Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting Through Life, One Job at a Time

Remember when you were a kid and you couldn't wait to get a job? My first employment was far too easily gained. It gave me false expectations for the future. It was definitely a case of "it's not what you know, but who you know that counts." A lady in our church got me into her real estate office for the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. It was great. I rode with her to and from work. I got to use my new typing skills. It was cool in the office and I didn't have to serve food to anyone.

This was my first experience with an electric typewriter - the highest form of technology for the time. This was before copy machines. Does anyone remember carbon paper? I had to do 5 copies of contracts on legal sized paper. Everything had to be perfect - no strike-overs or corrections of any sort allowed (this was also before white-out, which would not have been allowed even if it were available). I can't even tell you how many copies of those contracts I ruined and wasted that summer. I was afraid I'd lose my job if they found out, so I went from one trash can to another when I threw away whole sets of 5 ruined pages. But it was an invaluable experience and I made some money.

In an aside, I will never forget where my very first paycheck went - to pay a speeding fine. I was a brand new driver. I was going after someone for Sunday school, for Pete's sake! I had not driven on the interstate much, and I was thinking deep thoughts about something and neglected to slow down when I went from the speedway into the residential area - doing 45 in a 30, so the officer said. I was sure I'd get off easily, since it was my first offense. I had to take off work to go to court. Everyone else was getting $10 fines, so I breathed a bit easier as the day went on. The judge looked at my offense, asked me if I was guilty. Then he said, "If you drive like a man, and you speed like a man, I'm going to fine you like a man. $50 and court costs!" Bang of the gavel - all of my first check gone. A very sexist judge, by today's standards, and a very hard lesson learned. (I wish I could say it was my last speeding ticket).

So - the next year, I coasted through the spring semester, sure that I had that job sewed up for the summer after graduation. Imagine my shock when I was told their business wasn't doing well enough that year to warrant summer help. I was heading to college, as I wrote about here, and desperately needed money. I could not find a job anywhere that summer - you realize this was pre-McDonald's. I ended up going to several weeks of church camp, both as a worker and as a camper. It was a wonderful way to spend the summer, but not helpful for my upcoming expenses.

When I got to college that hot summer day in 1969, I immediately went to to "employment office." It wasn't much in those days. There really wasn't much available for someone without a car and who wanted to have some fun as a student! I was determined to not work in the school cafeteria - I'd been there, done that in elementary school and at camp. I know I should have been willing to take what I could get, but I REALLY did not want to do that.

I did manage to land a "little" job. It involved spending the night with an elderly lady who was bedfast. It definitely wasn't ideal, because it involved going over to her house, across the street from the dorm, at about 9:00 in the evening and sleeping there. My role was to be sure she had someone there to help her with any needs during the night. I won't go into details about the very worst night of this short-lived career, but suffice it to say it involved changing bedding and everything else in the middle of the night.

The good news? A whole $5.00 per night. The bad news? I was already paying to sleep on campus, and now I was being paid not to. I was missing all the fun of the nighttime ritual in the dorm. I was very lonely.

And - I wasn't really very good at this job. I slept too soundly. I'll never forget the morning that I finally awoke to this poor little old lady hollering as loudly as her ancient little voice could muster - and never woke me up. I didn't awaken until her daughter came pounding on the door to relieve me to go to class - late for my 7:30. I thought she'd fire me on the spot, but she must have been desperate.

I did this on Monday through Thursday, and on Saturday, if I remember. My boyfriend and I walked for our dates, and we were walking past her house on a Friday evening when I noticed a wreath on her front door - a black wreath. That didn't seem quite right. When I called the next morning to see what was up, I learned that Mrs. Ridings had died that Saturday. I was ever so thankful that it wasn't on my watch! I felt bad - for the family - and for myself. Though I didn't enjoy the job and really wanted to be back with my friends in the dorm at night, I was now unemployed after only 5 weeks. Back to the employment office.

Job #2 to get through college - a laundromat down the highway needed someone to work several afternoons/early evenings a week. My job was to give change and keep the machines cleaned out. The problem? They had no business! Nobody needed change. The machines were never used. It was another very lonely job. I had plenty of time to study and knit. I had to walk home in the dusk and dark over a mile down busy Route 66 (yes, that Route 66). That job ended when the boss came in one night to check on things. I went back to get the broom - he followed me in there. He backed me up against the wall - we were kind of back behind the dryers. I had the broom in my hands, kind of keeping him from me. But I came really close to being violated behind those dryers that night. I must have prayed, though I don't remember it. Or somebody was praying for me. I remember being afraid, but not hysterical. I said, "Don't you have a wife?" He said, "Yes, I do." I said, "Why don't you go home to her?" God must have given me that courage, because it wasn't my own.

I really don't remember what happened at that point - I think the other guy who was with him came back. It seemed to me that the other guy knew what was going on. I remember shaking all the way back to campus on that busy highway. It didn't hit me until later that night how close I came to disaster.

After those two experiences, I didn't get another job that school year. I knew I should. I needed one. But I just didn't have the heart. I just totally enjoyed being a freshman, confident that God would take care of my needs. I did some occasional babysitting, which I did not enjoy. But it was a bit of cash for hose and toothpaste.

That summer I managed to snag two jobs - causing me to work 7 nights a week. I hated missing Wednesday night and Sunday night services, but I really needed the money. Four nights I worked at the Dairy Queen in our neighborhood - for $.75 per hour! My plan to lose the Freshman Fifteen was derailed daily, as we were allowed to sample our wares. Oh, my goodness! This DQ was the summer hang-out for a large group of really nasty junior high aged latch key kids, who made my life miserable.

The other nights were spent at a grocery store, the name of which I totally cannot recall, nor can I remember what I did there. It is all a blur. Obviously, it wasn't too enjoyable either. Bottom line - I worked 7 nights a week and barely dented my freshman year's school bill.


P.S. Please head over to Kristen's place to see a pictorial diary of Care Bear's first day of school. Note the bling she's wearing - 5 necklaces and 4 rings, early birthday presents from Kevin and Sema, who noticed that she always likes to wear jewelry. As Sema said, she's going to be High Maintenance for some guy someday!


Diane J. said...

Interesting for us to read, but not that enjoyable for you to live through, Dawn.

I had a couple of "great" jobs too - cotton chopping and working as a clerk in a western wear store, among others.

I'll be looking for the next installment. :-)

Love and hugs,


Tammy said...

It was really fascinating reading about your first jobs, Dawn!
And though you're not old at all, you're just old enough to have experienced some things from a different technology era. (Does that make sense?) Because in the last 30-40 years, it is amazing how fast things have changed!

However, that awful in encounter with that guy sounds glad God was protecting you!

Looking forward to reading more!

Judith said...

I am so sorry you were treated like that, and thankful you didn't get hurt, or worse. I think sometimes we learn more from life,
than we might in class.

Barb @ A Chelsea Morning said...

You and I are right around the same age so this brought back tons of memories. I definitely remember carbon paper. As a matter of fact, just recently I was wondering if they even make it any more. I learned to type on a manual typewriter, too. I typed 78 wpm on a manual! LOL Boy, those were the days.

I actually remember offices before copy machines!

What a great story this is. The job with the old woman sounds very unpleasant. The man in the laundromat sounds like a nightmare.

I know I sent you an email but I swear, I must have deleted it. Anyway, I want to make double sure you know you won one of the Josh Groban CD's in my giveaway. I'll mail it to you as soon as you send me the mailing info. :-)

Nancy said...

Interesting jobs and maybe a little too much excitement. You were right, you just got spoiled by that first job (I do remember carbon paper and the days without white out!) I look forward to more.

PEA said...

Another interesting post dear Dawn! Yup, I do remember carbon paper and like you, I don't know how many times I would ruin the copies and end up having to throw them all away and start over again! Especially with the electric typewriters, the keys were so sensitive! My first real job was as a secretary...I also babysat and sold Avon products. xoxo

Maine Mom said...

I was just thinking the other day about my first job working at our University's dining hall washing pots and pans...not fun!

Nikkie said...

Very interesting post. Makes me feel like a complete slacker for not working while I'm in class :)

Linda said...

What awful experiences Dawn!! You must have been scared to death of that awful man. Isn't it amazing to look back and see all the ways God's hand of protection was on our lives.
The job with the elderly lady must have been quite an experience.
You always do such a good job with these stories. I love reading them.
Congratulations on winning the cd. That's just great.
We're off to Houston for a couple of days. Keeping you and Kristen in my prayers.

groovyoldlady said...

Thanks for sharing. YOu have a wonderful way with words and your stories just come to life in my mind as I read.

Linds said...

I remember carbon paper and how those little letters on the typewriter would get stuck together and create a pileup! In fact, I remember thinking that the advent of electric typewriters was a wonderful mnarvel, after the manual ones.
It is fascinating reading about your first jobs, Dawn, but you certainly had some lucky escapes too. I had so many jobs through university too. I should write about them one day!