The Top ~ by Stanton Lanier (Copyright 2012, not to be re-published without permission)
My first job in high school was at a canoe rental called Adventures Unlimited. It was the summer after my junior year. I had my new driver’s license and I was going to drive old trucks and vans full of people going canoeing or tubing on the Coldwater River near Milton, Florida.
One of the first things I learned was a lot of vehicles in the world do not have an automatic transmission. My boss was assigning vehicles one Saturday and asked, “Who wants to drive the bread truck?” I eagerly volunteered and stepped up to start the engine. It started bucking like a giant horse. I didn’t know I was supposed to hold down the clutch pedal with my left foot and at the same time give it gas with my right foot! Everyone’s laughter invited me to smile.
The next summer I graduated to the old five-speed school buses. I was responsible for forty passengers with paddles, life jackets, coolers, beer, cigarettes, and occasionally some kind of cigarette that didn’t smell like a regular cigarette. I discovered the world is made up of all kinds of people, including some that really like to party.
Something I didn’t expect from this canoe rental job was a growing appreciation for solitude. I would often volunteer to take a job called “the top.” It was twelve miles up river where trailers full of canoes were unloaded for the day trip. At 7 a.m. there I would be, just me and one hundred canoes to be carried on my shoulders down to the sandbar. I relished the physical workout. The reward of solitude came when all the canoes were on the beach. I could take a swim in the river or just lay back on a cushion in a canoe. The only sounds were the gentle flow of the river, the breeze in the tops of tall pine trees and birds singing. This was a treasured time to relax, rest and be refreshed. It wasn’t too long before the school buses would start arriving filled with people. This experience taught me the value of slowing down and being still along the way.
What was your favorite summer job growing up? What did you learn? Where is your haven for solitude?