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First Seven Jobs

Your Humble Blogger missed the thing about First Seven Jobs when it was going around. Well, I heard about it and I saw a few people posting it, but I didn’t participate. So, here’s the annotated list, counting only the ones where I was paid by someone not related to me and in what as far as I can remember is the correct order:

  1. Teacher's assistant, Hebrew School: Boy, was I unsuited to that particular task. I may actually be misremembering; I think I was paid for this, but I may have volunteered. Similarly, I think I volunteered my one summer as a sort-of-counselor at a synagogue day camp, but I may have got some sort of compensation. Different synagogues, though; I'm sure that the summer one was before the split and the school one was after.
  2. Telesalesman: I got a job calling people in the early evenings and trying to sell them magazine subscriptions. I was terrible at it. They let me go after about four weeks, and then their paycheck bounced. A learning experience.
  3. Grocery bagger: This was at Gemco, which sold all kinds of things along with groceries. More of a Walmart-y kind of a place. The whole chain of stores was shut down a few months after I started there. Still, I got a little bit of money and a good deal of experience. Particularly shagging carts in the 110-degree heat… that was my first revelation that if someone had offered me five bucks to shag carts for an hour, I wouldn’t even have considered it, but that as part of my five-dollar-an-hour job, I seemed to be willing.
  4. Movie theater usher: An outstandingly terrible job, but only because the manager of the place was a horrible man. Well, and it’s never going to be a great and challenging job sweeping out the theaters and tearing tickets, but when we were sufficiently staffed, it wasn’t so bad. When the manager wasn’t there, anyway. I maybe lasted two months. When I quit, the assistant manager asked me to reconsider, but I had already signed up for the next one.
  5. Warehouse guy: This was the one I think of as my high school job, the one I held the longest. It was also the first job I got through a temp agency. It wasn’t really a warehouse job, properly speaking, although I’m not sure how else to describe it. Mostly we took a bunch of Hallowe’en supplies out of big boxes and put them into smaller boxes for shipping, building pallets and so forth. I also spent a lot of time on a line that took individual vinyl noses and teeth and whatnot and fixed them to cardboard backs with a plastic bubble: this sort of thing. I worked from something like 8pm to 4am, which considering the big metal building was ’cooled’ by those metal fans, was a hell of a lot better than the day shift. It was a good job for a college kid in the summer, although it was minimum wage and all.
  6. Busboy: In an Italian-but-not-pizza joint. Another good experience, and made a little better money than the warehouse, if I remember correctly. I learned about how (some) restaurants work, which information has often been of some comfort as I attempt to sympathize as a diner.
  7. Library clerk assistant: The timeline here is hinky, as I worked in the college library from my first year, and I think I still worked the warehouse job the first two summers, and the next summer was the busboy job. Anyway, I’m calling it my seventh job; it was the one I still had when I turned twenty-one.

I don’t think many of the students I supervise are on their fifth or sixth job by the time they get here. Maybe I was an outlier at Swat, as well. I didn’t, at the time, feel like an outlier amongst my high school friends, many of whom had worked at three or four different fast-food places, restaurants, or mall stores by the time they went off to college. We felt lucky if we could return to the same job two summers hand running, or if an after-school job could give us enough summer hours. We never thought of those jobs as counting, in some obscure way; they were just jobs. Gigs, in a different manner of speech, things we did for pay that had nothing to do with us or our lives. As it happens, my seventh job is similar to what I do now, but in between I worked as a database guy, in an accounting department, in membership for a nonprofit, and a bunch of other jobs that weren’t in the library field at all. That’s somewhat less normal; most of the people I know have had something somewhat closer to a career path. Still, it was a surprise to see real grown-up people listing seven jobs that included the current one (or close to it).

I will say, I have long thought that there’s an unhealthy cultural imperative that people should like their jobs. Most people presumably don’t. Go through a day and try to think, each time you encounter someone who is working, whether that person likes the job. The bus driver, or the construction worker you pass, or the landscaper working in someone’s yard; the guy at the bagel joint, or the HR person on the phone, or the supermarket stockboy, or your boss (if you have one) or your employee (if you have one). Keep a tally. It’s not easy to actually think about everyone you see that’s working, honestly, and I’m absolutely sure I have never managed it for a whole day. I’m a white-collar guy, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a job that the majority of my colleagues really liked —I don’t mean they’ve all been miserable pits of soul-sucking doom, but most people have been happier to go home than to get to work. The songwriter who started the meme (who I heard interviewed by Kai Ryssdal, whose seventh job evidently is hosting Marketplace) talked about our relationship with our jobs, and I think the thing I’m getting at, when I talk about the unhealthy cultural imperative, is that relationship: we think we need to be in a perfect relationship with our job, to meet the Perfect One for us, and really, it’s just a job. The First Seven Jobs meme might possibly complicate that discussion in a healthy way. A fellow can hope, anyway.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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