Working Girl

Both Linda and Emily have posted recently about their first jobs way back when, which got me thinking about all the various places where I have toiled myself.  Back before I became the fabulous, rich, and successful non-tenure-track college instructor you see before you today, I had a slew of interesting menial jobs.

While some of these jobs were pretty shitty indeed, I never really complained about having to work — and I have worked basically every day of my life for the past fifteen years.  My dad insisted I get a job when I was sixteen — that whole thing about teaching kids about responsibility and the value of a dollar, you know?  While it seemed like an annoying philosophy at the time, today I assume that kind of thing is the standard.

At least that was my assumption until I heard from several of my students (who either told me directly or whom I overheard during their off-topic conversations before class) that most of them don’t work and that they are “completely freaking out” about the fact that their parents have suggested they get part-time jobs for the summer.  FREAKING OUT.  Like, “Oh my god I have never worked before and I really don’t want to get a job but, like, sometimes at the end of the week I only have, like, $100 of my allowance left for food.  I’m going to starve.”

Take a minute to unpack that little statement (a direct quotation from one of my adorable whippersnappers) and see what you think about it.  I suggest focusing on the fact that at the end of the week she only has $100 left for food and thinks she will, as a result of her parents’ perceived stinginess, starve.

Now if you have made it this far without punching your monitor, let me congratulate you.  Let me also say that hearing this kind of thing makes me feel truly, unironically thankful for those years spent serving up cheeseburgers and lattes and dressing on the side to rude customers.  It may have sucked at the time, but I’m immensely glad I learned to appreciate hard work and didn’t turn out like the whiny little princess quoted above.  Thank you, parental unit.

In honor of that, I’ll tell you a little bit about one of my favorite early jobs.  I started this blog back when I worked at the Stupid Bank with Suomichris, so if you want to read all about that you can find it in the older entries of the “Life in the Cube” category.  I also imported a post from my old blog where I wrote about my first ever job as a counter girl at Fuddruckers – read about that here.

The job I want to tell you about today, though, was at a glorious coffee shop by the name of Mochapelli’s.  Oh yes, it was named after the Native American trickster god, Kokopelli, only IT WAS A PUN. How clever, right? Needless to say, the shop was decorated with Kokopelli-like figures whose flutes were replaced with steaming cups of java.  I swear that this is true.

I got the job thanks to a recommendation from Clarabella, who had worked there for a couple of years already. The woman who ran the shop was this wonderful, kind of crazy, hilarious and energetic person who was able to decide pretty much instantly whether she liked a person or not — luckily she liked me, and I worked at that job part of my junior year and all of my senior year in college.

We had an all-female crew (with the exception of a male manager who was only there for part of that time and who turned out to be something of a dishonest asshole, but that’s a story for another time) and for the most part everyone got along really well. The coffee shop was where I learned everything I know about coffee and where I learned that I really like to cook.  The lunch shifts when the asshole manager could be convinced to let me run the grill were some of the most fun times at the shop.

The other most fun times at the shop, which in fact exceeded the fun had cooking by a factor of 100, were when Clarabella and I worked the closing shift on Saturday nights. I won’t tell you too much about those nights except to present you with a hypothetical situation: if you and one of your BFFs were working at a coffee shop on a Saturday night, and that coffee shop were located in between a grocery store and a liquor store, and that shop were also outfitted with a top-of-the-line smoothie machine, would you decide to get creative with a special, employees-only smoothie recipe?

Don’t answer that. You would; I know you would.

Your turn:  tell me about your favorite job as a young whippersnapper.  Where did you toil?


  1. Viva la Saturday Closings! I miss those days sometime. Let’s rent a smoothie machine when you come next week.


  2. Nothing that much fun, probably should have worked around food more. Throwing potatoes into the “o” in the Bonanza sign was fun, but only happened a couple of times. There were plenty of crazy and/or annoying customers at the copy shop, and a couple of the coworkers were very good at keeping a straight face, so that could be pretty funny. Some of them were a tad crazy too, like the pregnant girl who only wore red (“good energy”) and wanted to have all her teeth pulled to save on dentist bills. Maybe not good times, but okay times. Electronics assembly has very few redeeming qualities, however, except for chances to mock the occasionally rreeeeaaalllyyyy stoned colleague.


  3. Oh, definitely the high school job with Brandon and Mr. V-S, working swing shift as transportation orderlies at a certain teaching hospital complex in Portland.

    Okay, schlepping around tubs full of urine samples is hard to wedge into “favorite,” but for a high school senior the job was eye-opening and damned memorable. Attending Life Flight trauma calls in the ER … making “morgue runs” … picking up surgery specimens … rushing blood transfusions down miles of hallways … watching the Simpsons in the ICU lounge or the mental ward … dinners on the roof with a panoramic view of downtown Portland …

    A lot of the guys who worked there were a bit older than high school and were entertainingly semi-criminal and a tad insane. There was the jittery dude down in the cancer ward who sold ecstasy, the “gas tech” with the Suzuki Sidekick who’d joke about sniping at commuters from the roof, the failed med student with three degrees and counting who made a not-quite-a-joke death threat or two and got fired. One of these guys once loosened the lid on a surgery specimen I was carrying, so when I went to pick it up I learned what a wild rectum looked like.

    It was something else.

    But I definitely didn’t end up going into medicine after those 7 months.

    (Mr. V-S only lasted like three weeks.)


  4. A wild rectum? WILD rectum? Oh jeez, I don’t know that I want to know what that is, let alone handle one myself. I don’t know if I can blame Mr. V-S for only lasting 3 weeks. It sounds like an adventure, though. An adventure that you guys need to chronicle on the things known as your blogs, for example!


  5. Bah! Blog is dead! Brandon could bust a few loose, though.

    What I meant by “wild” was to suggest it was … no longer “contained” by the … by the body. Maybe “free-range” would have been better but let’s no longer discuss this.


  6. Danimal!

    A) It is so sad that your blog is dead! Is there no hope of revival?

    B) OK, re the “wild rectum.” Still and then, I am glad never to have seen one!

    C) Are you SURE you don’t need an anonymous space on the internet to recount such things as, say, wild rectums or times when a burrito lunch went south really fast? Whether those stories intersect or not, I am saying.

    Sorry, I just have a THING lately where I think that once upon a time I used to know so many funny people who wrote on the internet and now most of them have retired. Is sad.


  7. I worked for a mental institution as a teenager doing clean-up work. Yes, I was an employee, I swear.

    I also worked at a marina up in Canadian “cottage country”.

    Anyways, I am typing on the floor of my empty apartment with a bottle of wine and a waiting rental car. Tomorrow I am off to Luxuryland to start my New Job. I sleep on an inflatable mattress tonight. I am also playing the Immigration Game. This is the game where I am actually in Luxuryland although I am “not really” in Luxuryland. What’s this about no $100 and starving? They should live my life…


  8. Re A) and C), I tend to most of the time be satisfied by Twitter. A blog is so tough to maintain. Care and feeding.

    But, if we can find a way to avoid it getting too maudlin and cutesy, there may be a baby blog coming soon. I thought Onstad’s baby status updates were exemplary. It would fit well with my obvious scatological tendencies.


  9. Actually, my jobs before “career” weren’t too bad. The Nordstrom stock room with the gay, e-tarded, 19-year-old drag queen was a trip. Didn’t last long though, hired seasonal and all.

    I lasted a month making outbound survey phone calls for a woman with the tallest hair I’ve seen outside of Texas. When they started sending my shift home after 1-2 hours pretty consistently I quit via truancy.

    Then there was the three day period I worked at Target – just long enough to go through their training seminar as a freshly degreed young adult whose father was screaming at him to get any old job because six weeks after moving to a new city 2500 miles from home is CLEARLY too long for that to take. Hours before my first shift I got a call from my present employer, in some respects I’m glad I took the bank job instead. But only in some.


  10. J – Sounds like your mental institution job might have been pretty interesting. And, good luck on your move! I hope it goes smoothly!

    D – Oh, yeah, I loved those baby updates! You guys should definitely do a baby blog of some kind, or at least so posting of photos so those of us far away can see the little one.

    T – Oh man with the Target story! You know, I think I would have liked Target better than my old bank job, too.


  11. Danimal: Thanks for that pleasant trip down a urine-sample lined memory lane. I still consider that gig at OHSU to be the 2nd best of all the awful jobs I endured during high school/college. Oh, the anecdotes. I still break them out on occasion. Among my favorite bizarre moments: the time a “possessed” woman started shouting at me in tongues in the ER, having to cart around a teenager’s severed arm and a very scary trip into the bowels of the century-old North Hospital. I still get creeped out every time I think about the old, rusty iron door that led into the abandoned morgue.

    I have a growing list of long-winded blog posts I’ve been meaning to write. I should add “that summer at OHSU” to the list. Also: I have no memory of the ecstasy guy.

    But my favorite, the best of all those crap jobs was the one at Plaid Pantry. For an entire summer I basically had the honor of running my own mini-mart. Sure, I had to deal with crackheads and shoplifters but the freedom, oh, the freedom. How I still pine for those woebegone summer days spent selling alcohol to the underaged and stuffing myself full of misbegotten muffins and cigarettes.


  12. I also enjoyed six months in 2002 — fresh out of college with a still-steaming BA — doing data entry on digitized documents from EVERY SINGLE employee file ever held by {GYNORMOUS AEROSPACE COMPANY EMPLOYING LIKE 160,000 PEOPLE}. My favorite was the guy in Alabama who changed his name to Master Black Diamond. Wonder what ever happened with him.


  13. V – Considering the cube farm…I have to say that I did gain more sense of satisfaction from the summer in college I spent in an office furniture warehouse in South Texas than I do from this.

    That’s the one I forgot! I spent a summer in an office furniture warehouse down here once – moving boxes, building cabinets, that kind of thing. It was actually all right, you know, the pay was crap and the hours were long, but at the end of the day at least I felt like I’d done something useful.


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