1. Arvada Center: bugging you at dinner time; 1992 (age 17). I answered an add for a job opening at this fancy new theater opening in my town. I was quite the theater geek in high school, and with hopes of studying theater in college I thought a job at a theater to be a great place to start. I was the first interview they held, got all the way through it, got offered the job, returned the next day, and then realized I had no idea what job I had landed. Turns out, I managed to land a telemarketing gig, selling tickets for upcoming shows. I couldn't sell you an umbrella in a rainstorm. I lasted all of like two weeks. What I learned from this job: When interviewing, ask what the job you are applying for is. Especially if they are vague about it.
2. Bowling Alley: deep frying shit; 1992-1993 (age 17-18). My step-mother worked at this bowling alley about 30 minutes from our house and they were in need of someone to work at the snack bar. I was in need of a job. I have no idea what my hourly wage was, but I bet it wasn't much. I worked 3 or 4 nights a week until 1 a.m. The first time my heart stopped beating almost entirely, I was at the bowling alley. The hospital was only a few minutes away. The first time my car was broken into, I was at the bowling alley. What I learned from this job: How to make ranch dressing, that car windows are kind of but not terribly expensive to replace and that being a short-order cook is one of the all-time hardest jobs on the planet.
3. Dry Cleaner: Giving you other people's clothing back; 1993 (age 18). A couple from my church owned a small dry-cleaning business and they needed someone to work the front counter. A girl I was trying very hard to be friends with at church also worked there and thought I would fit right in. My job was to take your stuff, give you a little tag with a number on it, hang your clothes and send them back to the cleaning area and then take your tag when you came back in, find your stuff on the rack, give in to you and make sure you were charged correctly and received the proper change. This doesn't sound hard, and in fact it wasn't, except that those little wire hangers get all sorts of tangled together and if you are not paying very, very close attention Mr. Jones goes home with his nice blue suit and Ms. Jackson's unmentionables. I was not one for paying very, very close attention to anything. The girl from church ended up being the very first Jehovah's Witness that I ever heard swear, and I was, of course, horrified. What I learned from this job: The back of a dry cleaners smells really bad, swearing is fun, and that I never really liked being a Jehovah's Witness anyway.
4. Gas Station: Wearing brown Polyester pants and steel toed shoes, and looking really hot in them; 1993-1995 (age 18-20). My dad bought my brother a car in 1992. In 1993, my brother took off and never really came back. My dad got stuck with a car payment he was not totally prepared to handle and so took a little weekend side job at a local gas station. He got married in July of 1993 and they needed someone to cover his 2 or 3 shifts for the 2 weeks he was on honeymoon. He asked me to help out and I, not having anything else going on really, thought I'd fill in for him. I worked there for 2 years. I worked 5 or 6 shifts a week, taking weekends off to go stay in Greeley with my boyfriend. I worked with really fun people and actually made a not-awful wage. Excepting the uniform, I kinda liked that job. The manager of the place taught me how to balance the books and do the daily banking and order the fuel and do the payroll. My co-worker Bob got me to snort a line of Pixie-Stix in the office. My dad and I worked one shift a week together and that place was never so clean and organized as it was that shift. We listened to classic rock on the radio and I learned every brand of cigarettes in the universe. How I quit that job is a long story with a short end; my boss was old and going crazy, making her less than pleasant to work with in the end. My friend and I decided one day that if we didn't eat a real Philly cheesesteak we would fall over dead and die, and when I asked my crazy ass boss for a few days off to go get a sandwich, she said no in very loud tones and I went anyway. We drove from Denver to Philly and back. For a sandwich. It was the best goddamn sandwich I have ever eaten. What I learned from this job: People really do drive off without paying for their gas, no one ever, ever should have to endure polyester on their skin, Pixie-Stix in the nostrils dries ones eyeballs out, light accounting and that any job can be fun if you work with the right people.
5. Grisanti's: Finding creative and nice ways to tell you to fuck off; 1994-1995 (age 19-20). In the same parking lot of the gas station was a little Italian restaurant called Grisanti's. Of course, I knew the whole staff. They came to buy their Mountain Dews and their Benson & Hedges Menthol's and their condoms from us. The manager of the restaurant was friends of sorts with my dad and one day asked him what the deal was with the hot little blond chick. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. Anyway, undeterred by what I can only assume were some rather inventive threats, Ray the Manager found me one day at work and offered me a job on the spot. I learned from job 1 to ask what I am being offered, and it turned out to be an ok offer, to be the lead hostess at the restaurant. My job would be crowd control, assigning tables to servers, being the reservationist and training the other hostesses. This was a very hard job. People are exhausting; hungry, suburban people doubly so. I worked at the gas station during the day and the restaurant at night. I met my Sagittarius Tim there. He was A) 9 years older than me and B) my boss. What I learned from this job: No one likes to wait for a table, call ahead seating is the single worst idea in the history of ideas, that I was (and still am) astonishing good at working in the restaurant industry, that drinking 15 shots of Perma-Frost in the course of 30 minutes or so gives one a week-long hangover and a peculiar and lasting hatred for all things peppermint-smelling, that I love Sagittarians and that sleeping with your 28 year old boss when you're 19 maybe isn't the hottest idea one can ever have.
Next up: Awesome jobs #6-10.