The rake scratched the dry arid ground, scraping the last bubblegum wrapper left when Bazooka Joe was still a household name. The flimsy garbage bags busting under minimal pressure, reinforces the view that plastic garbage bags have a half-life of 15 minutes in the real world. Yet they somehow manage to stay intact at the garbage dump for centuries.

Yep, it’s summer-student employment time again, and the rake, handled by a 14-year-old, scratched the surface once again, this being the fourth attempt to rake that doggone wrapper off the yellowed old grass from yesteryear.

Does employment for students really mean slave-like labour conditions, or is it that everyone’s zombielike condition is really a direct result of staying out to all hours of the night, night after night? Or is it a hormonal thing where everyone becomes allergic to bright early-morning sunlight and their eyes just can’t seem to function properly?

I remember when summer-student employment was something that was based on the round-up system. If you were home that day when the employment agent called for you, you got a job digging ditches or throwing garbage. The lucky ones managed to get desk jobs – at least they had something to lay their tired heads on when the going got rough during the morning coffee break. Oh yes, the coffee breaks, the time when you actually get paid to stuff cookies and bad java down your throat. Back then 15-minute coffee breaks were 10 minutes long, so stuffing your face was a common activity.

Some summer jobs paid you only when the work was done and some paid you when they felt like it – or so it seemed. The worst kind of pay was when you had to share the pot with everyone else. So your size and age determined your wages for that week — talk about a dog-eat-dog world.

Today, student strikes can be imminent if the pay is more than five minutes late and near riots can break out if the cheques aren’t signed. Woe to the employer who must face the wrath of the youth when it comes to pay day. I remember a trailer being burned down when living allowances were late by an hour back in the revolutionary 1970s. But hey, students were really hungry in those days, getting only a meagre hundred bucks per month.

Today, salaries have to be negotiated with street-sawy students, who seem to ask discerning questions about vacation pay, holiday pay and other perks and quirks, but nary a question about the job itself. Sometimes an employer gets lucky and lands a dream summer student from work heaven who has just the right credentials for your job and can do it when you’re gone on vacation. But when you come back, your job has been altered somehow, so sometimes it’s best to take someone who isn’t at all interested in taking your job over while your away on holiday.

Whatever the reason for hiring a summer student, go ahead, hire away, give someone an actual job to do and see how they fare or mature.