the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

That First Job: the Joy of Making Your Own Way

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Erin’s First Job

My youngest niece just got her first job. She’s at college and working in a cafeteria on campus. She doesn’t like the job much, but she is enjoying seeing the balance in her checkbook go up rather than down.

As I congratulated her on her new gig, I reminded her that she could now treat herself with some of her wages. Of course, she’d already figured that part out.

I also worked in a cafeteria when I was in college (as did my sister) but that wasn’t my first job.

My First Job

My very first job was in a fast food restaurant called Davy J’s Fish & Chips. I was 16. A friend of mine worked there and got me in. Luckily, we wore sailor hats in lieu of hairnets.

Like my niece, I didn’t like the job much. I smelled of grease after every shift, and I spent long hours on my feet trying to please the public.

The Perks

The money made all the difference.

I could buy clothes that I liked, that weren’t guaranteed to wash and wear a million times.

It was the 1970’s, so my idea of a fashion purchase was a wet-look red and white vinyl raincoat with patch pockets and a v-necked cap-sleeved dress in black with diagonal stripes in day-glo colors. Platform shoes (which my sister swears are called buffaloes) were not an option–they were a requirement.

With that money, my sister and I started to go out together, just us two. We would go to a nice restaurant (which to us meant that nobody asked if you wanted fries with that) in our best 70’s finery and enjoyed some sister time. We felt quite grown up and posh.

Sister time also included after-school visits to Baskin-Robbins for hot fudge sundaes which we liked to eat sitting on a picnic table at our favorite park staring at the river. I like to think that we talked about our dreams for the future, but I suspect we really talked about boys.

Spending Your Own Money

There is something wonderful about spending money that you earned yourself. Something expansive and proud about banking a check (back before direct deposit) and dreaming of how to spend it.

So what was your first paying job, Gentle Readers? And how did it make you feel?

The Last Word

Since this blog is about writing, there’s a fiction corollary:

  • What was your character’s first job?
  • How did she spend her money?
  • How did it make her feel?
  • Was she saving up for something (school, a car?)
  • Did she have to help support her family?

I’ve gotta run. Need to figure out Paulette’s first job STAT–even if it never finds its way onto the page.

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