Friends and family who’ve known me for a long time often comment about the number and types of jobs I’ve had over the years. So I thought I’d begin documenting them…
Newspaper Route I
Like many kids pre-2000s, my working life began with a paper route. My very first route was a one or two month stint delivering our weekly community newspaper when I was 8 years old. Imagine an 8 year old today walking a 6 or 7 block radius going door-to-door by himself (or herself) delivering newspapers to strangers, but somehow I surived. My job was to deliver the newspaper every Wednesday to every household unless they specifically requested we not deliver the paper, which was a few houses, then to go door to door every month asking for the subscriptioni price (whether they subscribed or not) or donations, whichever they prefered. If they gave me the subscription price, I was supposed to give them a receipt, but what I didn’t realize was that I was only supposed to give the receipts to people who gave the full price and not a partial donation, and that I was personally charged a percentage of every subscription receipt I gave from my pad of receipts. So if the subscription was 2 dollars (which I think it was) and someone gave me a 50 cent donation, I was not supposed to give them the subscription receipt but turn in the donations based on an honor system. To make a long and confusing story short, I ended up behind on my collection receipts, which meant I earned no money for the route that first month, in essence working for free. It was a good lesson for me — always make sure I know what I am donig when it comes to handling money — and because the pay was so bad I rather quickly gave up the route.
Newspaper Route II
When I was 12, I tried the paper route gig again, but this time with The Seattle Times, our afternoon daily newspaper. Every afternoon during the week and then mornings on weekends and holidays, I delivered the Times to subscribing households over a 5 block radius, which was approximately 50 households, then once per month I’d go door to door to collect the subscription fee, which I think was 6 dollars. In short, it was a pain-in-the-arse job for not a lot of money: no matter what my friends were doing or what my plans were, I had to high-tail it home from school every afternoon and pull myself out of bed every weekend morning to unwrap the bundle of papers, count them, wrap them in a rubber band, load them up on a rack, then go door to door to deliver them. I delivered papers in the wind, rain, snow, dark and even Christmas morning while my presents waited under the tree. And colllecting the subscription fee was no easy task – it was going door to door, hoping people were home and that they had cash, and tracking down a few people who were either never home or never had cash, then repeating this process the next month. At least once or twice a week, I was shorted papers (e.g. if I was supposed to have 50 papers, I would only be given 48), which meant walking the half-mile to the convenience store to buy a replacement paper with my own money, then submitting the receipt at our monthly carrier meeting for reimbursement; additionally, if I ever missed a paper or if it were damaged by wind or rain and someone called The Times to request the paper, I was fined 1 dollar (for a 25-cent paper). After six months of working every day and hoarding my money, I earned a grand total of 382 dollars, which was a decent savings for a 12-year old in 1981, but not enough to keep me coming back. I gave up the route after 6 months, valuing my time and freedom more than the 60-odd dollars a month.
Washing Ice Cream Trucks
My first job-job was given to me by my cousin, who managed an ice cream distribution plant. He needed someone to wash the trucks that delivered ice cream to the grocery stores, since over the course of the week the trucks would get dusty and sometimes muddy, and they wanted them clean with the company logos in full display. SInce I was in high school, this was virtually all disposable income.
Every Sunday, I washed their fleet of trucks, which was usually about 12 to 15 trucks. It would generally take me 3 hours to wash the trucks, and I would make 3 dollars per truck, so I averaged 13/hr at a time when minimum wage was 3.35/hr. Overall, it was an easy — albiet brain numbing — job, although in the cold weather my hands would nearly freeze and a coat of ice on the trucks would make it challenging to wash off the dirt.
Overall, I think I did well with the job, although my first week I didn’t konw to wash one truck at a time. I basically scrubbed each truck before rinsing off all the trucks at once, but the problem was that most of the soap — and dirt — dried before I had a chance to rinse it off, so I had to wash the trucks all the trucks over again.
I worked this job for approximately six months, and looking back I wish I had been more efficent in washing the trucks – I was paid per unit, not by time, so probably could have worked faster and more efficiently.
My favorite memory about this job was The Seahawks — who played on Sundays and were great that year, so I generally listened to the game as I worked — and the post-work ritual of watching that week’s Hill STreet Blues episode, which I had recorded the previous Thursday night (I usually had basketball on Thursdays so recorded Hill STreet Blues on the VCR).
Pizza Maker and DIsh Washer
Because I was a teen ager, I traded in a job making 13/hr for a few hours a week for a job paying 3.35/hr for 15 hours a week, meaning I worked more hours for not much more pay for the simple reason I wanted to work with my friends…
My job with the pizza restaurant materialized when a friend got a job there and asked if I’d be interested. I turned in an application, had a 30 minute interview, then was hired. I worked a few five hour shifts a week in the evenings. The job basically began in the dish room and the goal was to work the way up to pizza maker. The top jobs for teens were manning the pizza ovens, but these were reserved for our two friends who had been there forever and weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Oddly, I liked the dishroom. Making pizzas meant dealing with mad rushes and process (weighing ingredients, etc.) while essentially on stage. In the dishroom, I got to play music, drink sodas, and work at a steady pace that involved some waiting around for the dish washer to finish.
I had an incident there, and learned a valuable lesson: kiss the boss’s butt. We were goofing aroujnd on a slow night, and I teased that our bosses were jerks in a way that offended the manager. “I didn’t mean it,” is all I would say. So they removed me from the schedule. For the next 2 or 3 weeks, I had…
To be continued…