Thursday, March 11, 2010

Working for a living...

This is a requested blog. See? I told you all I took requests!

I have worked in a huge variety of jobs. As you know from reading my other blogs working and working hard is just part of the family make-up. My dad was born in 1930 and my mother 1932 and have strong depression era values, especially my father. You work hard, no matter what job you hold you need to be the best at it you possibly can be and be grateful you have the job. My dad was the main financial support for his mother and brothers and sister from a very young age. When he reached retirement age from the labs he retired, went home and painted the house inside and out, dug up the sprinkler system and put it back in in a different pattern, rebuilt the porch and then winter came and he had nothing to do. I jokingly suggested that he go be the little old man that greets people at Wal-Mart. Next thing you know he is running the automotive department at the new Wal-Mart. Fifteen years later at almost 80 years old he is still working there. He just doesn't know how to not work.

So we were all taught that working was just what you did. And I think all of the siblings started young at jobs. My parents had been raised on farms so it wasn't unusual for them to look at kids as workers who pitched in on family jobs. You call it nepotism we just call it hiring people you know are going to do the work right. I've told you that my first "job" was working with my dad at the gas station. And it felt like more of a game than a job. Even those nasty bathrooms. I had a real sense of accomplishment when I could get a bathroom nice and clean that had started out just awful. My second job was much like the first. Helping out on another family member's job. My father's second job was as a dock foreman at the Journal (Albuquerque's Morning Newspaper) and my brother went to work for them as well as a route supervisor.

What a route supervisor does is make sure all of the papers are delivered on what ever area of the city they cover. So what this boils down to is if you don't have a paperboy on a route then you cover it. Or if someone calls in sick, you cover it. You also have to go out and drum up business. So knocking on doors getting subscriptions. What this meant for me is that I was recruited to help out for Sunday delivery and for getting subscriptions. So every Sunday morning at 3 AM Jeff would come in and wake me up, we would go pick up the newspapers for what ever route wasn't going to be covered, and trust me A LOT of people call in for Sunday delivery and I would sit in the back seat of the car and bag papers so Jeff could toss them on to porches. We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of papers. By the time we were finished I would be covered in paper dust and my hands would be black from the ink. To this day I cannot stand the smell of newspapers. But if I hadn't gotten up to help it would have taken him twice as long to get through the job. So I went. Sometimes with more grace than others. Jeff always handled my crankiness very well. Patience of a saint being raised with sisters I think. But the main thing it taught me is that even if you are grumbly and cranky you still show up and do the job before you. And once it's done you get breakfast. Okay, well that didn't pan out in other jobs, but for this one it did!

The next job I held was at The Car Wash. Weekend cashiering for Mom. Susan held the job before I did and when she left I slid in and took over. Mom had been training me for years without me even realizing it. I was counting tills and balancing receipts from a very young age. I would count the tip box out for distribution I think from 9 or 10 on. So sliding into an actual job at The Car Wash was just the normal progression. I worked every Saturday and Sunday and filled in after school as needed. There are benefits and drawbacks to working for your mother. You have to do your job perfectly. There is no margin for error or you will hear about it at work and at home. Also everyone that works there knows you got your job because you are family. And some people will resent you for that (lesson learned more strongly in my next job) and some people will think that if they get in your good graces they will get in management's good graces so you have some really fake people as well. But one of the benefits was on Sunday evening I wouldn't get off work until 5 but I needed to be at youth group by 5 as well. In most jobs this would have meant too bad, you can't be in two places at once, but since mom was the boss she and dad would come in at 4:30 and close out for me so I could leave. So sometimes being the boss' daughter was a pretty sweet gig.

I also learned that places will pay to keep valuable employees. I had been there just over a year and I wanted to quit. I was busy. I had church obligations, I was working on a play at school and then adding working was all starting to make life a little too busy for my Type B personality tastes. So I told my mom I wanted to quit. She told me I would have to tell Bill (the actual owner of the Car Wash) myself. Good lesson, Mom, no quitting by proxy! So I went in to his office and let him know that I was giving two weeks notice. And he gave me a pretty substantial raise and I stayed for another year. :-)

The Car Wash gave me a lot of important skills for future work. Cash handling, which was invaluable later, the ability to handle customers, happy or cranky. The ability to work with a variety of people and keep things flowing smoothly and quickly. Nobody wants to wait in a long line for anything, but if you greet people with a smile once they reach your counter you can make 80% of them forget that they were cranky about the wait. The other 20%? Well sometimes they want to let you know that they weren't happy that there was a line and if you just listen and then say that you understand, they are pretty content and then there is that small percentage that are just going to be unhappy no matter what you do. And that's a good lesson to learn as well. Sometimes people are just unhappy. Doesn't reflect on you or the job you do, they are just unhappy. And that's okay.

I guess to back up a little bit, before the Car Wash I was also working at home. From a really young age I was responsible for the housekeeping and the laundry and a share of the cooking. Much to my father's chagrin when I tried making Spam for dinner one night...never make Spam for an Army vet. Taking care of the the house was probably my least favorite job. It was a never ending cycle. When I cleaned, it was just going to get messy as soon as everyone got home from work and dumped their things. When I did laundry people were just going to wear the clothes and get them dirty. It just never ended and I couldn't stand it. For the first few years Brent and I were married I had no pictures on the walls and very few knick knacks. The house was always spotless. I loved the fact that I could clean on Monday and it was still clean on Tuesday! It took me a few years to settle in to the slob I am today. :-)

So, back to the outside jobs. When I was in High School, I want to say it was junior year, but it might have been senior year, a new Burger King was going to open by the school. I wanted to work there. I was tired of working at The Car Wash and I thought BK would be a good trade. I would be able to not work every weekend all weekend long, but still get in the hours so I wouldn't take a pay cut. It was right by school so I could head over when classes were over (like I went to class! Ha!) and work for a few hours every night. It was going to be great! A lot of kids in the neighborhood thought the same thing and the interviews were packed. I went in with my application all filled out ready to impress the hiring manager with my skill set, and he looked at my last name and said, "Are you Ruby's daughter?" I said, "Yes" and he said, "Show up for training on Monday." So much for getting a job on my own merits! But I got the job and that was the important part! Or that's what I thought.

I lasted at BK for less than a week. Looking back I probably should have stayed until the store I would have been working at opened and given it a shot there with a different crew, but I didn't. Basically the lesson I learned is that if you go into a job with "The Boss said this one is special" tacked to to you you are going to pay. And pay. And pay. My first night was great. I worked with a shift leader who taught me the register and because I had experience already it was pretty easy. I approached the training tools like I was taking on the world. I memorized the packing order for meals, I memorized the construction order for the burgers, I was just raring to go! And my shift leader was impressed. Then the next night I went in and that was the night I was going to meet the manager and pick up my schedule. Now I had requested no later than 9 on school nights and no Sunday evenings. I was scheduled until close Monday-Thursday and Sunday from 12-8. I went to the manager and asked if this was just for training purposes or if this would be a standard schedule. This was when it started to be clear. She let me know that she made the schedule in her store and she didn't care if the district manager thought I was something special she wouldn't be told how to run her restaurant. Ah. Got it. I was a pawn in a pissing match. But it was still my job so I still did the best I could with it, I was determined to show her that no matter how I got the job, I was a good hire. That night I worked the back of the house. The manager decided that I wasn't good enough for the front counter, she told me she had received a lot of complaints (news to me!) so I needed to work in back. Fine. I felt like I needed to know how to do everything anyway.

So that night I made burgers and onion rings and fries and had a good time working with the back of house crew. A good time was not what she was interested in me having so the next night I was on cleaning duty. I was to patrol the parking lot picking up trash, patrol the restaurant clearing tables, and clean bathrooms. Ugh. Back on bathroom duty! When it still didn't seem like it was phasing me enough I was given the great task of cleaning the grease trap under the sink. Grease traps are vile. They smell bad, they are slimy, they are disgusting. She gave me a bucket, a scrub brush and scoop to clean it out. I had been working on it about an hour when one of the cooks had had enough. He let me know that they had a company that came in and cleaned the traps and she was just having me do it because she hated me. She overheard him and threatened to fire him for insubordination. Can you believe that? Insubordination at BK. Well at that point it dawned on me that there was nothing I was going to be able to do to make this situation better. If I had been older with more outside job experience I would have known to complain to her boss or stick it out until my own store opened and hope for a new manager with a different attitude, but as it was I just saw this as enough. I told her that she didn't have to fire anyone because I quit. Turned in my name tag and walked out the door. Lessons from that job? That fast food is hard. But it can be fun (the shift I worked with my shift leader was great) or it can be miserable. The manager of a store dictates that attitude. And I learned, again, that there are people in the world that you are just not going to ever be able to please.

This is getting quite long so I will stop there and pick up the jobs after High School in the next blog. So, Scott, is this along the lines of what you thought when you requested a blog on my jobs?

1 comment:

  1. Yes Denise, this is what I had in mind. With your broad work experience and your willingness to make the best of things I thought it would make a great blog...and I was right!
    Looking forward to the rest.