This past week we reached a milestone in our nuclear family of six: for the first time ever we are all employed to a lesser or greater extent. In keeping with the times, most of us are working part-time. But we have jobs none-the-less; something to be thankful for in these economically troubled times.
The first work I ever did for pay was when I was 7 or 8, sitting on a stool in the shade of Spanish-moss-covered trees in sleepy rural Florida, shelling peas behind the kitchen of the drug rehab center where my dad worked. I got 10 cents an hour, which I immediately spent on refreshingly cold bottles of RC Cola from the vending machine on the porch at the front of the building. A dime well spent.
As a teenager in Brasilia I mostly washed cars on Saturdays, and did odd jobs during the summer break. My dad’s printshop was always thankful for cheap labor, but there were other things to keep the teenage boys busy. The summer I turned 16 I spent most of my days on top of the apartment complex where we lived, putting little plastic extensions at the end of each dip in the corrugated roof, so the rainwater would clear the balconies below. An unsightly solution to an architectural mistake. Safety was not a concern to my employer. The roof was made of asbestos sheeting, and we spent hours each day drilling holes in it with no protective gear whatsoever. (Jana and I spent evenings on the roof that summer too, watching falling stars and talking about nothing. In spite of the setting, the relationship never became romantic; Jana is now a Facebook friend.)
My senior year of high school, in Portland, Oregon, I had a job at Fred Meyer’s, sorting bottles and aluminum cans. Oregon still has a useful “Bottle Bill” where almost every beverage container has a 5 cent deposit on it; return rates are high and the streets clean of stray bottles and cans. I came home smelling of stale beer every night. A habit that’s been hard to break later in life.
The summer in Seattle saw me working as a grunt for a construction company with a Swedish name I’ve now forgotten. Fast food followed, working at Bob’s Burgers in Corvallis, then Buns & Burgers in Santa Rosa, California. That year I came close to McDonalds too, pulling out on the first day of my training, which greatly angered the manager.
The next year, in Seattle, my brother David came to the rescue, securing jobs as “prep-ers” for both my brother Paul and me at Magicare, where David worked doing electrostatic painting. “A good name is worth more than silver or gold” says Solomon. David has always been a hard worker; Mr. Midkiff figured it probably ran in the family. My dad wrote the man a letter, thanking him for employing three of his sons. So, not only do we work hard, we’re nice too. Pat my back.
What else? The list is too long to cover it all…a courier in Seattle, running around downtown on a moped; silkscreen at an athletic uniforms shop; a missionary; a priest; and when things went sour for awhile, working “black” for a friend’s restaurant and delivering mail for the post office.
Next year, this time, I’ll be looking for work again. I’m sure something will turn up.