The other day, I wrote a bit about getting laid off and it feels like the right time to go down the path of work history. I have some stories to tell when it comes to how I made a buck in my day, that’s for sure. Buckle in because this could be a long one.
Looking back, I think I had, like most people, a very strange inner fantasy about what work was going to be like. I have always wanted to be a writer and usually that was focused on being a journalist. I also wanted to be a professional baseball player, for a while, and a pro basketball player, too. If I would have had more drive in those directions, I think I could have given those dreams a short, but fun run for their money. At very least, I could have been a very good high school athlete if that would have been my desire in those days.
In middle school, I bounced between the ideas of being a plastic surgeon, a psychologist, and a lawyer. The latter of which I have thought about many times, even as recently as about 15 years ago. Going to law school has always seemed like a fantastic challenge. Could still happen (he laughs inwardly). I was pretty serious about the plastic surgeon thing for a while, too, but not after grade school.
In high school, though, I started thinking about possibly being a writer again, or a teacher, and a musician. Go figure. By then, I had a good idea of working was like because I had a few jobs as a really young guy that I have mention. I may have talked about these before, too, so forgive me if you heard these stories.
When I was around 9 or 10, my mom had a boyfriend who she lived with named Bill. He was (and is) a wheeler-dealer kind of guy and he had these Christmas time kiosks in the malls called Can-A-Gift. For a few Christmases I worked at Can-A-Gift canning presents for people. I was always pretty good at math, so I took people’s money and could make change and all that. I also learned how to use the canning machines and put the funny or sort of tasteful labels on them.
It was a lot of fun and I got paid for the work. I got 10 cents a can and over the course of the time I did it on my mom’s weekends, I made enough to get some presents for my parents and play video games in the arcades. That was probably where most of the money went. I think one year I had about $40 saved to buy presents and promptly lost the cash. That was a terrible feeling and I’ve hated losing things ever since. It makes me almost physically ill to lose something.
My wheels start spinning in my head when I can’t find something, and it flips me out pretty fast. Lately I’ve been pretty disorganized and I’m sure Rhondi would say, “Lately?” and it’s been driving me insane. I look forward to simplifying in the coming year. 2022 was all about writing and growing a beard. 2023 is about getting organized and writing and keeping the beard.
One or two years, Bill had a Halloween store in the malls, too. It was very cool. He had some great masks and all the stuff you needed to dress up. Imagine at 12’x12’ kiosk version of those Halloween stores we have now that pop up around town. Seems like I used to have a few pretty good masks from there, but they got lost over the years. Even then a good mask was really pricey.
Anyway, that was my first real work experience. My mom was always volunteering me to do things, so I had tons of odd jobs over the years. I also started working at Easy Street the summer between 6th and 7th grade in 1981. I got $5 per day for passing out plates and cleaning up and taking out the garbage and such. I enjoyed that, too. My great Aunt Lois owned it then, so it was fun being there in the summer with my mom, Aunt Julie, and great Aunt Lois. Ben worked there, too, and we took a few dozen trips over the video arcade then, too.
With the money I made at Easy Street in 1981, I bought my Schwinn beach cruiser. I still have that bike, so when people say that you appreciate things you work for more than things that are given to you, they are right. I also bought a bunch of fireworks that summer when my dad and I drove back to Cleveland to see the Ohio family. It was nice to have a little do-re-mi to spend on the trip.
From the next several years, I would work at Easy Street on the weekends or during the summer when I was with my mom. She and Aunt Julie bought it from great Aunt Lois, so there were always opportunities for Ben and I to help out, especially on Saturdays. As we got older, we did more things to help and got paid a bit more, too.
When high school got rolling, I started thinking about real jobs and in the summer after sophomore year, I got hired at Taco Bell on 31st street and Thomas. I was staying with my mom for the summer to get a little space for my dad and I (and my step-mother) and I applied and got hired pretty quickly. In those days, Taco Bell employees wore a brown uber-polyester uniform, and it was hot.
I know I have written about this experience a bit and looking back, I wish I remembered more details but I did write about his in more detail back in April. There were some people I would see again in December of that year (1985) at Camelback who worked there, including my friend, Roxanne, who I was very happy to see again and hang out with during and after work.
I worked at Taco Bell for two months before moving back in with my dad and starting school at Deer Valley for my junior year. That was when I lost my sense of smell. Imagine…the last thing you really, really smell a lot of in your life is fucking Taco Bell.
See you tomorrow.
Shit. This is a repeat, but only because I couldn't find a picture of a canned Christmas present.