Monday, August 28, 2006

A post in which Basmatic ruminates on the many jobs she's had.

It is my last week working at the job I currently have, and it's a mixed bag of emotions right now. On the plus side, I'll be relieved not to be working full-time anymore, and the hours are so early I won't miss them. However, it's also been one of the easier jobs I've had, and I like the people I work with, so it's going to be a little sad leaving.

It's occurred to me time and time again that, at 21 years old, I have had more work experience than anyone else my age that I know. I've been working since I was 14 years old; during high school I juggled three part-time jobs, and I haven't stopped working since.

The first job I ever had (and one of my all-time favorites, actually) was working as a janitor at the high school I attended. My twin sister and I went to a private school, and since the family finances couldn't cover the tuition, we worked out that if we worked full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year, that would cover a chunk of the cost. Don't pity us: the job came with a sort of authority, an unlimited power. We had access to every room in the school, especially the library. We had first-dibs on all the textbooks. We knew where everything was, we found ways into the vending machine stock supply, we slept in the teachers' lounge. It was great. And, actually, there wasn't a lot for us to do. They made the guys (there were other students working to pay tuition, mostly guys) do all the hard stuff. We just dusted and vacuumed and painted a lot.

Also during high school there were the ubiquitous baby-sitting jobs, as well as a job at a college football concession stand. These were not as fun.

Once I graduated I had to find a different summer job. I worked at McDonald's. Ugh. I also started working as a cashier at a grocery store, but that quickly got out of hand. I don't mean to brag, but I am a very good cashier - I'm friendly and nice and I bag quickly and I can count change. They had to revise the rewards policy on my account (they used to give out $5 gift certificates to employees everytime a customer mentioned them to a manager or, in my case, to the company hotline once or twice - I got $25 in one day one time). They also realized that I was willing to work long, hard, often, and late. First I began doing the closing shifts (open 'til 1 A.M.!) and then opening (6 A.M.! Way early!). Then they began lending me out to different departments - I was bounced from front end to floral to hot foods to video to deli to grocery and back again, until I was working over 60 hours a week and completely exhausted.

When I got to college, I was dismayed to learn that I didn't have work-study (my scholarship was too big. How can a scholarship be too big?). I was forced to look off-campus for a job, and I found one at a Cold Stone Creamery a block away. That was fun - for about a week. If you've ever been to a Cold Stone, then you know the primary gimmick: employees must sing for tips. Yes. We had to sing. And we had to be completely cheerful and pleasant 100% of the time, which is very hard to do at a Cold Stone in New York (New Yorkers are not the nicest people, I'll be the first to admit). Some would drop pennies into the tip jar, expecting us to sing for a cent at a time. On the coldest day of the year the heat failed, and for some reason it turned out to be the busiest night ever. Oftentimes I wouldn't get out of there until 1 or 2 a.m., and then I'd have to be at class at 8. Also, I think the free ice cream was solely responsible for the freshmen fifteen I gained that semester.

And then, somehow, I weaseled my way into a fiction writing class. I was the only freshmen in there, but my writing impressed the professor so much that he recommended me for a position in the campus writing center. I quit my ice cream job and since then I've been a writing tutor. Most of my work is done through the writing center, but I've also started tutoring privately - mostly professors' children (strangely enough, 11 out of the 13 kids I tutor are of South Asian descent), but also ESL adults (I tutor a Vietnamese gentleman named Vng - once he asked what my major was, and when I said English, he was aghast. "You don't know it either?" he asked, dismayed).

This summer, though, I found a job that let me stay on campus during the break. The university I attend is one of the very few I know of that has a free-standing church on campus, and that's where I've been from 7 until 3 every weekday (and on weekends sometimes if there are weddings). The work isn't hard, and there isn't a lot of it, but the hours have been really cutting into my sleepytime. I do a ridiculous amount of ironing. There's a lot to iron - vestments, robes, linens. I answer phones, make copies, you know - everything that falls to the lowest rung of the ladder. Most of what I've been doing, though, is straight-up data entry, which I won't miss when the school year starts.

It's also a pretty nifty job because there's always free stuff. Bagels and donuts leftover from Sunday, an unlimited supply of coffee (which I have actually exhausted from time to time). Not only that, but since the church is run by Vincentians (an order of priests), I have a lot of St. Vincent DePaul gear. I have a St. Vincent DePaul t-shirt, a St. Vincent DePaul backpack, a St. Vincent DePaul blanket, a St. Vincent DePaul umbrella... it's like I work at a St. Vincent DePaul amusement park.

Anyway, since class begins on Wednesday my last day of work here at the church (I shouldn't be blogging at work, but I'm sure St. Vincent DePaul will forgive me) will be Thursday. After that it's back to tutoring all the time. I love the tutoring, but the atmosphere of the writing center will have definitely changed. Most of the other tutors have graduated, which means I have been the tutor who's been working there the longest. Aside from that, the center has moved from a two-room space in one building to a ridiculously huge space in the library - it's more than doubled in size and budget. The staff has more than tripled over the summer. The atmosphere has gone from "clubhouse" to "corporate,"and now that all freshmen are required to visit the writing center three times a semester.

I have been sitting here writing this post and completely ignoring my work! Time to get back on track.


Blogger Amy said...

Haha - i love this! I started work at 16, so i haven't had that many jobscause i'm only turning 18 now! My friend used to work at Burger King then she switched to Maccas - i read some of her old blogs and they are just so hilarious, she writes the funniest things about the idiotic customers! My first job was as a cashier, or a checkout chick!Like you i was actually really good at it cause i would always smile, my teeth are too big for my mouth so i'm always smiling. My friend worked for an ice creamery called 'cold rock' but she quit after a month cause the boss was harassing the girls.I would have lvoed to have been a writing tutor though, sounds like heaps of fun, although i'm not good at constructive critism..i'd probably be telling them their writing was excellent rather tahn how bad it really was! Good old St Vincents, we call it Vinnies over here! Great great place. Most of my book collection comes from vinnies! Sounds like you've had a fufilling life already!

5:28 AM  

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