Labor Day Memories

In honor of Labor Day, I’m looking back at some of the varied jobs I’ve held over the years and analyzing what I learned from those jobs.

At fifteen, I worked at a local hot dog eatery despite the fact that I hated hot dogs. Scooping sauerkraut out of huge bins didn’t help my attitude. I loved earning a wage and got my first lesson in taxes. You’ll be happy to know that I left the hot dog business and went through a weird phase in college where I ate one every day for two months (go figure).

While in high school I also worked in a discount clothing store. I was amazed to discover how many people left the clothes they’d tried on scattered around the dressing room. To this day, I never leave clothes behind in a dressing room and always return them neatly arranged on the hanger. We’d all do well to follow this rule.

The summer before I left for college, I delivered newspapers to several apartment complexes. All I can say of this experience is, “What the hell were my parents thinking?” I would arrive at the warehouse at 3 am and stuff papers into their plastic sleeves.  I would then drive (in pre-dawn dark) to my complexes and (with my car running) sprint inside the interior buildings, tossing papers at subscribers’ doors. It’s a wonder I wasn’t abducted or that my car wasn’t stolen!

I bagged groceries for two weeks in college and now use my vast knowledge of bagging etiquette to critique the baggers on my almost daily runs to the grocery store. My last two years of college I waited tables at a pizza joint that is now a topless bar. My husband, whom I met in college, gets a big kick out of telling people I used to work in a strip club!

The latter part of my working years were spent in the non-profit sector where I learned there is a lot of waste in government (shocking, I know) and there are many people doing an enormous amount of good work for others. I left the non-profit world to take on my most challenging job to date, stay-at-home mom. Every day is like ground hog day and yet no two days are the same. Does that make sense? I learn more from my kids than they learn from me and while the pay is abysmal, the benefits are too great to mention.

So what about you? Take a walk down memory lane and let me know how some of your jobs affected you.

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About Christy Hayes

A wife, a mother and a writer of romantic women's fiction. I love dogs, exercise and cable news.

Posted on September 5, 2011, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Oh lordy… first job at fifteen was at a fried chicken place. The other girls hated me because I wasn’t driving yet and just wanted money, while they were working to pay car notes and gas. I had no idea how to even mop a floor…they had to teach me. Then several stints at a pizza place through high school got me social experience, life experience, and how to sneak beer through a drive thru window. Then I worked at a retail store for a while, I was a checker at a grocery store for quite a while, which like you, taught me the correct way to bag groceries and even to this day I have to unload the cart onto the checkstand by cold/not cold. Then there was a time as a file clerk in a dr’s office, working for my boyfriend’s sister, but then when he got a job in Dallas after college I left to follow him. Then it got professional. Worked nine years at MCI (telecommunications giant of the time), where I saw basic green screen dinosaur computers morph to Microsoft Windows. The boyfriend became a husband then an exhusband. Moved to Colorado with next guy and split time between morning desk job and nighttime delivering pizza so I could have the afternoons with my baby girl. I think about those pizza runs in awe, because some of the places you go alone, being a woman…not good. Another split and another move brought me back to Texas to my home town, where I got the wild hair to open an indie bookstore. It was awesome and different, and eclectic, and only made it two years. But it created the writing bug in me that started my first novel. Last job is the current one…product shipment administrator in a petrochemical refinery. Blech..Not exciting, but it pays the bills. Met and married the guy across the street from my parents house, and before they passed away I think they were finally at ease with my choices. I was home and had a good man, working, raising my daughter and new stepson and playing with “that writing thing” LOL. I’d love for one day to be able to say “I write for a living.” That’s the next job. :)

  2. Sharla, sounds like we’ve had similar job experiences through our early working years. So funny the things we learn from everything we do. I’d say you already write for a living, as evidenced by the advance check you’ve hopefully already cashed. Don’t sell yourself short!

  3. Wow, you all have had some interesting experiences. In highschool, I worked at a drive-thru restaurant flipping burgers, then at a retirement home passing out evening snacks and eventually assisting the nurses. I had intended to go into nursing but instead ended up in the private sector where I started in accounts payable, did a short stint in as receptionist in a real estate/insurance office, then returned to the accounting field. For me, a job is all about the atmosphere and the people. While we’re working our butts off, let’s at least have some fun. :)

  4. There was lots of fun at work for me, especially at my non-profit job because of my wonderful co-workers. People (like characters) make the story!

  5. Great post, Christy, and I couldn’t agree more with your line, “People, like characters, make the story!” My first job was at a theatre selling popcorn (and eating a ton of it – to this day I can’t stand the smell – BLECH!) and was fired because money was missing from the register, I was the last hired, so I guess they blamed me! I’ve never stolen anything in my life, but “oh well”. On to the next job at the flea market where, after it closed at 5 p.m., my friend and I cleaned the ladies’ restroom! Oh my goodness, we will NOT go there! But, all in all, I enjoyed lots of my summer jobs because of the people I worked with. They made the boring jobs FUN. I mean, stuffing envelopes for six weeks for Blue Cross Insurance Company was one of my more fun jobs because the girl I worked with and I joked and laughed throughout the day. But, like you, Christy, my most fulfilling job has been being a mom, and the only one where I’m the boss and get to see the fruits of my labor and learn a lot on the way.
    Patti

  6. No question, Patti. Mom is the best, most exhausting, most fulfilling job in the world!

    Your Blue Cross job reminded me of one of the many temp jobs I’ve done. I spent a week in a spare bedroom collating papers with another girl who made the job fun. Years later we met again at a party where we finally figured out how we knew each other. She ended up marrying one of my husband’s former college roommates!

  7. Here I am on a blog vac. enjoying your post and the memories it brings back. Thanks, Christi. I have always thought that the actual listing of my crazy gaggle of jobs would make my kids run for the nearest closet. The first and still my fav was a shelving clerk at our local library, where I risked being fired everyday getting lost in the stacks of the fiction section … A-L and M-Z.

    It went steadily down hill from there, from running files up and down a freight elevator in an insurance company, to the most strange of them all – a street vendor in Manhattan. What all of these weird jobs gave me was not just the pennies I needed, but a wealth of “characters” that I’ve tucked away in my imaginary attic, like the crazy aunt! Loved this :)

    • Flo,
      We all have such a rich history of employment. From the sound of your jobs, you’ve got a very big attic to draw characters from!

      What were you selling on the streets in Manhattan?

  8. My most memorable and bizarre job was the summer after college (undergraduate). I worked in a fish packing factory in Santa Rosa CA! Good grief. No one trusted me with a knife to gut fish with, thank goodness. I worked all day long packing them in ice in boxes for shipping. Coldest job I ever had. And smelliest. No, the cold did not stop the smell entirely. LOL! Lesson learned? I needed another degree. I decided to go to graduate school!

  9. Christy, that was the best part of my street-selling days. I worked in the infamous Washington Heights for over twenty-years and spent the first three supplimenting my meagar not-for-profit salary with seasonal work outside. WH is a crazy mix of architecture and culture and has stuffed my attic with some of the most interesting and funny characters a writer could ever hope to “imagine.”

  10. Every day IS groundhog day! I told my sister when she had her son, “Every day lasts st least 48 hours, but he will be in kindergarten in 2 months.”

    I like to say that I’ve slept my way to the bottom of the work totem pole, giving up one career in the divorce and another after being widowed. Am currently enjoying being a domestic engineer aka queen of the laundry. Hope I can stretch it out for a couple of years before I go back to counting beans.

    Kids are a labor of love. Totally worth the monetary sacrifice.

    • Laura,
      I guess I slept my way to the bottom, too! I never should have taken that job in the strip club…

  11. My first job: A neighbor decided to start making and bagging potato chips as a small business, in an airless room about the size of a garage. He had someone fry the chips at night and hired his daughter & I to weigh and bag them during the day. To this day, I don’t eat potato chips. lol

  12. Ramona,
    Your potato frying days sounded very hot and a little bit dangerous. Sorry you can’t enjoy them, but that leaves more for the rest of us!

  13. LOL You can have my potato chips, but don’t touch my corn chips.

  14. All I can say is thank goodness for the job I have now! :) Mother-writer is the best job I’ve ever had the fortune to work.

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