Workin' Girl Blues

Most days, I have no idea why my brain goes where it goes.  While I was folding our *gigantic* pile of laundry for the past hour, my little brain cells started drifting down memory lane.

Oh, that reminds me.  I saw a commercial last night for a fancy-schmancy new washer drier duo that gets your clothes washed AND dried in a mere 38 minutes!  My first thought was, "Wow, that's fast!"  My second thought was, "That would be just groovy.  It would take 38 minutes to wash and dry...but it would still take a week to fold and put away."


Memory lane.  For some reason, I flashed back to my very first bona fide paying job...and I just had to laugh out loud at what a ridiculously awful job that was!

I'm not sure how old I was, but I was pretty young.  Let's see...we lived in North Dakota - that narrows it down to between about 11 and 16.  I was too young to drive, so that means I was younger than 15.  Hmmm.  That's probably why I was paid cash.  I'm thinking I was in junior high, so I'm going to guess I was 13 or 14 years old. 

My job was to do research for a local funeral home.  Yes, really.  What does that even mean, you ask?  Well, first of all, it was before the days of the internet, so research was a bit different.  You couldn't sit at your computer and Google the info you wanted.  I spent an entire summer (at least it felt like it took all summer...for all I know it really took about 2 weeks), sitting in a back room of our public library, looking at microfilm.  For hours on end.  By myself.  Reading obituaries.  Whoo.  Freakin'.  Whoo.

The owner of the funeral home I was working for wanted a little market research done.  He wanted data on which funeral homes people wanted.  So I'd look through all the obituaries, scan down to the bottom to find out where the service would be held, and I'd put a little tick mark in the appropriate column.  I sorted the data by month and year so the funeral parlor guy could see which funeral homes where used and how his compared to the others.

Now, there's a difference between a Death Notice and an Obituary (at least there was then, I have no idea about now.  I don't read the obits...can't imagine why.)  After gathering data for about a week (that's a LONG time when you're doing that kind of work), I realized that my data was messed up because I was getting data from both the Death Notices and the Obituaries.  At first I thought I could just cut my numbers in half since it would seem logical that two announcements per person would up my numbers by a factor of two.  But after looking closely, I realized that not everyone had both I had to start all over.

I cried.

There were some perks though.  First of all, I was out of the heat and wind and mosquitos that define good old North Dakoka summers.  If we weren't being eaten alive by the bugs, were being nearly gassed to death by the "bug trucks" that drove around spewing giant smelly clouds of insecticide to kill the mosquitos.  

But I think the biggest perk can be summed up with two words: Slang Dictionary.  Did you know there's such a thing?  I suppose they're not needed anymore since kids have access to the internet.  But back then?  It was revolutionary for this small town girl next door who didn't even watch PG-13 movies until I was 13 years old (and then I walked out of the theater right in the middle of the movie - shocked and embarrassed because I'd just seen a guy's naked rear end for the first time).  I stumbled upon that book during one of my breaks...and I'll tell ya what - that was an ED.U.CA.TION.  

(Side note:  I sure hope we can raise our kids in a way that makes it so that they're shocked and embarrassed to see things that are inappropriate...AND have the courage to get up from their group of friends and walk away when necessary.  Yes, I was naive...but shouldn't every 13 year old be?)  

In fact, now I KNOW I was in junior high.  I know because there was a girl who used to say crazy words with a gleam in her eye and a smirk on her face.  She wasn't talking to me, but I heard those words and filed them at the back of my brain because I could tell that what she was talking about was...grown up.  I wanted to know what they meant, but everyone else was giggling hysterically at what she'd said.  Clearly they knew...but I wasn't going to ask them.  But that slang dictionary explained everything to me.  Yikes.  I think that girl probably needed help.

So that was my job.  Death and counting and eye strain and gallons of Coke by the lights of that back room's irritating buzzing light tubes...and scanning the pages of that slang dictionary and blushing during my breaks.  And when the counting for the day was done, I'd ride my little blue 10 speed home as fast as I could to avoid the bugs.  

What about you?  What was your first job?  Or maybe not your first, but how about your most interesting or terrible job?

Beth in NC  – (1/29/2009 06:33:00 PM)  

That is hilarious! I don't have anything nearly as interesting as you! However, I did work in a tobacco field one summer! Now that was some nasty, dirty work! The tobacco gum would stick to my hands and my clothes would be wet from the morning dew. We would arrive at the barns at 5:30am. For a teenager, that was commitment! The money seemed great at the time.

I didn't learn slang from a dictionary, but I definitely heard some colorful words from the other workers! Ha.


Anonymous –   – (1/29/2009 08:05:00 PM)  

I didn't know you did that!?!? I wonder which funeral home. My first job was awful. I applied to be a checker at County Market groc. store and they weren't hiring for that, so they asked me to be a demo person. Being a 14 or 15 yr old girl, I said sure. Little did I know that I would be dressing up as the Campbell's Soup girl with the big oversized head and all!!! I was just thankful no one could see my face. It was terrible. And, just so you know, the mosquitoes are still awful. They are the worst they have ever been and they still spray, but now it is daily. Keep the stories and pics coming. Good Job!!!

Hilty Sprouts  – (1/29/2009 10:14:00 PM)  

McDonald's, how cliche is that? I just loved the uniforms and smelling like grease for days. Blech!


Anonymous –   – (1/30/2009 11:33:00 AM)  

I was a greater at a buffet with a friend I was visiting on summer break in Fort Lauderdale.
Usually showing up late from a day at the beach, we would throw on our brown polyester uniforms over a wet bikini with inappropriate wet areas showing through and have sand in our shoes while telling the patrons, “enjoy your meal”. But my real job was to inform management when people would pay once and try to walk out with 30 lbs of fried chicken and call 911 when the elderly would pass out because of the broken A.C.
Oh, the memories.

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