Thursday, September 5, 2019

That First Job

My memoir in progress (MIP) is coming along well. I'm just over 70,000 words into it andI've got the chapters roughed out. Now the hard part of slogging through edits comes into play.

Tenatively titled, Cretin Boy, it is about my teenage years in an all-male, Catholic, military (JROTC) school in the late '70s. The book is not solely about the school, but also about all that comes with being a teenager and all the changes that life brings.

One of those changes of course is a kid's introduction to the working life. Once you hit 15 back then, you were expected to start looking for a part-time job. It was in part to keep you off the street but also a way of teaching you work ethic and helping take the load off of Mom and Dad's need to supplement your income (or lack of it).

In the book I talk about my first job at Tu-Way Car Wash on Cleveland and Randolph in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was a freshman in high school and my brother Tom worked there and got me the job. I think it paid about $3.85 an hour or so, but was decent income for the work.

The job required pumping gas when people drove up to the pump, back in the day when that was the way gas stations worked. Now it's "Do it yo-sef, chump!"

The other part of the job was running the car wash, which was the equivalent of the automated ones you drive into now, except it required some human intervention. Well, there was something wrong with the switch that stopped the upper brushes from spinning. Or maybe it was just me. But it seemed every time I tried to stop the brushes, it didn't work.

This operator error usually meant the car aerial was wrenched to new, ungainly angles, or in some cases snapped off altogether. Aerials were mostly hard mounted to the frame and not nice and flexible like they are today. I'd prefer to call them less-forgiving. In some cases, they could be bent back to their original tilt, but in others, the owner of the station got a phone call the following week.

Of course there were some folks that, if I didn't tell them, didn't notice the aerial pointed toward Shanghai, China, and that was okay with me. I'd rather deal with it after they had some time to cool off and fire a letter to the owner or come back and chew me out the next day.

I didn't much care for the job actually. It seemed like a lot of responsibility to dump on the back of a 15 year-old, especially at the end of the night when you had to reconcile the gallons pumped with the money in the till. I was grateful when track season rolled around and I had the perfect excuse to bail on the job and just practice my high and long jumps.

I figured there would be plenty of work ahead of me later in life, I might as well get one last shot at a life of relative leisure. It didn't last long as I took a job at a restaurant late in my sophomore year.

In any case, there's all of this and many more tales in the book of my days at Tu-Way and Cretin. It's been fun recalling them and I can't wait until it's done.

Blogging off...

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