My first ‘real’ job was working customer service for a dry cleaners in my hometown. It was located next to the best donuts in town. Which just so happened to be owned by my driver’s ed instructor. My sophomore year in high school, we would make the donut run to the warehouse and pick up dozens of round, melt-in-your-mouth, glazed, fried bread. I never recovered from the sweet smell. Just the thought of a Daylight Donut makes my body crave another hit.
One of my best friends at the time was working for the cleaners. So, when the manager said they needed to hire someone, she mentioned me and set up an interview. I’d just turned sixteen, so I was legal, but had only babysat a few kids in my neighborhood. Albeit, one kid I babysat everyday after school for over a year. And he was on Ritalin for ADHD. When he took his medicine, time passed easily and I did my homework. On days when he refused to take his pill, I was backed into a corner and putting my arms in front of my face as protection. He could get violent. I accepted the abuse when I felt up to it, but some days, it was too much and I would have to call his mom to leave work and come take care of him. I felt guilty not being able to control him, not thinking that I was still a child myself. That was a lot of pressure I put on myself. Especially for $5 / day.
The job at the dry cleaners seemed pretty easy compared to that. I started when minimum wage was $3.75 / hour. I worked most days after school and some Saturdays. I remember having awesome biceps from lifting and carrying dozens of stiff, white collared dress shirts. I also remember super gluing a quarter to the sidewalk outside the door so me and a co-worker could laugh and count how many people would try to pick it up. We learned people would spend an average of ten seconds attempting to retrieve it. I also learned how to sew a button on a shirt. But, that was a long time ago and apparently it isn’t like riding a bike.
My senior year in high school, I joined VICA – Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. They placed me in an office job and I got a raise, making a whopping $5 / hour to sort mail, file invoices, and learn data entry for a distributor of o-rings and gaskets. I met some wonderful people there and remember hanging out in the warehouse a lot during slow times. The guys let me use the packing equipment to shrink plastic. I also met a few questionable souls and remember leaving the job because the owner liked to stare at me a little too long, on days when I wore a white cotton, button up shirt, black wool skirt, and black heels.