Everyone has that summer job they will always remember. Mine was working in 1996 at what was once Perkin-Elmer, then Hughes Aircraft, then Raytheon and then B.F. Goodrich (I can’t remember if it was Hughes or Raytheon at the time). It was between my freshman and sophomore years in college, and my dad helped me get a summer job working in the stock room. Yup, nepotism. I worked with a girl whose father also helped her land the same job. Also an odd part was working with people who I had known since I was a little girl.
This was the same company that built the primary mirror for the Hubble Space Telescope. I vividly remember as a kid going to an open house and getting to see the mirror. There are photos stored away at my parents’ house of my dad working on the mirror. It sparked a fascination with science and space in me at a young age. I once had dreams of being a science reporter, and I probably would be doing something in astronomy if I wasn’t in journalism. I’m just not that big of a fan of math (although I’m one of those odd journalists who can crunch numbers easily…I have always been everyone’s best friend come budget season).
Our job that summer was the annual inventory. We had to count all of the parts in the stock room, which could be some pretty mind-numbing work. Imagine counting a drawer full of bolts. I was 19 years old at the time. I was home for the summer spending almost every night out with my friends and my then boyfriend. And then I was up at 6 a.m. the following morning so I could commute to work (with my dad) for 7:30 a.m. I still don’t know how I survived that summer without falling asleep on my feet some days.
Once we finished counting the parts in the main stock room, though, we were led to the attic area. That was when my summer job got interesting. In the back in a darker, danker area was the old space telescope parts. They needed to be counted. It was a lot of old bolts and other surplus material, but there was some interesting items in there too. No, there wasn’t a spare mirror.
But being in a more separate area meant we could have a radio and music. The only radio station we got, though, was I95 out of Danbury, which played a mix of current and classic rock. The reality of that was a mixture of the Wallflowers and a few other current songs, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Whenever I hear “One Headlight,” I think of that summer in the attic counting old space telescope parts.
It also spawned my Zeppelin fandom and my appreciation for Pink Floyd. When I got back to college in Washington in the fall I was in the used record store trading in old CDs I didn’t listen to any more so I could buy Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd (I still have the originals of Zeppelin III and The Wall I bought that fall). And the funny part is that fall “Another Brick in the Wall” became the “I need to study but I really don’t want to” anthem of the floor where I lived in the dorm (Squirrel from Hell for life, but that’s a whole other story in itself).
I wasn’t producing any journalism that summer, which is probably odd looking back on it compared to journalism students today, but it certainly was one that helped form who I am today.