Monday, October 25, 2010
My Early Working Days: A Means To An End
Everyone's had bad jobs; jobs that make them dread the day ahead. Jobs that they struggle through as a means to an end.
I've been lucky to have not had one of those jobs for a while. Of course there have been bad days at jobs in more recent times, but nothing as bad as I experienced back in my student days. Maybe taking on those horrible jobs made me appreciate a good, professional, clean office job.
I began working when I was fifteen. An independent soul, I was eager to start earning my own money as soon as possible. I hated asking for money - and going without things - so I began applying for jobs. I tried applying at all the places I considered 'good' - supermarkets and retail shops - but when I had no luck there I resorted to takeaway food outlets. I did not want to work there, but one big takeaway chain gave me my first interview and I started working there soon after.
It was completely revolting. I had to buy new shoes every few months because the grease on the floor cracked the soles of every pair I wore there. Dad wouldn't let me in the car until I'd wiped my shoes on the grass - something that as a teenager I thought was worthy of many eye-rolls, but now I understand.
The people there were terrible, too. I remember having a stand-off with one manager, who wanted me to start working without clocking on so they could stay within budget. I refused and he wasn't happy. From that moment on, that manager was against me. If he was in charge of the rosters for the month, I'd find myself with only a couple of shifts. I remember him demanding one girl give him a shoulder rub on one shift, while the rest of us raced around during the busy dinnertime shift.
I was still working there for a little while after I met Steve, and he used to pick me up. But, he refused to kiss me until I'd been home and showered and didn't taste of salt and grease anymore.
I loathed every minute of my time there, yet I managed to stick it out for three years, until I finished high school. I still remember feeling so grownup at receiving my first paycheck - until I opened it and saw it was a total of $12. Yes, at the age of fifteen, I was paid $4 an hour. That's when I realised it was going to take a lot of work to start saving any money.
I persisted, and saved almost every cent. By the time I was seventeen, I managed to save enough to go on a holiday to Bali with my best friend and her family. So, although I hated the job, it served its purpose well enough.
Working there was also an important lesson for me. I learnt that, no matter how good you are at your job (I was awarded the store's only perfect score during those three years - on multiple occasions - by mystery customers, and always worked hard), if your heart isn't in it, it's just a struggle.
After that, I moved into waitressing and had some okay times. Nothing dramatic.
My last job before beginning office work full-time was at a bakery. I worked there six days a week for six months - over spring/summer. It was terrible; hot and exhausting work. This was made worse by the owners of the bakery, a brother and sister. The sister had a terrifying husband (she would come in with new bruises every day, poor woman) who would come in on occasion and stand over us. This would cause his wife to start yelling at me, I guess to prove herself to her husband.
I used to have little secret ways of communicating silently with my favourite customers, too. You see, the brother and sister were a little lacking in their standards, so the food was often left there for a few days longer than it should. If they thought they could get away with it, they would. I would let my customers know which things were okay to buy; something that would have infuriated the owners if they'd found out.
Then there was the brother. He was the baker, and a very, very strange man. When I arrived in the mornings and began work, he would stand behind the bread shelves making little comments about me - hello, sexual harassment. I just ignored him (he's lucky I didn't have the knowledge of such laws that I do now!).
Yes, I've had some horrible times in past jobs. It's funny to look back, though, and realise how much impact each one had on where I am now, and how they've made me appreciate a good job when I come across it.
How about you? What have been your worst or funniest working moments?
Posted at 6:42 AM