What was your worst job? I have a couple that come to mind immediately. When I was thirteen years old, I got my first job (hear that, kids???) as a hat check girl in a neighborhood restaurant/banquet hall on the South Side of Chicago. I lied about my age, saying I was fifteen. I was just this dumb kid who didn’t know anything, which made it way too easy to be completely taken advantage of. My hourly pay was a whopping $1.25, but the icing on the cake was that I was allowed to keep ten percent of my tips (and sometimes I had to share that measley amount with another girl, if two of us were working). That’s right – ten percent of MY TIPS. This was back in the seventies when the average tip was twenty five cents, so we’re not talking retirement money, but that’s not the point. My dad was furious when he found out that, at the end of each night, I was expected to bring my little tip bowl into the office for the manager to divvy up (1 for me, 9 for them). Since this restaurant was in my neighborhood, the guests were often friends of my parents and they would slip a dollar into the bowl for me. My father told me that when they did that, it was because they thought that money was going to me, not management. I learned at a very early age the art of pocketing my tips.
The manager’s office was glass enclosed and located directly in front of my station. Since I was told I could not leave the coats unattended, going to the bathroom was out of the question. Especially with the boss keeping an eagle eye on me (or, at least, that’s how I felt). I was told I could fill a plate of food from the restaurant buffet and eat in the coat check room, but was never able to figure out how to do that without leaving. Then, an unlikely friendship developed while I worked there, which definitely turned into the best part of the job. The valet drivers surprised me one night with a full plate of food and a Coke, and every night since then, always filled a plate to overflowing for me. They also would make sure I had bathroom breaks, offering to watch the precious coats and hats. Now, I know what the cynics out there are thinking right now. And you know what? I really didn’t care. I mean, when ya’ gotta’ go, ya’ gotta’ go, right? Besides, I think they recognized that I was treated poorly (as they probably were, t00) and were just being kind. I never heard any complaints about any personal items missing, which I’m sure I would have, so I believe they were just being good guys.
Also, the nature of a banquet hall lends itself to late night revelers and I was not allowed to leave until the last drunk stumbled out the door. Then, I would have to call home for a ride (since I was still three years shy of attaining a drivers license), often after midnight. I came to dread going to work, but didn’t think my folks would just let me quit. You know – that whole “work ethic”. So one day, I walked into a local bakery and asked the manager if he was hiring. Three days later, I showed up for my first day at my new job. I remember telling my parents that I had quit my hat check job, BUT, not to worry, because I lined up a new job. And that bakery job was, without a doubt, the best job a kid could ever have. I stayed there through high school and every college break.
I’ll spare you the details of my other terrible job, but just to give you a glimpse: it was one of two jobs I worked one summer during college and I fully expected to get fired every day I went in, but wouldn’t dream of quitting because I got paid big bucks – $3.50 an hour. I was a telephone solicitor for the Chicago SunTimes and only sold one subscription all summer. And talk about abusive situations – I learned that people HATE being called by solicitors. My favorite sound was the beep – beep – beep that preceded the message: “The number your are trying to call has been disconnected.” Whew! I think everyone agrees, though, that these kinds of jobs really make a kid appreciate a college education.
So what was your worst job? I’d like to hear about it and compile a list. Gotta’ go now or I’ll be late for work.