Friday, October 12, 2007


First job, Worst job, Dream here is a prompt I think I can get into.

My very first job lasted only about 3 to 5 days, through no fault of mine. I was a junior in high school, just turned 16, and I got a job at JC Penney's in the small town I grew up in, wrapping Christmas presents. We lived far enough out in the country that I had to have a driver's license to be able to take a job, because it just was not feasible for someone to have to drive me in to work and pick me up afterwards. As it was, Mom would be without her car however long I was at work. I loved the job!! I love Christmas time anyway; and in a small town, Christmas wrapping in one of the town's 2 major department stores put me right in the middle of the music and color and bustle and smiles. I will never forget that. It was the only time I ever held a real job during high school and as I look back now as a retiree, those were my first social security hours.

My next real job was about three and a half years later. I was lucky. To my parents, who both had college degrees (Dad had a PhD), it was a given that my brother and I would both go to college. In order that we do the best we could, we would not have to work our way through, as they both had. So my next job was in the summer, between my sophomore and junior years at the university. This one was supposed to be the "dream job," I believe, but it certainly did not turn out that way.

The parents of the girl who was my best friend through all of junior and senior high school owned and ran a motel. Thus they had a number of friends with a like occupation. One of those couples, who also had a son Hank that was in Candy's and my graduating class, had moved the the east coast of Florida and was managing a motel right on the beach. They said she and I could come and live in one of their kitchenette units rent free for the summer and get jobs there to earn spending money and some for the next year in college. We made big plans during Christmas vacation. Since we were attending different colleges, it was an even more exciting prospect that we might spend the kind of "together time" that we had during high school. Well, you know what they say about "the best laid plans..." In April that year I came home one weekend to be her maid-of-honor in a very hasty wedding; and to all intents and purposes, our big plans were history.

However, come summer, everyone involved wanted me to go ahead with the plans. I had no car, nor were there any plans for me to have one until I completed my degree, had a job, and could afford to get one for myself. Also it meant that although I would be near a family who were friends of Candy's parents and also near a guy my age who was sort of a friend---we had been in several classes together, I would be essentially living alone, finding work, then getting myself back and forth to work on whatever public transportation was available--not a lot, let me tell you, at the end of the 60's in a Florida beach town. I was nervous but willing to give it a try. It would be stupid to give up the dream opportunity of living at the beach alone all summer long and working, my first real opportunity to be an adult.

I learned a lot that summer. I never really thought of applying the label "coming of age" to it, but in a literary sense, that is surely what it was. I was sooo small town and naive and so innocent. Ah, but I stray from the job.

There was NO work on the beach side. I borrowed a car (stick shift, which I couldn't drive---but God bless those old Volkswagon Beetles, I drove all day without serious problems but never found first gear til evening when I was returning the car) from a newly wed cousin who happened to be living in the general area, so that I could go make inquiries and put in applications. The only place that offered any hope at all was a huge new Montgomery Ward store that had not yet opened. They weren't quite ready to open yet, which gave me some extra beach days. They did plan to train us all and the training days would be paid. But it was nearly 9 miles to work and I could not keeping using my cousin's car, as she worked too. As it turned out, Hank found the new Wards to be his best option as well, and he had a car. But he was hired to work at their warehouse which was 2 miles away from the store and his work hours were different, much more regular than mine, usually 8:30 to 5:30. The way we finally worked it out was he would drop me at the store on his way to the warehouse and I would spend my first 2 hours in the store coffee shop reading and drinking coffee. I'd start work at 10 am and often work til 2 or 3 pm then be taken off the clock and be expected to be back at 6 pm to work the 6 to closing (9pm) hours. Having no transportation, I would eat some lunch back in their coffee shop then go to the ladies restroom, where there was a couch, and read. On the up side, I read all of Gone With the Wind that summer, with the great comprehension one can achieve by going back and rereading anything forgotten or confusing. When my work day finally ended, Hank would drive back over and pick me up. Obviously, I was no longer getting any beach time and it cut into Hank's evening on a regular basis too. Fortunately neither of us was of the "party animal" mold. But still I felt guilty for being this sister entity he had neither asked for or counted on. Eventually one of the men at work took pity on me and asked if I would like to come and live with his family. I was crazy about his wife, who was only 6 or 7 years older than I, and their 2 adorable children, so it seemed perfect. I did some free babysitting in exchange for bed and breakfast and a ride back and forth to work which didn't put anybody out.

I had a lot of weird life experiences that summer, including my first marriage proposal by a guy I really didn't even know or like that well; he was an unbelievable control freak and decided that was his best chance to tell me what I could and couldn't do. I think getting away from him altogether (by leaving the beach area) was another reason I so quickly accepted the offer to move in with the Johnson family.
Anyway, that job surely was not the dream job; but it wasn't the worst job either.

My "worst job" was not really what most people would consider a terrible job, but I hated it. It also was a "summer job" (tho it did not start out to be) and that was how I was rescued from it. As soon as the time came close for schools to open in the fall, I told my boss that I really missed teaching and needed to keep my hand in at it since it was what I expected to go back to when my husband returned from Vietnam. So what was the problem with this job??? Mostly I was just bored to tears. I got to read a lot on this job too, on the clock; but I felt tied to the 8 by 10 office and my desk. I was the only secretary in a very tiny office in either the days before standard answering machines; or maybe it was just that he wanted all his clients to receive the personal touch. But to tell the truth, there were just not that many people calling. The boss was gorgeous, well known, and wealthy but thought he was "God's gift to women." Mind you, he was married; his wife and children, and he, when he bothered, went to my parents' church, and were active and well liked. But he thought his young secretary needed some "extra nurturing" while her husband was serving so far away. Because of the church connection, as well as who his family was, I did not want to make an ugly scene out of the whole thing. But I must admit, I was NEVER so happy to leave a job and "shake the dust off my feet."

Fortunately, the teaching---yes I did go back to it--- was fulfilling and made me happy. It is hard to call most teaching positions "a dream job." But if satisfaction is what it is all about, and I believe that is the ultimate goal, then I spent 35 years lucky.

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