Summer is officially here, so it’s time for everyone to grab a part-time job and make a little extra gas money. Or did that go out of style in 2001? I have fond memories of my first jobs, from which I learned the value of a dollar (very low, especially in Europe), how it feels to be working while all your friends are out partying (very low, especially in college), and the levels of responsibility one must juggle while working for $6 an hour (disproportionately high, actually).
The first job for which I was paid real money was babysitting, starting at the age of 11 (who leaves their kids with an 11 year-old?!) (oh, me, if you know a good one). The first job I had at an actual place of business was cleaning motel rooms at the lake near our house, when I was 16 (by 16 I mean 13, but let’s refrain from getting anyone caught violating employment laws here).
My friends Monica, Tara, and I learned a lot about fishermen in these motel rooms, mainly that they prefer Miller Lite in a can. We’d start our shift at 6:00 am and clean and provide room service until 3, taking turns driving around the place in a huge old Dickies van with no reverse and a burned out clutch. The driver, making sure to always park downhill facing an open area, would stand on the clutch while the other girls sat back on their butts and pulled the gear stick with all their might until it shifted with a rumble and some smoke. Some of the best times of my teen years were those three summers spent deliriously driving Dickie between cabins, scrubbing toilets, spraying way to much Lysol, and snooping in cleaning people’s stuff rooms.
Kinda like this, but with 3 teenage girls and their collection of beer bottle caps stuck to the interior with bubble gum. Plus 2500 towel and sheet sets, lovingly folded before dawn by yours truly. (Graphic design with logo by me. Hard to find a photo of an antique Dickies van, it turns out.)
In high school, I was also a cook at Big O’s BBQ. I worked Tuesday and Thursday evenings and every other Saturday, flipping burgers, dipping chicken fries, stirring huge pots of cement that I referred to as gravy, and wiping grease out of my eyes. It was an awesome job because a) it paid weekly and b) Big O was the boss. No one’s ever met a friendlier Pitmaster than Big O. I didn’t wait tables, Big O did, but somehow he coerced every customer into tipping the kitchen. He conned one guy into leaving me a $20 tip for “toasting his buns” on a BBQ sandwich, which Big O didn’t stop laughing about for a year. And once, he even called the hospital to let them know I was on the way after I stabbed my finger cutting pie during the lunch rush. That’s a good boss right there.
After my high school career as Big O’s fry cook, I ventured into waiting tables, camp counseling, preschool teaching, nannying, and light secretary work, among other things. I earned minimum wage or less, worked as many hours as possible, and liked the places that stayed busiest the best. Every job I ever had taught me something, like how to dip minnows out of a tank, make a bed in ten seconds flat, and the vital importance of knocking before entering. (Just…knock.)
Although basically every summer job I had sucked at the time, I am so grateful that my parents allowed and accommodated me to work for people in the community, earn money, spend my cash on the important things in life like Lucky jeans and Doc Martens. I think you might never truly know a person until you work with them in some way…you find out up close and personal how they treat others, their respect for people’s time and money, and if they can handle pressure.
I also think people who never had the opportunity to work a few crap jobs for low pay make terrible bosses. One shouldn’t be in charge of others until one has walked a mile in their shoes driven a mile in their Dickie. The most obvious effect of this condition, Never Drove a Dickie Syndrome (NDDS), is a complete and utter lack of regard for employees’ time.
The NDDS guy asks you to work 8-5, but he means, come in at 8, get started with the actual job around 11, maybe eat lunch at 3, and stay until 9… or so. He doesn’t work hourly and never has, so he doesn’t understand our plight. NDDS truly believes that the job you’re doing for $8 an hour is as important to you as it is to him, ranking higher than your evening plans and free time. Obviously, he would have benefited immensely from cleaning strangers’ hair out of motel showers in a past life. If you or someone you know suffers from NDDS, there is help available! Call 1-800-TIMESUP for details.
As a parent, I hope Trevor and Claire never have to get jobs to help pay our electric bill. But I do hope they will work for and learn from people who expect them to show up on time, give their best effort the whole shift, be nice, and be reliable. Then some day, when their dues are paid, they will be great bosses, full of high expectations, kindness, and respect. This summer Trevor is working with his dad pretending to fix sprinklers, and Claire is working to identify objects and speak words. They don’t have much regard for their bosses’ time or energy levels yet, and they show up to work waaaaaaay too early, but I have high hopes for our little trainees. And when it’s time to clock out, you can bet we are always right on time.