Thursday, August 19, 2010

All Worked Up

Thing 1 started her first job this summer...she's bussing tables at a roadhouse/diner sort of place nearby. She's finding her way through a whole new kind of world, and finding out that it's awfully nice to be making your own money, and that there are a whole lot of different grown-ups out there.

My first job was working at a catering company, around the late 70's when I was 15. I worked for the princely sum of $2.85 an hour, when minimum wage was only $2.15. We packed up a large van with potato salads, macaroni salads, fried chicken and bread and headed on out to a retirement party or an annual sportmans' dinner or a wedding, somewhere in a Legion hall in southwestern Ontario and unpacked the whole lot onto a buffet table. After smoking about 40 cigarettes while they ate, we served the coffee, THEN we were allowed to eat the leftovers. The food was pretty lousy; only the fried chicken and bread were in any demand. We often slipped fried chicken into our pockets while we were unpacking, so that we could be sure to get some at the end of the night. (So, if your 25th anniversary party was woefully short of drumsticks, I apologize.) We were not terribly good caterers..... many was the time where lukewarm food was served by indifferent staff to surly guests. I can't imagine how awful your wedding would have to have been to have us there.

But I learned a lot about dealing with other people, that even though this was a part-time gig for me for some pocket money, this was a real job to most of the people I worked with, and it was the first time I ever saw, close up and personal, how hard most single mothers had to bust their asses to keep their kids fed and clothed. I saw that lots of people didn't have the choices or opportunities that had, and took for granted. I learned that every job, no matter how piddly, was important to someone, and that I had a responsibility to do the best I could at that job. I found out the people you work with can make all the difference in how much you enjoy the work, and that a teenage girl can fit about 20 pieces of fried chicken in and around her person without showing any outward signs of having done so.

My next jobs were: working at cafeteria style restaurant with my friend Carolyn (where I learned that if your boss is an asshole, the job is never going to be worth it.), a kitchen at a fancy-schmancy French restaurant (where I learned how to make 10 pounds of pork liver pate at a go, which looks and smells just like baby poo.), working the counter at a dry cleaners (where I learned that the smell of skunk will NEVER be eradicated) a sales clerk at a classical record store (where I learned the difference between Bach and Beethoven) and a receptionist at a hair salon (where I learned that people will do just about anything to get their hair done, including show up for an appointement when they are in full-out labour.)

I've always liked my jobs, and I've always rather liked working. And I got something out of every job I've ever had, good and bad. But I've never eaten fried chicken again.

1 comment:

Jude said...

This post brought back some good memories. My first job was at a laundromat that was owned by my best friend's parents. The kids had the job of folding clothes that people dropped off in the morning. This is where I learned the valuable lesson of how to fold the dreaded fitted sheet.