My First Job | Teen Ink

My First Job

March 2, 2008
By Anonymous

Being seventeen without money can be frustrating. When the opportunity arrives to earn some much needed spending cash, it would be foolish to pass it up. It is for this reason that when the opportunity to referee elementary basketball came my way, I jumped at the chance to finally have more than just the lint from the dryer in my pockets. I thought it would be a fun way to earn some “easy money.” It did not take long to realize how mistaken I had been. I have always enjoyed the game and looked forward to seeing it from a different point of view.
My love for basketball and my familiarity of the game made me believe that this would be the perfect job for me. During the years I played on the court and watched from the bleachers, I often found myself criticizing the referees for terrible calls. Thoughts would often race through my mind like, “How could you miss that?” or, “Do you need glasses?” I completely convinced myself that I could do a much better job. How difficult could it be, especially with a bunch of second and third graders? I never imagined the level of difficulty it proved to be. The word “lenient” took on a whole new meaning. The first time I stepped onto the court wearing a whistle around my neck made me realize that maybe this job would not be “easy money” after all.
I looked forward to my first night as a referee, but as soon as the tip-off went up, all of my fantasies faded. These sweet and innocent third grade boys immediately transformed into demon children right before me. A fire burned in each and everyone of their eyes. Never in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine the extent of competitiveness that boiled up within these miniature monsters. I literally saw the claws begin to protrude from their fingers and many of the boys even began to growl. I felt like a peace keeper trapped in a Coliseum filled with lions. A battle raged on the court while the inhumane spectators cheered and yelled from the stands at every play made. Suddenly, even the coaches, whom I thought would be my only allies in this chaos, took off their masks and revealed themselves as my worst nightmares. As the peacekeeper, my only companion, my whistle, suffered from a severe case of stage fright, filling my head with doubt every time I wished to blow it. My lack of action fueled the heartless crowd. Even on the rare occasions that my whistle gained enough courage to pause the fighting, the ruthless bystanders were still not appeased. I could do nothing right. Frustration flooded every inch of my cringing soul. With only three minutes and thirty seconds remaining on the clock, I spotted a light at the end of the tunnel. Oh, how heavenly it appeared before my eyes. As this light crept closer, it revealed itself as an angel floating over from the neighboring court to rescue me. My redeemer has a name, which happens to be Michael Rook, and I am forever in his debt. He came in the nick of time, saving me from losing my sanity and helping me dodge the storm of rotten fruit that soon would be thrown in my direction. In a flash, I passed my whistle and every bit of authoritative power to Michael, as I quickly scampered to the safety of the bleachers.
Sitting all by myself, far from the screeching sounds of the hostile masses, I managed to find an inkling of pride. My sense of dignity did not come from the fact that the people were now yelling at some fresh, new meat, but from the fact that I had survived and had not been banished from continuing my duties as a referee. The horn sounded, and the nightmare ended. I awoke to reality, and what were once little monsters were now adorable boys running around, laughing joyfully. The ruthless parents and coaches now patted me on the back, telling me what a good job I had done. They were trying to be kind, or maybe they were overcome with guilt for bashing my confidence to smithereens with their angry words. I longed to escape from the gym, but I had to wait for my “easy money.” I wandered through the deserted battlefield to the concession stand, where I received my hard earned pay. I cherished every dime I received that night.
I now realize just how difficult refereeing is. I could have let this traumatic evening ruin my future on the court, but instead it kindled a sense of determination to do better. I still hope to someday become a great referee in which everyone, the parents and coaches alike, will love. In order for this to become a reality, just like all other activities, it will take many hours of practice and hard work. No matter how much I wish the cash would be handed to me without requiring any effort, I learned from this experience that there is no such thing as “easy money.”

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