I think I was about 8 or 9. The idea that the big, ugly car wash just off the main highway required a human operator was about as foreign to me as the ideas food needed to be cooked, clothes needed washing and toys and sweets didn't magically appear out of thin air whenever I wanted them. That the person who owned and operated it was my friend Doug's father just about blew my mind.
On Career Day at Hill Elementary, Doug's father brought us each a shiny penny he'd salvaged from the vacuum bucket and handed around Tupperware containers of the various powdered chemicals he injected into the machine's hoppers each night, so that our mothers and fathers could drive by at their convenience and insert coins for the pleasure of spray washing their cars.
It was the beginning of a magical day, and it only got better from there. Stephanie's father did some kind of scuba diving for a living. He let us hold the weights he tied to his belt. I remember thinking he'd need an awful lot of them to resolve that buoyancy issue (he was very fat), but I didn't know about the bends until he explained just how terrifying having nitrogen bubbles in your blood could be. It would be weeks before I'd get back into the pool.
We learned about mechanics, about secretaries and about being a firefighter. In short, we learned all we could from the parents of our peers, and whether this was designed to teach us more about the world around us, give us an idea of what we may want to be when we grew up or simply to allow the teacher to sleep one off, I can honestly say it was one the most informative days I spent in a classroom.
Ultimately I didn't follow any of the career paths presented to me that day, but I listened to each presentation with rapt attention, in awe of the many ways a person could make his or her way in this world.
This week, The Escapist presents its own Career Day. Spanner presents the trials and tribulations of working as a game industry script writer, Ryan Shwayder shows us exactly how one can get into the business of game design, Shannon Drake peeks under the hood at PopCap and Jared Newman talks to the hardest working man in independent game design.
We've also got a few surprise guests in to show you how they make their bones. It's issue 113, Career Day, and I've got a shiny penny for you all, just don't inhale the soap powder. It'll turn your face red for a week. Just ask Bobby.