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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.

But the fortress of my neutrality was battered during our mandatory New Associate Orientation, which starts the same way it does at Wal-Mart: with videos. The “Welcome to Yosemite” video. The soul-sucking “How to have authorized fun at work” video. You could forgive the off-the-shelf personal-hygiene video and even the self-pleasuring “We Are So Green!” video. But by the time they showed the GuestPathSM videos, with their emphasis on Creating Special Experiences One Guest at a TimeSM, the stench of corporate euphemism was building in my nostrils.

For reasons still unclear to me, our human instructor then launched into a lengthy history of Delaware North. We learned that the Jacobs brothers, three Russian immigrants, founded the company in 1915 by selling popcorn and peanuts in movie theaters. Since then, we learned, they’ve diversified into one of the nation’s largest privately held companies, with interests in riverboat gambling, swap meets, sports arenas, and more! The chairman and CEO, Jeremy Jacobs, is one of the world’s 40 richest men! His net worth is over a billion dollars! That’s “billion” with a b! Since 1993, Delaware North has been expanding into parks “like crazy!”

Over the course of my week, many a disgruntled employee would, like Jarratt, level charges both petty and grand against “the man.” And while I had no good reason to believe that the accusations were untrue, it also struck me that if you thought the river was too cold, or the granite too hard, there existed a convenient target for your discontent.

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