Posts Tagged ‘job’

After completing my latest exam this past weekend, I gave serious thought to stopping my pursuit of a master’s degree in English. I have, after all, completed the graduate certificate in technical communication that I returned to school to pursue. I signed up for the master’s program on impulse, the way other people get tattoos, only I wasn’t drunk and this sure is costing a lot more.

I plan weekends and vacations around school, and I don’t even have kids. Years ago, I managed to get a undergraduate degree in journalism and history while taking only ONE upper-level literature course, meaning I have to take a few undergrad courses now.  I obsess. I ponder. I worry. I wonder why I’m doing this.

Then, the fall schedule makes an appearance. I glance at it in spite of myself, and of course see a class that I would love to take. Coincidentally, the company I work for will pay most of my tuition starting this fall.

So now I’m feeling all Clash: Should I stay or should I go? I guess if I have to ask, then I already know the answer.

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While browsing the List of the Day archives, I spotted the September 17 entry, Your Worst Job, and began analyzing my own early career path.

Having avoided the service industry for most of my working years, I don’t have too much whining to do about my jobs of yore. My fellow cube rats will agree that the white-collar environment can be a special circle of hell, but I’ve always had some guilt about excess sniveling when my job involves an air-conditioned environment, free coffee and access to clean restrooms. I feel like an overeducated tool – an overeducated tool who isn’t above griping about her job, but at least I’m a little uncomfortable about it.

That said, I have had some notable jobs that “informed my character.” The significant ones:

•Babysitter of three little boys, ages 2, 3 and 4: I made megabucks from this gig. Nobody else in my suburb was willing to take on these guys, so their mom had to up the hourly rate significantly.

At their house, I learned the art of loose parenting. They could have Popsicles once a day, outside, while wearing only their diapers. Afterwards, they got rinsed off with the garden hose before toweling down and coming inside for fresh diapers. Mom’s orders. Who was I to argue?

They also ate quiche for lunch once a week. None of the toddlers I currently associate with would even consider eating quiche.

•Cashier at Jitney Jungle: This was a joyfully monotonous job. My duties included scanning groceries, checking IDs, counting cash (this was in the Olden Days, when people used cash) and stocking cigarette and candy displays.

It was a people-watcher’s delight. The poor, the rich, the drunk, the recently paroled, the great unwashed … a sea of humanity made its way through my lane day after day. Most customers were friendly, though some were crotchety. It was always a delight to bend the rules for the friendly customers and enforce them to the letter for the crotchety.

My favorite customer was a man who always told me that he was going to pay me with “Hawaiian money.” I was the only cashier who ever got his joke; more than one freaked out and ran to the management booth for help.

I enjoyed analyzing the combinations of products that people bought, stringing together my own narratives for their lives with plot details involving the contents of their shopping carts. Cigarettes, beer and diapers were a popular combo that really needed no explanation. My favorite grouping was a bottle of bleach, a hairbrush and an order of potato logs from the deli.

I only caught one shoplifter. It was an elderly lady who added up her purchases on the back of an envelope and paid me with wrinkled bills and coins that she carefully mined from the bottom of her old, ragged purse. She never bought a brand-name item if there was a generic version available, and there was never a hint of luxury in her basket.

One day, I saw her in an empty lane slipping three or four Snickers bars into her bag. My duty, of course, was to Get The Manager, but instead I played lookout for her, making sure that no one else saw and that she got out of the store with little fanfare for her walk home.

I imagined that this was a special circumstance. Maybe she had a grandchild visiting, or a friend coming over to watch a rerun of a favorite movie on her old TV set that, no doubt, sported a pair of foil-covered rabbit ears.

Maybe she stole things all the time and I just didn’t know it. Maybe she was getting senile. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t about to have a poor old lady arrested for a little chocolate.

•Marketing Coordinator, unnamed small business: I extended two weeks worth of work into six months of employment with this company. The boss knew it and didn’t care. What counted was that such a small business had a Marketing Coordinator on staff, even if there was nothing to coordinate.

Luckily, I was by myself in the office most of the time and had ready access to the Internet and free coffee. Not so luckily, when the boss was there, he grooved to barbershop quartet music and Rush Limbaugh. He also whistled. Inside. A lot. To this day, I can’t help but glare at anyone who dares whistle in my presence.

My replacement tracked me down several weeks after I left and called me to see what the job duties were supposed to be. I still remember his exact words when I told him the truth: “Seriously? Christ.”

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