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Monday, March 1, 2010

What Jobs Did You Have As A Teen?

Like many of my fellow MTV Book authors, I went to work young. I absolutely adored The Baby-sitters Club books growing up so as soon as my parents deemed me qualified & old enough (I was 11 and since my folks were both nurses, they insisted I take a CPR class in case of emergency), I started my own babysitting club with my friends. We were called Kids Inc as I recall... but I could be making that up. Despite being a packrat, I didn't save anything related to my club. The other members came and went, making me Kristy, I guess because I headed the whole thing up, though I would have much rather been Claudia since I was totally the artsy one and dressed in a funky style like she did in the books. Anyway, we made flyers and put them up around town, had weekly meetings, and brought bags filled with toys and activities to entertain the kids, all like the fictional Baby-sitters Club did. Mostly I just watched the kids on my block, though I had a few other jobs too. And I did this through all of high school. I was over the whole club thing by the time I was thirteen, but I continued babysitting a few afternoons a week for a neighbor with a 6 week old and a toddler who taught piano lessons and needed someone to watch the kids while she did so. I loved those kids, Danny and Sarah, like they were siblings, and I guess they loved me too because when I moved to Madison at 17, I asked to take a picture of the family the last time I watched the kids, and in the photo both kids (roughly 2 and 4 at the point) are sobbing in their parents arms because they didn't want me to go.

The funny thing is that eventually Sarah (who was only 6 weeks when I started caring for her) took her first job as my mom's dogwalker. She's probably a freshman in high school right now, which is makes me feel kinda old, but what really freaked me out was when one of the first kids I ever babysat, a neighbor who was 3 at the time, came in to get a drink at my bar a few weeks ago. "Do you remember me?" she asked with a grin. And once it dawned on me I exclaimed, "Oh my god, no way you are legal to be in here!" But she was. Yeah, I'm officially old.

My first real job with paychecks and all of that came when I was sixteen. I had a driver's license, so I needed gas money, plus I was planning to graduate early and move out of state (I so hated my hometown as a teen!), so I needed to save, and then there was coffee at diners practically every night and punk shows on the weekends and CDs and records I needed to buy... You get the picture. I needed the big bucks, more than a couple afternoons a week of watching Danny and Sarah would get me. So I applied for a job at Dominick's, a grocery store chain in the Chicago area. They were interviewing for deli and bakery at the time and being vegetarian, bakery was the obvious choice and it was what I was initially hired for. I was extremely excited because my grandfather was a baker... and then, after I'd been told I got the job, the manager called and apologized, saying he'd found out you had to be 18 to be in bakery. LAME!

Instead I was offered the glamorous position of Utility Clerk. Basically this meant I bagged groceries and sorted the overstock (ie. the crap people decided at the last minute not to purchase or picked up and then stuck back on the shelf in some random place). And I made.... wait for it... a whopping $3.75/hr. Woo hoo!!! This was under minimum wage, but I think they were allowed to do that because of my age. But then the law changed and my pay went up to 4 or 4.25. When I did move to Madison and became a cashier at a small grocery store, I was so excited when they offered me $4.50. Well, at least I learned early how to stretch the meager amount of money I make; it's certainly helped me be a writer, lol!

I have to say, I was an excellent grocery bagger though. There were parts of my job I detested like handling dripping juicy meat (and especially the time someone bought two skinned cow heads. Skinned, but they still had their eyeballs. It was possibly the most disgusting thing I've ever seen) and standing in the freezing cooler sorting refrigerated goods and overstock. But to this day I prefer to bag my own groceries. Partially because I actually enjoy it and also because it seems like most grocery baggers must not have seen or fell asleep during the training video I watched because they forget essential rules about weight distribution, bagging the cold items all together, and making sure your bread and bananas don't get smooshed. So yeah, it's the self checkout line for me so I can put those early job skills to use!

What about you? What was your first job? Do you still have skills (or nightmares! like ones of cow heads!) leftover from it?


Ashley Erin said...

Hah, so I never knew that you were bagger! I worked at Jewel and have the same sort of stories, we didn't have the cool title of " Utility Clerk" we were "Service Clerks"...fancy. I was so proud of myself for winning "Service Clerk of the Year" in my store. I got the fantastic honor to go to some big competition that I lovingly refer to as "Bag-Off". Ah, the memories. I loathed touching all the leaky meat...no fun. From what I've heard Dominicks workers didn't have to go out on carts, did you? As crappy as it was, I loved it just because it was an hour that I got to do absolutely nothing! Ah, the memories...

Danielle Joseph said...

Steph, sounds like you were a business woman from the start! I actually really wanted to be a bagger. I was a chashier for a while but wanted to bag instead. I also worked at the deli for a month which I did not like. It was awful when pastrami went on sale!

Jan Blazanin said...

When I detasseled, I was paid $1.07 an hour, and at the chicken farm I got $10.00 a day. Talk about making the big bucks!