What was your first job?

What was your first job?
Soup and bread was a common order at this restaurant. So was salad and sammiches. This picture is prettier than the ones at the restaurant.

My first job in high school sucked. I think everyone's did. Here's my story.

[Name redacted.] Popular lunch time fast restaurant known for its bagels. Senior year of high school. I'd wanted to get a part time job ever since I turned 14, but my parents wouldn't let me. My dad was right. I have the rest of my life to work--why start so early? That  was their philosophy until my younger brother got a job at a grocery store, then they started pushing me to get a job, taking me to various places and saying, "Hey, you should fill out an application here."

[Name redacted] was one of them because that's where my parents did their "date lunches" while I babysat my four littlest siblings.

I remember when I was hired. I had no idea what the rules were about disabilities disclosures, so I opted for the truth. "I'm hard of hearing. Will that be a problem?" (The actual question was less polished than this, and more ramble-y. I was a total noob.) Boss lady closed her eyes and waved the question away with her hands. I don't need to know that. Score one for her--she did what she was supposed to do. and based her hiring of me on my skills, which at that point was simply how sweet and personable I was.

I was naive.

I had no idea when I was being disregarded against the law. Bosses tried to send me home early when it got slow, despite the state laws that said that I had the right to work the hours scheduled. One in particular was notorious for sending people home. The first time it happened, she told me, "You can go home now." I did some mental calculations, realized that I'd rather make the $6.25 for the hour I was still scheduled to work.  I found things to deep-clean around the restaurant that were crusty and filthy.  When she saw me still working, she told me, "We tell you go home, you go home." I believed her, and did so. Every single time. I missed out on probably a couple hundred of dollars.

My bosses there weren't always the most knowledgeable about how the restaurant actually operated. I had to sort the meal tickets as the receipt printer spat it out, and keep it in order that the oldest ones got served first. Once, during a particularly busy lunch rush, my boss lumbered out of her office, started taking apart each individual ticket from its long chain, and put them together. She puzzled over them, trying to figure out what order they went in, before she finally gave up and went back to her office. I was left to quickly help people and deal with customers who were waiting for 45 minutes for their bread bowl soup and angry that the person who just sat down got their food faster than they did.

I often got migraines in high school from the stress of home, and working only compounded that. I was high-strung, striving for perfection and taking it personally when the food preparers made a mistake. My migraines were mostly of the dizzy, light-sensitive sort. I didn't usually have that much pain, thankfully, so as long as I kept my balance, I kept working. I once spilled french onion soup on someone's leather jacket that was hanging on the back of their chair while I was delivering food, because in those days at that particular [Name redacted], they did deliver food. I was aghast, got another wave of profound dizziness, and cleaned it up every time I passed by the jacket by wiping it with my apron. By the time the person got up, it was passably clean. Alleluia.

I ran into my 3rd grade teacher once. She knew I would be a senior in high school, and asked how life was going. I told her it was going great, I was finishing up my senior year, homeschooling, and applying to college. I'm certain she didn't believe me, because I was working lunchtimes during the schoolweek. Plus she might have had an inkling about what was going on at home. Plus she might have noticed that I was slightly out of it, since I was battling yet another dizzy migraine. She encouraged me to go to college.

This one woman would come in every Thursday at 1pm to have lunch with her friends. She was a grandmother, and loved talking with people. I didn't yet know how to carefully give out information without providing people with too much info--and she found out I homeschooled and had never dated. Therefore, she tried to set me up wit her grandson. He was 22, also had homeschooled, and had never dated either! We must be soulmates! She dragged him in to have lunch with her one day, and asked me to sit down (since it slowed down a little bit at work). I did. The  poor guy was red in the face from embarrassment, but he was a gentleman, trying to be obedient to his grandmother while also being nice to me. We happened to take the lunch trash away at the same time, and while at the trash can, I told him he didn't have to listen to his grandmother. Just do whatever works for him. I don't know how he took it, but I hope it helped. I wanted him to know that he didn't have to ask me out just because she wanted to see him get laid (in not so blunt terms, but yeah).

I lost 10 lbs working at [Name redacted], going down to about 130-135lbs. How? I was too cheap to buy food, even with a 50% employee discount. I thrived on Tropicana Fruit Punch soda, since sodas were free, and walked constantly during the 5 hour shifts. Sometimes I would splurge on the sample bread slices and butter when my boss wasn't looking.

I tried getting a shift at the cashier stand to get a break from the monotony of delivering food to tables, but my deafness caused a lot of problems. I was so frustrated at my constant failures that I almost cried several times. My boss never scheduled me for the cashier position again.

I was utterly, clinically, severely depressed during my senior year of high school. I'd research depression on the family computer, erasing the site-specific history after each session. It seemed I had depression, no matter how many quizzes I took. I took the quizzes conservatively, understating each answer. "Moderately depressed" was the result. Then I took it again, with the real answers. "Severely depressed." Clearly, I must be depressed. I had no energy. I could barely work on school. I could barely connect with my siblings or my dog. I had no hope for the future. My mom also miscarried kid #7, and I was so angry about that that it scared my oldest little brother. "Are you okay, Holly?" he asked.

Yet I managed to gather the energy to go work at [Name redacted] for the lunch rushes every weekday. I had to, to keep up appearances--and it was a good thing I did so for so long because when I finally told dad that I was depressed, he raged at me. He took it as a reflection of parental failure rather than something to help me with. He told me that I was only a spoiled brat too big for her britches. Antidepressants made people suicidal. If I wanted any help, I would do so out of pocket with absolutely no insurance...and that was not something I could afford. I was too busy saving up for a laptop for college to help me take notes as an assistive device.

I worked two part time jobs during the last semester of my senior year of high school. The library finally worked through their applications over a year after I applied, and hired me in January. I would work at [Name redacted] Monday-Thursday, and the library Friday-Sunday. I would bottle up the stress Monday-Thursday, and have migraines Friday-Sunday during the relaxing duties at the library. I worked through the migraine because I needed the money. Because I loved working at the library.

In August, just before I had a chance to submit my 2-weeks' notice, my boss asked me for my fall schedule. I told her I was resigning. I felt bad...kinda. I was actually pretty happy. She offered limited scheduling around my classes. I considered the extra money for all of 10 seconds before politely declining. Which was good, because I took an overload of courses and stayed at the university from 7:30 am to 9pm most days to get away from my father's moods. That would have been impossible if I still worked at [Name redacted] which was less than a mile from home.

That was my first job. What was yours?

(Kudos to an uncle for the idea!)

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  • I worked at KFC for my first job. It was as you'd expect a fast food job to be.

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