Worst part-time jobs?

This weekend while waiting in line at the Don Quijote store in Kailua, I flashed back to my days as a part-time supermarket cashier in New Jersey. Since the “Donkey” checkers (their store nickname, not mine) are perhaps the slowest cashiers in all of Hawaii, I had plenty of time to reminisce about the wide variety of jobs I held as a kid and high school student.

Back in the 60s, even small children were expected to do chores in exchange for an allowance. Boys who were old enough to ride a bike, would often get a newspaper route. In winter, you could make a buck shoveling snow for neighbors. And of course, there was the summertime lemonade stand (in our case, we also shilled our old books and toys — my sister is still pissed I sold her “Easy Weaver” loom for a quarter).

Today’s kids don’t seem to have the same opportunities to experience capitalism in the raw. They’re too busy with homework and video games, or their parents supervise everything they do, including sports activities. So is it any wonder young people seem ill-equipped to deal with the real world when they get their first jobs now?

As a 10-year-old, I learned about responsibility and basic bookkeeping from having a small paper route. I also learned how to avoid nasty dogs, and when it was best to collect from nasty customers. Tips were earned, not expected.

By age 12, I moved up to sales. I was part of a crew that went town-to-town hawking newspaper subscriptions under the guise of a contest. The boys who got the most new orders would win a trip to Cape Kennedy! In reality, we got paid a commission for each subscription. Since I was a cute little hapa kid, I did well. But I felt a twinge of guilt whenever I signed up an elderly half-blind woman, who thought she was helping me get a chance to see a rocket launch.

In high school, I got a job as a dishwasher at a nursing home. Sometimes I had to vacuum the halls or retrieve food carts from patients’ rooms, and I’d witness feeble, senile old men banging their hands and heads against their mush-laden trays. That sort of thing makes you face your own mortality. It made me want to live for the present, and I swore I’d die before I ever got that old.

But I also met young nurse’s aides there, who I flirted with — and the matronly ladies in the kitchen were Studs Terkel characters in their own right. Despite the smell of old people and impending death in the adjoining hallways, it wasn’t all bad. Still, I was happy to move on to another job working with black foster kids from a lower income area during my senior year… I should explain why I was working during high school, I suppose.

I asked my parents to send me to a Catholic high school because the public high school wasn’t very good, and I wanted to get into a decent college. However, it was a little expensive to go to St. John Vianney in upscale Holmdel. I told my folks I’d work part-time to help pay the tuition. SJV also ran an after-school program for disadvantaged children, which is how I became a tutor and babysitter to a pack of rambunctious 10 to 12-year-old boys who called me a “honky” whenever they were upset with my rules. (In my defense, little Charlie stuck out his chest and told the others: “Rich ain’t no honky. He E-talian!”)

It was an experience that made me briefly consider teaching as a career. Very briefly. Their emotional needs were so great, and it was frustrating knowing there was so little I could do to help them once they left the center. Quite honestly, I don’t know how teachers do it.

I left that job for better pay as a supermarket cashier at a Shop-Rite store in Matawan… Which brings me to my next blog post on how I nearly strangled myself while checking groceries one day, and my nominations for best and worst store cashiers in Hawaii.

So what was your worst (or best) part-time job growing up? And do you think it’s true that today’s kids are missing out by not working part-time jobs?

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  1. […] Squashed Gecko A http://www.CareerChangers.TV blog about life and recovery. « Worst part-time jobs? […]

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