Kelley Blue Book LLC

How have you been for the last 24 years — and where's my forty bucks?

During the summer of 1988, I was the guy who spray-painted house numbers on the curb. I'd spent June working the graveyard shift at UPS. After two summers of toiling for minimum wage — when minimum wage paid less than vagrancy — UPS offered a whopping $8 an hour. But it was back-breaking work, roughly the civilian equivalent of basic training. I single-handedly unloaded the cargo of 18-wheelers, much of it heavy and none of it quickly enough for the pacing floor manager, who barked like a drill sergeant. Because of fatigue, management only permitted four-hour shifts, and I must have sweated off five pounds a night. I was only in it until the fall semester began, so when UPS demanded a...