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November/December 2005

Yosemite @ $7.38 An Hour: Seasonal Work in the National Parks

Our scribe-turned-pizzaman labors in the land of granite and pulls back the curtain on the seasonal-employment fantasy.

Kelly works the bar next to the Pizza Deck, and on my last day she asks about my hike. Just over 5 feet tall in running shoes, if there’s some aspect of Kelly that isn’t cute, it manages to escape my attention. Counting on easy points, I tell her about my 14-miler. Does she know the route? She does. In fact, she’d just run the entire trail that very morning. I double-check to make sure I heard her correctly. Yes, she laced up at 6, and made it back to camp by 9:30.

I later learn that Kelly is kind of a local hero, having just won a 33-mile race nearby. She got up early to run because she’s working the entire shift today, from 11:30 a.m. until the last of the drunks are sent home. And while her stamina is legendary, it seems to require that kind of effort to seize the Yosemite experience most of us hope for. One big obstacle is the split shift, which starts at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m., with a 3-hour break in the middle–a scheduling black hole that swallows up most hiking or climbing aspirations.

As for Associate A7284, it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear thin. By day 3, I feel my first spontaneous upwelling of loathing at the idea of setting foot on the Pizza Deck. It isn’t the busyness; I take a certain comfort in the extended ADD reverie, stocking condiments, running for hot-dog buns, or chasing squirrels out the side door.

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