02 Jul Here’s to bad summer jobs
I think it’s the Leo in me, but I love summer. All year I long for sun, heat and an opportunity to wear my summer dresses. With the delicious berries and veggies appearing at the market, I started thinking about how I used to spend my summers in my teens and early 20s, and remembered one of my first summer jobs. Like many teens, summer was (is) a time to earn some money during the day and hang out with my friends on the weekends and evenings, spending our earnings on trips to the mall, bottles of Clearly Canadian, and coke slurpees. But my first summer job, ended up including a course of antibiotics.
My leg swelled up until it was about as round as a healthy cantaloupe. It was bright red with the most vibrant point being somewhere near the center of my right calf. (Everything bad that’s happened to my leg, has happened to the right one, poor thing!) As things went when I was a teenager, and actually, similar to how they are now, I put off saying anything to my mom about my leg. It hurt to walk on, it was hot to the touch, but I figured if I kept it clean it would go away.
That summer I was hired to pick raspberries at a local farm. It was my first real job that wasn’t baby sitting my parent’s friend’s kids. My friend Lindsay and I would show up at the farm at around 7 am. Sticky with sunscreen in long sleeved shirts and big hats, we were handed our buckets. The leaves bright green in the early morning sun that came up over the near by hill. The raspberries, which I had to convince myself not to eat, were bright like rubies. Up and down the rows we walked gently plucking the berries, careful not to squeeze them. We were paid by the pound. I can’t remember how much, but I remember my pay cheque at the end of the season (2 months working 5 days a week from 7 am to noon) being just over 400 dollars.
As peak season arrived, and the branches of the raspberry canes were heavy with fruit, my leg got so sore I couldn’t go to work. I showed my mom. Her eyes grew, she grabbed a felt tip pen from the drawer and drew a circle around it. “If the red goes beyond that line, we have to go to the clinic,” she said, and put an ice pack on it.
An hour later she lifted the ice pack, it had expanded beyond the line. She loaded me into the van. I moaned as I bent my knee, the skin on my leg felt too tight. Keeping her eyes on the road she asked if I cut it, was there a scratch? No, no, I don’t think so, I said.
The waiting room at the clinic was empty and the receptionist walked us right in. I laid back on the crinkling paper, it tore under my feet and behind my head. The doctor came in, greeted my mom then turned his attention to me.
“Hi Megan, what’s going on today?” he said.
“Uh my leg hurts…” I pointed as if it wasn’t obvious why I was there.
“Oh dear,” he said bending in low, examining it closely, “Looks like an infection.”
Until that point I was most familiar with ear infections, which were part of nearly every winter to the point where doctors hand considered tubes in my ears.
“What would have caused it?” my mom, the operating room nurse, asked.
“Spider, I think.”
I probably faked gagging and squirmed uncontrollably on the table. I imagined huge fangs penetrating my skin. I imagined little spiders eggs in my swollen leg. I imagined them hatching.
The doctor pulled out his prescription pad and wrote a prescription for antibiotics. He drew a new circle, a bigger circle, with a permanent marker around the epicentre.
“If it goes past here, it’s the ER,” he said to my mom.
After three days of antibiotics, the swelling went down, my leg returned to it’s usual pink with a hint of brown from the summer sun, and I was back to picking berries, with long pants tucked into my socks.