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09 March 2010

What was the first job you ever had? [More:]
Here's my story.

I grew up in a typical Midlands town with terraces of two-up, two-down red-brick houses that usually had a corner shop and/or a pub at the end of the street. We had a corner shop selling groceries that also had an off-licence. (An off-licence can sell bottled drinks - this was before the days canned beers were sold in the UK - and it sold mostly ales, fortified wines such as 'VP British Sherry' and, for the sophisticated palate, the odd bottle of Hirondelle Liebfraumilch, which was pretty much the only wine you could buy in the UK when I was a kid.)

This is the street. Our house was on the left, next to the second blue car and the lamppost you can see in the picture. When I lived there, nobody had a car. People rode bicycles or got the bus.

This is the other end of the street. The building on the left used to be the corner shop, with its door on the corner where that little window now is.

Now in England when I was growing up they had fairly strict laws on child labour. No working under the age of 13 (unless it was in an acting role), no working on licensed premises, very strict controls on working hours. Despite this, my dad arranged with the owner of the store, a creepy bloke named Paddy, for me to work there after school, when I was 12. I worked from 5pm to 10pm, when the shop closed, and my mum would walk down at about 9.45 to collect me (and to pick up some more booze for my dad to drink when he got back from the pub - his drink of choice was Gold Label Barley Wine, like Thunderbird, it's one of those drinks only consumed by pissheads).

So, I'd get home from school at 4.30, eat my dinner (which we called 'tea') and then go down to the corner shop to work. It was really hard work, re-stocking the shelves, which involved bringing crates of ale up from the cellar, boxes of canned goods and other packages products from the garage and generally humping stuff about.

I did this five days a week, 5 hours a night. My wage for the week was 40p. I strongly believe now that my dad was getting paid in booze for me working there.

I remember one particular Friday night I'd just been paid and my mum had come to collect me. I wanted an ice cream to eat on the walk back up the street, and Paddy deducted the money - 8p - from my wage.

This all sounds incredibly Dickensian looking back on it now but at the time I really didn't have any choice about it.

But I was falling behind (and falling asleep) at school, and the teachers noticed. I was under strict orders from my dad to say nothing - he said I would be in trouble with the police if anyone found out.

Well, someone did find out. This was in the days before 24-hour Tescos, and few and far between were the shops that stayed open after 5pm, so this place was always packed and it was a total gold mine for Paddy. One evening, the odds were against him, and one of my teachers came into the shop to buy something. She saw me there and said to Paddy "I didn't know Jan was your daughter". "Yeah, right, maybe if I'd got married when I was about 15" he replied.

Next day I was taken out of class to the Deputy Head's office where I was questioned about this. After school I walked down to the shop as normal, to find Paddy's banshee of a wife yelling at me that I'd got him into trouble.

I found out years later that he was prosecuted and fined, and that my dad was also implicated in some way but I never found out if he had to go to court or anything. But I do know that I was punished heavily for the school finding out.

So, that was my initiation into the world of work. Not the best job I've ever had, but, also, incredibly, not the worst.
Working at a gas station, in late 70's. In California we had odd/even days for gas and lines around the block. The part that sucked was arbitrarily picking some car in the line as being the last car, thereby pissing off everyone behind him (and we're talking seriously angry people). That gas shortage didn't last too long, then it was just a fairly easy job. I worked 35 hours a week during high school, no wonder my grades sucked (well, the job and the fact that I didn't care one bit about school).
posted by doctor_negative 09 March | 15:31
Paper boy.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson 09 March | 15:32
Wow Jan, what a story.

My first job is one that I still perform today. I first did it for free, and I still do it for free, because I like it so much.

From the time I was very small, I wanted to look after even smaller children, babies, to be exact - the smaller the better. When it was gift giving time, my birthday or Christmas, I would beg for realistic babydolls that cried, peed, pooped, etc. If my parents had friends with small ones, I would cry and pout because I wasn't allowed to take care of the baby (signifying that I was obviously too young anyway). I was delighted whenever I was allowed to sit on the sofa and very carefully hold a baby, and I was over the moon whenever I was allowed to give a bottle, burp, or even *heavens!* change a diaper.

Fast forward to my teen years. My peers were into getting into cars and driving around and looking for parties. As soon as I was old enough, I signed up for the local Red Cross Babysitter Certification Course. I got top marks, of course. Certificate in hand, I hung out my sign (posted my name on the church bulletin board is more like it) and business started pouring in. Had my parents not insisted, I would have babysat every night of the week, and believe me, there was a demand. I was a Very Good and Responsible Babysitter. Of course, I graduated, went to college, had my own kid and started a successful career, but I still eagerly offer to babysit for my friends' children. Ages one month to ten years is my general range these days. I still don't think anyone understands that this is a complete Pleasure and Joy, and that I am not Put Out by looking after their little preciouses from time to time. I love the odd game of Pat-a-Cake or Uno. I love to play Connect Four and to draw in coloring books. Auntie Msali, a role that I was born into.
posted by msali 09 March | 15:39
Wow Jan, that really does read as rather Dickensian.

My first job: I was 16 and I manned the drive-through at McDonalds two or three days a week after school, and on Sunday mornings. It was a relatively fun job, except for one asshole manager that drove everyone nuts. The best part was Ray, a Korean war vet who worked on Sundays just to get him out of the house, he said. He made me a heart-shaped biscuit every morning we worked together, which I ate with strawberry jam. (I wish I could tell him that I remember that, and it made my day every time.)

On preview: msali, I will babysit for free, too. Gotta get me that baby fix.
posted by Specklet 09 March | 15:43
I wound up working as a secretary (making appointments for students and scheduling conferences with parents, answering the phone, updating the college spreadsheet and wall display, etc.) in high school in the guidance office.

Of course, this came around because in my senior year I only needed a few classes (due to the way graduation requirements were set up, you only needed a set number of actual credits but in specific areas, so 4 years of math and English, but only 3 years of social studies and science.) I tried to fill out my schedule with as much bullshit as I could (orchestra, honors physics, a math class and a half, technical drawing, digital art, blah blah blah) but I still came up one class short.

Montgomery County did not allow you to have a 'study hall', even though I'd gotten permission from the school librarian (a friend's mother) to stay there during whatever class period I had free. They wouldn't let me leave early because I didn't have enough free periods in order to fit into the work-study program thing.

So I wound up in the guidance office, being a secretary, so they could 'keep an eye on me'. At the time, I didn't really think anything of it (aside from being pissed about not being able to get out of school at an earlier time) but thinking back on it--it was a HUGE privacy violation. I knew all sorts of shit about the students and their histories, since I had access to all their files and was making appointments.

I will say that it was useful in that it helped me learn good phone manners and dealing with office politics at a very early age. (The politicking came in handy later when I started refereeing more and more, since at the time, I was still a player and wasn't technically allowed to referee for pay since it was a conflict of interest.)
posted by sperose 09 March | 15:48
Informally: babysitting, cashiering at a local co-op.

Formally: Summer before college, worked in a day-hab center for MR adults, sort of engaging them with tasks and following their behavior modification schedules.
posted by Melismata 09 March | 15:50
On preview: msali, I will babysit for free, too.

Not me! I like kids but not that much. As for many others, babysitting was my first informal job. My first "real" job was at Limited Too at the mall. Ringing up purchases, straightening clothes (including the dreaded Panty Table), cleaning at night, helping customers. I rather enjoyed it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 09 March | 15:59
Sunday morning paper round. Two ernornous bags of thick Sunday papers to take round one end of my village. Three quid for 1-2 hours of work.

Plus I went to a school that had lessons on Saturday mornings, so I was up early every morning. Somehow I didn't have much complaint about any of this at the time.
posted by cillit bang 09 March | 16:02
Baby sitting. The odd thing was that the kids I babysat, one was only four years younger than myself, the others were only two or three years younger; and they were my nephews and friends of my younger brother. It wasn't so much babysitting as hanging around with slightly younger friends.
posted by deborah 09 March | 16:03
My first real job was at a flower shop, I'd bleach out the buckets, de-thorn the roses, and on occasion get to make wreaths (I loved that). Eventually I got to work the register and make bouquets.
It was a flower shop in my small town square and I'd been going in there with my mom for a while (it was a big deal when it opened) to look at and learn about flowers and talk to the nice woman (Kimberly) who owned the shop. She would tell me about the flower wholesalers market where she would buy her flowers from and how it was huge. It sounded incredible and I really wanted to go with her but she always went at 4:30 am on Mondays so I couldn't, with school and all.
I think I was 14 when I started working there.
Then the store moved locations and I didn't drive yet so that was that. It was a great first job.
posted by rmless2 09 March | 16:38
TPS- why was the panty table dreaded? Because there were so many of them or because it was embarrassing to touch underwear in public or something?
posted by rmless2 09 March | 16:40
I started on my 16th birthday as a busboy/dishmonkey at a local pizza joint. I made cook/ovens after a few months and stayed for a little over two years before I left for college. The pay was shit, but I had some close friends that worked there and had a fling or two with some of the salad girls. I loved it there. Still my favorite pizza, too.
posted by ufez 09 March | 16:41
Unofficially - helping my mum catch up with filing at work on the last weekend of every month (I'm sure the bosses would have loved that if they knew about it). Being a general bottle washer at my dad's machine shop.

Officially - I worked for a temp agency for awhile when I was 18, and my first temp job was a Clerk 1 in the Radiology department at the local hospital. Simultaneously the most boring and most stressful job I've ever had. I used to dream about the color-coded filing system. My coworkers were real sweet, too - most of them were working part-time to put themselves through nursing school or an X-Ray technician course.
posted by muddgirl 09 March | 16:58
ahh! That sounds so Matchstick Girl! Ahh!

I watched my brother. Then I processed checks in a bank for like a week.
posted by The Whelk 09 March | 17:02
I edited health and social marketing publications, compiled and analyzed conference evaluations and performed readability testing in English, Spanish and Hmong (a language I do not speak), all on behalf of various university and state government agencies.

I was 12. I worked for my dad.

It's eerily similar to what I do now, but at that point I hadn't been beaten down by working for the Evil Empire, Best Buy (yes, they are distinct), Democratic fundraisers, crooked lawyers or one of three distinct shoe stores.
posted by Madamina 09 March | 17:03
My first real job (babysitting excluded) was cashier and candy-making-helper at a local chocolate shop called Watson's Chocolates. I walked or rode my bike to the shop after school and on weekends, since it was pretty close to my house.

Mostly I packed boxes of assorted chocolates and rang up customers, but sometimes I got to work the end of the enrober - the machine that coats the candies in chocolate and then dries them on a big conveyor belt. It's really not all that off from that famous I Love Lucy skit where she ends up stuffing chocolates everywhere because the belt is moving too fast. Well, except that we could adjust the speed of the belt and it never went that fast.

My boss - the owner - was a somewhat grumpy man that called me "Lil bit" and never programmed the cash register. We had to add up the purchases w/paper and pencil and there was a sales tax table to figure out the tax. He said it was important to learn basic math skills and not depend on a calculator (not that I needed it, I was taking AP calculus by my senior year). I learned to count back change in my head, though, which is a helpful life skill.

I worked alone most weekday nights unless it was close to a major candy-giving holiday. That meant I had keys, closed the store myself, and often helped myself to some candy to bring to school the next day. When I think back, it was a lot of responsibility for a 16-year-old. I was so incredibly shy before beginning that job, but being forced to interact with customers really helped me develop my social skills. You'd never know if you met me now how shy I used to be.
posted by misskaz 09 March | 17:09
What a coincidence, Jan. I also grew up in a typical Midlands town, in a very similar house - although we lived opposite a small park, so it wasn't quite as grim. I remember being sent up regularly to buy sherry or beer from a shop very like Paddy's, which was illegal as I was underage. That was in the days before disposable bottles. Buying a new bottle was expensive. The shopkeeper kept big demijohns of the stuff under the counter, from which he'd refill your bottle. I'd take our bottle to be refilled, wrapped carefully in a towel so that no-one would see that the shopkeeper was breaking the law.
My first job was a nice one: working in the ice-cream kiosk in the park, at weekends. I don't think I was paid much, but the kiosk owner was nice and always sent me home with a free ice-cream!
posted by Susurration 09 March | 17:18
Of course I did the usual babysitting and tutoring at my synagogue, but my first REAL job was working at a dr's office for four summers starting when I was 16. I mostly did filing and occasionally answering the phones/scheduling appointments. I felt sooo grown-up in my cute skirts and tops and sandal, bustling around.

One summer the new thirty-something PA started flirting with me in a way I found a little weird, since I was only like 18 (and he would say things like "a longer second toe is a sign of sexiness"). Once he let me help him put a cast on some poor shmoe's leg! Later I found out he thought I was about to start med school, not college--one of the nurses set him straight and he left me alone after that.

That same summer, one of the other PAs took me with her, some of the nurses and secretaries, and some other people, on a bus to a Jimmy Buffett concert. They got me drunk on wine coolers, to everyone's amusement (including my own). I still like girly drinks best!

On reading the other responses--I wish I got to work at a chocolate shop!
posted by leesh 09 March | 17:22
First job was paper girl when I was 12. It was really hard freaking work, especially for a very shrimpy kid, such as I was.
posted by amro 09 March | 17:28
My first job was as a radio DJ. I was 13 years old. I lied and said I was 16 and submitted a tape and got hired. I got to meet bands like BTO, Rush, April Wine, Styx, Johnny and Edger Winter, and a bunch of others. It was pretty much the coolest job ever at that point in my life.
posted by arse_hat 09 March | 17:32
I worked in a dry cleaners every day after school in high school. The interesting part was finding money/pot in people's trouser pockets. Which of course found its way to ours. :)
posted by chewatadistance 09 March | 18:33
When my mom got married, her father and brother-in-law (who were both loaded) set my dad (who wasn't) in a Foster's Freeze franchise. Foster's Freeze is the franchise from hell.

Plus my dad, for his many qualities, was not much of a business man, so we sort of struggled along in it, good summers and bad summers, etc. I was popular in that friends got free ice cream though.

I remember my dad getting hectored by the in-laws about not making "real money" in this.

When my dad died, my mom took over the business and kept it going, until the afore-mentioned in-laws wanted their money out (beachfront land) and sold the land out from under my mom. I am assuming that these men are all rotting in hell now, or at least I hope so.

Interestingly (to me at least) we had a long-term employee who, if you wanted the archetypal lesbian from the 1950's could have posed for the picture. SO butch. . .and of course it was never talked about, just as my sister's serial monogamy with a succession of women is never talked about. . .but remembering Frances. . .god what a trip.
posted by danf 09 March | 18:59
Assuming occasional baby sitting doesn't count, I shelved books in the children's section of the public library. I was 19.
posted by JanetLand 09 March | 19:02
First off I wanna move to where all these free willing baby sitters are!

My first job was at 14 working in my Aunt's flower shop. Lots of polishing and cleaning and changing water and dealing with goopy smelly stuff, but also fun when shed let me create arrangements. Even more fun when she'd sell them!

She had two shops so on Saturdays I would work alone in the small one. Most days after school I worked too although my school commute was over an hour. Added bonus was spending time with my aunt and her Basset Hounds.
posted by gomichild 09 March | 19:20
I delivered newspapers for the local paper: The Red Bank Register, when I was 12. It wasn't too bad, except on collection days..people who were out in their yards as I was pedaling up the street suddenly wouldn't answer their doors when I was asking for payment. I did this for two years; the paper had a hard time getting someone reliable after me - once they even dropped the papers off at my doorstep, because the kid they had suddenly quit!!
posted by redvixen 09 March | 19:22
Cash register at a gas station when you still had to make change math in your head. I wasn't so good at that, and was fired. I was sixteen.

I went on to not being so good at waitressing, and getting fired, and not being particularly good at coffee serving, and quit when I was able to support my eighteen year old ass with two theatre productions running at the same time.

For a number of years, I've worked in corporate insurance, but I didn't start that till I was around thirty.

One thing about the healthcare debate, work sponsored health plans sort of discourage going it alone - I always carried a catastrophic policy when I was freelancing in my twenties, but. . .

Then the retirement account started late, too, so I'm pretty screwed for trying the artist thing.

Jan, thanks for sharing that story, it's pretty amazing, in a very bleak way.
posted by rainbaby 09 March | 19:24
I worked off the books at a local greengrocer's for my first three years of high school, stacking fruits and vegetables in the morning and sweeping, mopping, and taking out the garbage after school. Then I went legit and worked at a fancy liquor store.
posted by Hugh Janus 09 March | 19:24
TPS- why was the panty table dreaded? Because there were so many of them or because it was embarrassing to touch underwear in public or something?

Because it took FOREVER. The table was round and three-tiered, like a pyramid. The underwear needed to be sorted by style, then by size, laid flat, and fanned out to look nice and neat. You could spend hours fixing it, and then some asshole could come through and mess it up in 5 seconds. I did my best to avoid doing it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 09 March | 19:28
My first paying job was a paper route - which frankly stunk. The hours sucked, my distributor was unreliable, and I hated collecting. And I delivered (I'm not making this up) in two hurricanes and several 18" snowstorms.

My first *real* job was working as a violin maker at Bell Laboratories. Awesome. Totally, totally, still-put-it-on-my-resume awesome.
posted by plinth 09 March | 20:28
Paper route, delivering the Peabody Times. Mrs. Harris tipped me a nickel or a dime each time I collected, placing it softly in my hand, closing my hand for me, and saying, "And this is for you; don't spend it all at once!"
posted by not_on_display 09 March | 20:29
Lab assistant. I made up the trays after school for the next day's Earth Science experiments at my high school. Test tubes are a pain to clean. I liked having a key to the classroom.

My first serious boyfriend at fourteen worked as a clown at kid's parties (he was thirteen). He was a good clown. Used to do magic tricks.
posted by Pips 09 March | 20:48
I had a job at age 13/14 at my pre-k through 8 school helping with the after school care. I mostly remember just two particular boys, one a hellion and the other an angel. The bad one was the stereotype of the impetuous and "MINE"-centered kid. The nice one would lend his toys, and the bad one would then proceed to break them and yell that they were broken. I didn't mind it most of the time.
posted by that girl 09 March | 22:36
"He Who Walks Behind the Rows"... Detasseling corn. When the ground was too wet for the tractors everyone went on foot. Cornfields are kind of spooky places, even with a bright summer sky.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth 09 March | 22:43
Babysitting when I was younger, but my first actual job with a real paycheck was in a bagel deli, serving sandwiches, when I was 14.
This is the first time in my life I haven't had a job, other than when I was hospitalized (and then I had a job to return to).
posted by kellydamnit 09 March | 22:59
Okay, first real job was during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. I was a doc typist for the savings and loan I ended up being at for 15 years. In my senior year I was on half days because I only needed three classes that year; mum would pick me up on her lunch hour. I worked my way up to a loan underwriter by the time I quit.
posted by deborah 10 March | 00:04
In a supermarket, restocking shelves. Boring. Then tutoring (math and chem). Then I got real jobs.
posted by gaspode 10 March | 00:05
Delivering newspapers (Auckland Herald). I used to get up at 4am in the freezing cold, ride my bike to the local shops to collect a bunch of papers, then spend two hours riding around in the dark. The worst thing that happened was one morning when I crashed my bike and lay in the gutter unconscious for over an hour before some guy out for a walk saw me.
posted by dg 10 March | 07:51
Handyman for an older lady with three attractive daughters.

No, really.
posted by Eideteker 10 March | 08:43
Hi! Would y'all like to try a free sample of fudge? We have chocolate walnut - my favorite! - and chocolate pecan, old Charleston recipe, just made! It's $3.50 for a half pound box!

That was the spiel of the 16 year old MGL in a big open corner store at the downtown Charleston market, 3 marble tables in the middle and 2 or 3 high school kids either making fudge or handing out free samples of fudge to tourists. Every tourist said "How do you stay so skinny! Why, if I worked here I'd weight 300 pounds!" and we always smiled and said, "Oh,a little fudge won't hurt you!" Chocolate walnut was the cheapest to make so we had to say it was our favorite. Old Charleston recipe my ass: corporate headquarters nasty white sugar cheapass chocolate recipe is more like it. To this day I can neither eat fudge nor abide the smell of it.

Weirdly enough I've had quite a few sample handing out jobs. I got a temp one in Baltimore giving out copies of a new racing paper at the track; that was fun - I got to wear this snazzy green shiny jockey jacket. Once I spent 3 days in a mall handing out samples of Diet Pepsi and Diet Pepsi Free and getting people to write down all their pertinent information so they could win a car be hounded mercilessly by pepsi ad drones forever after.
posted by mygothlaundry 10 March | 12:01
I delivered newspapers for the local paper: The Red Bank Register, when I was 12.

I never get over the shock of seeing hometown-specific stuff here! RV, I think you probably delivered that paper at the same time my mom was working there. :)

My first job was at this theatre, staffing the box office on Sundays. I think I was underage for working (13) or just legal (14) - a freshman in high school. Funny, I was just talking about this here in the 'abandoned theatres' thread from a few weeks back.

I showed up, unlocked the dusty old lobby, unlocked the dusty old box office, and sat by the phone behind the glass window with the ticket pass in it, just hanging out at the desk all day Sunday. I can't remember if they weren't equipped with a newfangled answering machine, or just wanted the hours to be staffed with a living person so people didn't try to reserve tickets on an answering machine.

At the time, the theatre was between restorations. There was not much of a schedule: Nutcracker in December, the NJ Symphony for maybe six shows during their season, and occasionally a traveling show like a singer-songwriter or dance performance. In between, weeks of quiet. Most Sundays, nothing happened. I might get one or two calls to reserve symphony tickets - I would look at the seating chart, read the available seat choices, and then select their pre-printed tickets with them and pop them in the mail or label them for "Will Call." Then I would shade out the seats on the seating chart. If there were a lot of changes that chart got to be an incomprehensible mess. It was possible to really screw up if you weren't focused - sell the same seats twice, mistake one row for the next. I think of this every time I go online to buy event tickets- what I did at the box office is now a completely automated process.

I did a lot of reading. I came across the Marilyn French book The Women's Room on the manager's desk, and it went a long way toward further radicalizing me as a young teen. I would sometimes wander in the big dark house, stand on the stage and sing a line or two to hear the sound, or poke around backstage in the ancient, firetrap dressing rooms and wings. The place was falling apart at the time, literally. It had a unique smell of dry-theatre dust that comes back to memory easily.

Now it's beautiful. It's nice to go there now and feel an intimate connection with the space, its old walls and halls and floors.

I stopped working there for reasons which are unclear to me. They just didn't need me at some point - maybe there were problems with my underage-ness, and the fact that I was there all alone all day in a giant empty theatre(spooky for sure). After that I worked as a library page for a few years, then as a prep/cold line cook at a great local restaurant, where I picked up an interest in food.
posted by Miko 10 March | 13:00
Paperboy, too. I was 12 when I started, late-80's, early 90's. San Diego Union(-Tribune).

I could land a Monday paper on a porch from the sidewalk (and I might have dented a few screen doors in my day). The best newspaper for throwing was the Tuesday paper, because it had an extra section in it that gave it good paper-throwing weight. Wednesday was the worst, as it was very light, so I usually had to fold that one into thirds.

Even today, when I touch a newspaper, with its smooth, cool, wispy texture, I can feel it folding under my hands, wrapped in a rubber band, and tossed a dozen yards.

I was such a stereotype. I wore a backwards scally cap and fingerless leather biking gloves. I had a huge basket attached to my BMX, as well as that bag paperboys used to wear over their shoulders that stored newspapers in the front and the back.

I was hit by a car in the middle of the street once. Flew through the air, ended up in the gutter, my bike thrashed. I was also chased by dogs. I might have crashed into a few rose bushes. The worst, though, was riding through a freshly made spiderweb, taut and sticky. *heebie jeebies*

At the end of my route was a 7-11, where I purchased milk in a carton and Hostess Donettes, and played a couple rounds of whatever arcade game was in the corner. Xenophobe and Double Dragon come to mind.

I was the last true paperboy. The guys that took over my route drove trucks and had beards.
posted by jabberjaw 10 March | 13:08
My first on-the-books job was as a 'shop boy' at a bike shop. The job pretty much consisted of sweeping, picking up trash, breaking down boxes, being somebody's third or fourth hand, that kind of thing.
posted by box 10 March | 14:53
(a comment deleted and modified in here, per user's request)
posted by gaspode 11 March | 09:02
I had tons and tons of odd jobs (house painting, junk removal, light handy work for the disabled old farmer up the street, who loved to tell incredible stories about his old days in the early 1900s as a mule skinner), farm jobs (hay, corn tasseling, etc...) did stints at school helping do data entry for the staff, worked with my dad in the lab during his Ph.D. program on summers, worked with my mom doing tearsheets (hand tracing) on architectural drawings, and updating all her codes binders, etc...

but my first "real" job that I collected a regular paycheck for was as a teenager working drive-through at a Burger King. Like Specklet it had its ups and downs and one shitty manager that everyone loathed, but in general we had a blast. One of the grill dogs, a snarky black inner city kid who was the Coolest Guy Evar just loved to holler "Midasize it, SUCKA!!!" loudly into the mike over our shoulder when some noisy old junk heap would pull up to the speaker and deafen us all (this was long before anything like headsets or political correctness was invented)
posted by lonefrontranger 11 March | 18:33
Picking strawberries in the fields in Oregon when I was 10? 11?

I'd have to get up at an insanely early time of day and get on a bus which would take us to wherever we were picking that day. You got almost nothing per pound - I think it was 5 cents, but that sounds high to me now that I type it out.

I was pretty shy and it was weird to be surrounded for the first time entirely by strangers without a soul I recognized.

However, I made some good money that summer, and my mom told me I could use it for whatever I wanted. I hung onto it for a long time because! with all that money.

In the end, I bought a lot of books, including some first edition Oz books which I loved (there were only two Oz books in print when I was a kid so I'd have to order them through Inter-library loan. One of them came all the way from the Library of Congress!).

Those strawberry fields are still what I think of when I picture an early summer morning.
posted by Sil 11 March | 22:51
Aside from random babysitting jobs, I worked for the Stanford Professional Bookstore the summer after my junior year of high school. The store has since been absorbed into the main on-campus Stanford Bookstore, but at that time, it was located in downtown Palo Alto.

It was my first experience with that sort of retail job - we had a time clock and a break room and everything. I answered phones, received book shipments, stocked the floor, ran the register - and occasionally made up answers to questions that med students would ask me about which test prep books were the best.

It was generally a nice place to work. My bosses and coworkers were mostly pretty great. The worst part of the job was just standing for hours. I loved the sense of belonging to something, of having a place where I knew exactly what to do and how to do it, where I was rarely out of my depth. I was proud of the little things I accomplished - being left alone upstairs on the med floor for hours to handle it by myself was great. It could be deadly quiet and boring, but I relished the responsibility, and I could sometimes sneak in some interesting reading. I hated closing because it was so tedious, and I was always exhausted by then, but I loved knowing how to do it. It made me feel like I was part of something during a time in my life where nothing else felt like that. (This all sounds so naive and ridiculous to me now.)

If I was working during lunch, I'd always walk down to the bagel place a couple of blocks away, and the guy at the counter started recognizing me. The last couple of weeks I worked at the bookstore, I didn't pay for a single bagel. Looking back on it, I think he was hitting on me a little, but I was so lacking in confidence that I wouldn't have known what to do with the attention even if I'd realized what was going on.
posted by unsurprising 12 March | 04:18
Oh, I almost forgot! I was working there when the sixth Harry Potter book came out, and we received four boxes of it a few days before the release date. Having those boxes squirreled away in our time-clock/locker closet was so exciting. I remember being a little scandalized when the manager broke the seal a day early to take one book home for herself to read over the weekend.
posted by unsurprising 12 March | 04:21
13, working in the family tv/vcr repair shop. I'd been kind of working there since I was about 8, but this summer I was actually getting a paycheck.

This was when the Atari and Intellivision games were the big thing, and people kept breaking their consoles. I'd fix up about a half dozen a day.

The business was in the front, and my grandparents' house was in the back of the building. I'd help my grandmother make lunch and wash the dishes, and see if she needed help in the garden. After that, it was back to work.

After about a year, I was qualified to work on VCRs. Typically they just needed a cleaning and they'd be back in working order. I'd also have to clean and put together the VCRs that the other technicians had gotten working again. I got to be pretty good at piecing things back together.
posted by lysdexic 14 March | 01:34
Number Gossip || Metachat algebra cheering squad - round two!