Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My History in Jobs Part I

Here are jobs I had during the first half of my life. Because my memory is not to be trusted, I reserve the right to go back into this post to add jobs that I may remember later.

In Childhood

Allowance. As the youngest daughter, my job was to empty the spoons and forks from the dishwasher. (My middle sister emptied the dishes, while my eldest washed them; I couldn't wait to be old enough to be allowed to wash dishes.) Then, as my sisters got jobs or went off to college, I moved up to washing the dishes then also cleaning the bathroom then also mowing the lawn and finally also watching my brother.

Babysitter. With only seven houses on the block -- and a middle sister who had a corner on the market -- I only babysat a handful of times.

Pet sitter. I only did this once because I killed the pet, or rather pets -- a tank full of exotic fish that I boiled to death because I thought the knob was a light. I tried to resuscitate them by moving the water around, but they were cooked. (Sorry for the pun.)

My Teen Years

Server for caterer at Messiah College. [edited 6/2/11]

Waitress at Friendly's Restaurant where my friend Sheila trained me. I was so scared the first few times I had to talk to customers and carry drinks and get their food. And then I was petrified the first time I messed up and had to bring a dish back to the kitchen. You'd get it both ways, then, from the customer and the temperamental cook.

During College

Housekeeper for about a week at an upscale historic inn that had been restored. But no matter how upscale, cleaning toilets is cleaning toilets.

Waitress at various restaurants during the summer. Over the years, I worked my way up. My first job after my parents moved was at a real dive crawling with cockroaches and bar flies, where I had to write the drinks exactly as stated by the customers because I didn't know a thing about alcohol, and all the customers and waitstaff smoked and I'd come home smelling like grease and smoke. Then after two summers there, I got a job at an expensive restaurant that served primarily lunch to professionals working in the area, and I worked with a bunch of other college kids but was the only one who wasn't 21 yet. That kind of sucked.

My senior year, I finally arrived and landed a plum job at a really expensive dinner restaurant that had a wine sommelier on staff. I had to buy a crumber (for cleaning the table), a pocket wine opener (for shifts when the wine sommelier wasn't working), and a black vest. It was there that I learned that waiters made more in tips than waitresses.

During the school year, I got hired at Baby's Burgers and Shakes, where the soda jerk was the outgoing Lion mascot. Who knew he was so good looking underneath that costume? For this fifties style joint, I was required to wear fire engine red lipstick and buttons that had stuff like "shut up and eat" and other insults printed on them. I was encouraged to sit down with the customers to take their orders -- and also to insult them. This was probably the job where I had the most fun ever.

Exam proctor during the school year for the Math department.

Deli sub maker in the student union for a work/study I had. It's rather amazing that I still love raw onions on my subs.

[added 6/2/2011] I can't believe I forgot about this! I was an engineer's helper at DuPont, and my office was out in a trailer in the parking lot and I had to wear safety glasses and safety shoes. There was a fellow Engineer's Assistant who was going to school at Old Dominion, and we giggled all day long over how pointless our jobs were. The engineer who directed our work was a contractor and elderly, and sometimes we'd go into his office, which was also in the trailer, and he'd be fast asleep. The whole group we worked for was in charge of facility for the building. So sometimes they'd send us out onto the floor to measure the machinery. Another time we had to measure and trace the duct system. The rest of the group were actual DuPont employees/engineers and they had offices IN the building. I just remember wondering how they came to work every day, knowing they were working on whether this piece of equipment could be moved a foot this way or that way. I sure hope there was more to their jobs than that!

After Graduating During a Recession

Assistant Manager at Friendly's Restaurant. This was a low moment. But I had the best manager of my career -- Walt never gave up on anyone, and he really cared and worked with his people and was willing to do whatever he thought you needed to develop and grow. It was here that I learned how to cook on the grill, interview and hire staff, and scoop ice cream. It was also here that I first feared for my life when we thought our dishwasher was going to go postal on us when we saw him sitting in his truck in the the parking lot late at night.

Collegiate Leadership Consultant for my sorority where I traveled all over the country and met some amazing women and had equally amazing experiences helping collegians grow and learn as officers and leaders, giving them ideas and suggestions. During my travels, I saw Jimmy Buffet in Boulder and U2 at Mile High Stadium in Denver. I also witnessed lightning storms in the Arizona deserts, saw the first baby elephant born in captivity since I don't know when in St. Louis, shopped in the Mall of America in Minneapolis, was the only non-blonde and blue-eyed person in a restaurant in Iowa, and was in Miami in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. 

Customer Service Rep for a credit card company, where company success was measured by how much debt our customers were getting into. My brother tells me that I used to come home angry. You would, too, if you spent eight hours a day with a headset on and the phone calls beeping in your ear all day long, from angry customers who wanted to yell at you for late fees or finance charges or because their cards were declined. Man I'm grateful I'm no longer there!

Still to come:

  • My Lost Twenties
  • My What Am I Supposed to Be When I Grow Up Thirties
  • My Still Lost But Getting Closer Forties

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our Plumber, Chick

Our plumber died.

I've actually been expecting it. I don't know how old he was, but he had children, grandchildren, and a rim of salt and pepper hair on his head with a combover. He'd also survived one heart attack. And he lived with a pacemaker and a hearing aid.

Chick was his name, and he was an old school plumber. Not only was his hair salty, but so was his humor. But he knew his pipes. And he was kind to my son.

I found him on the Internet after my husband poured two pounds of overcooked pasta down our kitchen drain. I wanted someone in my town, someone who owned his own business, someone who worked out of his home. I felt like plumbing services could get very expensive and often employed young, inexperienced plumbers who didn't always know their stuff.

We lucked out with Chick. He came over to clear our pipes. Not an easy task with squishy, soft, clogging pasta that refused to be pushed by a plumbing snake. In fact, the snake just cut a hole through the pasta without moving it. It took Chick all afternoon, trying different things. He finally blasted the pasta through with high-pressure water.

After that, Chick did a lot of work for us. He put in our water softener. He replaced our water heater after it blew and spewed water all over our basement. He installed a reverse osmosis water filtration system for our drinking water. He replaced pipes. He cleared clogs. And every time I called, I did it with one eye closed, half expecting to get his wife with the news that Chick had passed.

Recently our dishwasher wasn't draining. So on a late Friday afternoon, I said to my husband, why don't you call Chick. He'll come over if he can. So my husband picked up the phone. He got Chick's son. And as soon as I heard my husband say, "Oh, really? I'm so sorry," I knew. Our wonderful, kind-hearted, off-color plumber Chick was no longer with us.

We'll miss you, Chick. I hope you're in a better spot.