I only babysat once in my life when I was eleven and I never even saw the kid. I just sat and watched TV for 2 hours & ate a bowl of ice cream. I only got $2 for my trouble so I thought, fuck that! My next job was when I was 15, my Mom made me apply at the new Carl’s Jr. that was opening up on South State Street. I was horrified when I got the job, mainly because I already had a popularity problem and the stinky, brown, polyester uniform was not going to help matters. I have a bit of a social phobia, so for the first few weeks, I would have to lie down doing deep breathing exercises everyday before work to chill my anxiety. After awhile I made some friends with other suffering teens forced to work there, so it had its fun elements. Plus, free milk shakes! I had to start work at 6:00 AM on weekends to set up the salad bar. One morning I was carrying a giant bowl of red Jell-o through the dining area to put in the salad bar when I dropped it, shattering the bowl and sending red globs of gelatin flying all over the restaurant. I did this right in front of the manager, but I could not help but laugh hysterically for 5 minutes straight before I was able to get the implements to clean up the catastrophic mess. After about a year, they decided to put into action an employee of the month campaign and I was awarded the first honor. The prize was that I would get to have a large photo of myself displayed in the dining area. I was mortified and quit on the spot.
My next job was at the pear sheds packing pears. This was assembly line work and you were paid like 13 cents a box, so the faster you were at wrapping pears and layering them neatly into a 50 pound box, the more money you made. I was more into staring at a boy named Manuel who had puffy man nipples making little hills in his shirt, but I still managed to make more than I did slinging burgers for $3.15 an hour. I worked the night shift with two of my friends in the summer and we would go to Denny’s each night after getting off work at 2:00 AM. The waitresses got to know us & we would leave them pears with a nice note on a napkin along with their tip.
When I graduated from high school I moved to Queens, NY and got a job at the puke market. This is what we called the supermarket in the neighborhood due to its unpleasant smell. I worked in the butcher department wrapping meat. It was a sad job and I had to pretend the hunks of meat were just random objects as opposed to hunks of animals that were breathing yesterday. I worked mainly with stereotypical Italian guys named Vinny, Joey, Tony and Gino who spoke like Andrew Dice Clay. Vinny was the head butcher who always had an inch long ash hanging off his cigarette while he cut meat. At noon we would all break together and Vinny would sneak out into the store and steal boxes of donuts or hostess cupcakes for us all to snack on. One day I started to cry because I had to wrap a liver, a cow tongue and a heart.
Once I moved back to California, I got a job right away in a new Deli opening in the San Francisco financial district. I worked in the dessert section cutting cakes and making lattes for the business men during the day while going to school at night. One day when I got off work at 5:00 PM, I took with me one piece of Key Lime Pie and one piece of chocolate chip cheesecake. Just before I got on the underground Metro, a 7.2 earthquake hit the bay area and I had to walk home through the rubble in a state of shock. When I got home to our damaged apartment, I sat in my room amongst the debris and ate both desserts in succession. After working at the deli for two years, I had some money saved so I quit and was unemployed for 8 months concentrating on school.
I then got a job as a waitress in a bar in the tenderloin district working the night shift. I was a terrible waitress and was especially bad at trying to hit up drunks to buy more fries or fish sticks, so I did not last there long. I tried telemarketing and heard a lot of cool answering machine messages, but after only one-day, a very sore ear and a numb elbow, I quit. I then went to work at a cheese shop, but was fired for not looking happy enough. I cried because I really did like working there.
I was planning a trip to England, but still had 2 months, so I got a job at a family owned Deli/Grocery in the Opera Plaza. The wife cooked all the food for the deli: Coos Coos, Moroccan chicken pie, Moussaka, Jambalaya, Piroshki, Dolmas, baklava, whole turkeys for fresh turkey sandwiches, meatballs for meatball sandwiches and on and on. The husband ran the grocery element and their two sons did all the heavy lifting. They were the sweetest family and said I could come back to work for them after I returned from England, which I did. They even gave my boyfriend a job. One of the highlights of working there was meeting some of the opera stars. Did you ever see that show on PBS called “Are you being served?” about a department store in London & the people who worked there? Well the lady who played Mrs. Slocombe (the older lady with purple hair who called her cat pussy) was married to William Moore, who was performing in one of the Opera’s so they stayed in the plaza & I got to shyly tell her how much I liked her.
After two years, I decided it was time to move on. I was very good at quitting jobs before having another lined up and luckily got something pretty soon in a central hotel reservations company. I have always been obsessed with talking on the phone and enjoyed this form of customer service where you can make faces and hit the mute button when you want to say mean things about the person on the other end. I worked as an offsite reservationist for over 30 San Francisco hotels and basically had to pretend like I was located in each hotel people were calling. In order to appear as though we were in the hotel when they called for a reservation, we had to know everything about it from restaurant hours to wattage in the light bulbs. This meant we got a lot of free stays in hotels to get to know them on a first hand basis. One of the nicest hotels was the Mandarin Oriental that had a $2000 a night suite that included a room for the butler. We even worked for a property in Fiji owned by Jacque Cousteau’s son Michel, but we did not get to visit there and stay in one of the huts. It was nerve wracking when someone would call for there, because we had to try & sell them a package that was about $5000.
Eventually I decided to move to Seattle with a friend that I had met at the Opera Plaza deli and also worked with coincidentally at the Hotel reservation place. Within a month I was employed in an actual hotel in downtown Seattle doing reservations and was later promoted to Human Resource Manager. I never thought I could fire people, but then you realize you can do a lot of things. I worked there for 7 years and then the hotel went into severe financial difficulty when we first lost a ton of money in the stock market and then incurred a bunch of expensive damage in a 6.8 Earthquake in February 2001. Then you all know what happened in September 2001, so we had mass layoffs, could not pay our bills and were skating on thin ice. I could not deal with it anymore after experiencing my own stressful loss, so I finally asked to be laid off in October 2002. Eventually the owners lost the hotel to an underhanded businessman.
I enjoyed 5 months of unemployment and would have liked at least one more month, but then I stumbled on a dot.com job that had 4 out of the 5 things required of my dream job:
1. Casual dress
2. Enough of a challenge combined with enough downtime
3. Fair salary & benefits (although a raise would be nice)
4. Free food (kitchen is filled with things to eat for breakfast & lunch & all the snacks you can handle)
5. The one thing it is missing is a little more creativity, but oh well.
I do feel very fortunate to have a job, because I know I could not survive on unemployment right now or God forbid, no income. Now that I am done updating my site today in the middle of the workday, I think I will go make myself a sandwich and maybe do a little work…