When I was about sixteen years old I got my first real job. In other words, it wasn’t babysitting or doing extra chores for 50 cents an hour. This was a real clock-in, clock-out, have responsibilities, learn some skills, maybe get a raise, job. I was a waitress at the diner in our local Walgreens store!!!
I filled out an application, passed an interview, got a uniform and was trained in a matter of days. (I think maybe two!) I felt more grown up than ever. Now all I had to do was learn how to balance six malted milks on a 2 1/2 foot round metal tray with one hand while calling out a full dinner order for four while passing the kitchen window and picking up my tip with the other hand. What?!
Well, it looked easy! And I frequently manned the counter, which meant I was the cashier. Which meant I had to balance the cash register at the end of the day. That’s how I learned to give change the correct way, not in a pile like they do nowadays. Who says you aren’t going to use math in the real world?
And did you know that you have to learn a new language to work in a diner? Well, it’s true. It’s a kind of shorthand for telling the cooks what you want without using all the words of the menu. Like “short stack” means three pancakes and “tall stack” means six pancakes.
I learned more than just shorthand talk and carrying a tray, I can still carry five plates of food in one hand and two in the other and not drop a bite. It really impresses the grandchildren!!!!
More importantly, I learned to finish what I started and I learned to always give a bit more than was asked. The waitresses were my teachers and the diner was my classroom. The customers were my tests and their tips were my grades. Sometimes I did well and sometimes not so well.
One time that whole tray of six malted milks ended up in a customer’s lap. That’s how I learned to accept my shortcomings, face my mistakes, and make them right. I cleaned him up as best I could, offered to pay for cleaning his suit, paid for his meal, apologized over and over, and took another tray of malted milks to the other tables. Then I had a small breakdown in the stockroom. Remember, I was 16.
But again, the older waitresses taught me. Some taught me just by being there. They were working to support their families, I was working for spending money. Big difference! Being mindful of that difference helped keep me in school for several years–through High School and college. They never knew the many positive effects they had on me. Thank you, ladies!
First jobs are powerful. They can teach you a lot of the work ethics you will carry with you the rest of your life, if you pay attention. Even though you are usually at the bottom of the heap, so to speak, there are knowledge and skills to be gained, relationships to be formed, and habits to be honed.
First jobs? Choose wisely and enjoy!