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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.

Just like that, I’m up and running. My job, in case you didn’t catch that, is to retrieve pizzas. You come to my window with a beeping pager and I give you a pie. The Pizza Deck is the heart of the platform-tent sprawl known as Curry Village, the home of Everyman and his family in the valley. The golden-agers gravitate toward Yosemite Lodge, the high rollers linger at the Ahwahnee, and the rest of the teeming masses come here.

Boris rocks the cash register next to me. I assume he’s Russian. The ennui that drips from his reply tells me I’m not the first to make this mistake. “No. You will never guess.” It takes a few stabs, but I eventually nail it: Slovenia. He’s not impressed. “You Americans don’t know geography.”

In time, our coworkers return from their breaks. “They didn’t show you around either, huh?” says Ivy, a sweet undergrad down from Arcata. During a lull, she lays out the basics. Behind the wall are the pizza makers–a handful of guys flinging cheese and unloading pies from the oven’s mesh conveyor belt to a crunching soundtrack of Pantera. The Pizza Deck backs onto a bar and grill, a taco stand, and a dining hall, all spigots feeding the same trough. Ivy shows me where we keep the hot-dog buns, salad dressings, and paper products that we’ll convert each day to mountains of trash. Out on the loading dock sit the dumpsters, closed with carabiners to keep the bears from gorging themselves. Our particular fiefdom includes the deck’s picnic tables. These we clear occasionally to reduce the amount of pizza crusts consumed by squirrels and raccoons, which patrol the day and night shifts, respectively.

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