to do the better jobs: This is why there's such a high turnover rate at golf courses, it's because those just hired never, ever get a chance to anything other than whipping, and emptying the trash cans around the course. I had been there for over three months,with several employees below me, and still the boss wouldn't teach me how to cut greens, or even let me rake sandtraps.
- Crappy Pay: 7 bucks an hour, plus 50 cents more per year for every year you work there.
- Constant fatigue: For the better part of three months I was literally always on the verge of falling asleep.
- Elitism: Most of the golfers are nice, but there are some who just look down upon you, and they make it known. That can just ruin your whole day.
Needless to say, I quit that job 2 weeks before school started. I was told to go whip for the fifth straight day in a row (though I had been there for over three months and there was plenty of new employees to do that), so I just said "Fuck this, I quit", and left. It was an extremely liberating experience.
I had managed to get about fifteen hundred bucks from the course, most of which I spent on one hell of a good four-day trip to Toronto (but that's another story).
So remember, take my advice and DON'T EVER WORK AT A GOLF COURSE! EVER!
I love the collection of softlinks below.