Jobs I’ve Had, The Early Years – The Loud, The Scary, and The Embarrassing

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photo courtesy of Wikipedia

My first real job did not involve singing in front of people. But it had some of the same features. I worked at a Roy Rogers Restaurant. If you’re not familiar with the chain, it’s like an Arby’s except western style. They had great roast beef sandwiches and their Double R Bar sandwich was amazing. At least I thought it was when I was 16.

I don’t know how they make their employees dress now, but in the 70s I was dressed as a cowgirl. Cute enough uniform, but when you add the other requirements of the chain, it became downright embarrassing.

I ran the register and when someone came up to order, I’d have to say, “Howdy partner, can I take your order please?”

If that wasn’t bad enough, when they’d leave, I was forced to say, “Happy trails.”

I always thought of Roy Rogers as a sweet, caring cowboy. I guess this practice revealed his dark side. He would never have put Trigger through such humiliation.

Friends would come into the restaurant just to hear me say those words. That’s how you know who your real friends are – they’ll go out of their way just to mock you! I didn’t mind too much. At least there was no horse manure to clean up. That job didn’t last long.

I discovered I could make more money babysitting, so that’s what I did until I graduated from high school. Then I worked at various secretarial jobs including one on Andrews Air Force Base. At some point in this story, Bob and I got married and a year later moved to Florida where I worked for the Social Security Administration as a data review technician until I had my first child.

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Teletype Machine – Photo credit: quora.com

That job was more like an editing job. I examined all the forms and made sure they were filled out correctly and then I would sit at a teletype machine and input the data. It was a loud room. As I typed, yellow punched tape would roll out of the machine. At the end of the day, I’d call the main office in Baltimore and send the tapes through. I quit just as computers were being brought in to replace those noisy machines. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my hearing.

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Photo Credit: americacomesalive.com

After two children had come along, I decided it would be nice if I could work from home and make a little extra cash. Somehow or another, I heard about Fuller Brush and became a door-to-door salesperson. I had a territory and on Saturdays Bob would stay with the kids and I would go knocking on strangers’ doors.

This was a little off-putting at times, but I sold a lot of brooms, brushes, and degreaser. I discovered that at times an unanswered door could be better than an answered one, because those opened doors could present opportunities that didn’t involve selling Fuller brushes.

The opened door of a small house which looked like it could use a lot of TLC was one such opportunity. Two small children answered the door. They must have been 3 or 4 years old. They opened the door and just stood there. I asked if their mommy was home. They nodded. I could see into the house. It was dark for a Saturday morning. All the shades were drawn but I could make out a figure of a person way on the other side of the house. It was as if she was sitting at the end of a long, dark tunnel with just a hint of light behind her.

She barely made a sound but I could see her raise her hand from the chair and beckon me to come in. I froze for a minute. It was like something out of a movie. Finally, she uttered the words, “Can you help me?”

This was way before cell phone days so I was on my own to stay or go. I’m not sure why, except it must have been the peace of God coming over me, but I entered the house. I gingerly walked over to her and she whispered that she was having trouble breathing. She could barely move and wanted to go to the hospital but couldn’t afford an ambulance and her husband could not be reached at work.

I used her phone to call my husband. I filled him in, loaded her kids and her into the car and took off for my house for Bob to watch the kids.  At the hospital they were concerned that she may have had a heart attack, but she was given a diagnosis of pleurisy.

Through this difficult day, she and I discovered that we were both Christians. Long story short, we spent several hours together at the hospital. By the end of the day she and her kids were back in their home with her husband.

How about you? When you think back on the jobs you’ve had, have you had any unusual encounters with people? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

This is Post #27 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

A Pick-up Line in a Pick-up Line?

Pick-up Line

Bob and I were waiting at Subway (the sandwich shop not the mass transit system), trying to figure out what delectable delight we’d feast on for lunch. From across the not-so-crowded room, I saw him. His back was to me. Without hesitation, I walked right up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked, “What are you doing tonight?”

Think me brazen if you will, but I had to know.

I stood there gazing up at this tall, young man, who was easily young enough to be my son, waiting for my answer. What was he going to do tonight?

He smiled and replied, “The same thing I do every night – try to take over the world.”

Well, that made my day. You see, I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg. You may have heard of him. I understand he has produced numerous, notable films. But if you have not had the pleasure of viewing his animated TV series, Pinky and The Brain, while sitting next to your child or grandchild, you are clearly missing out on some serious fun.

I spent many hours watching with my kids. Brain is a genius mouse who is set on taking over the world, and Pinky is his insane sidekick (according to the catchy theme song and obvious to all who view). Every day Pinky asks Brain what they are going to do tonight. Every day Brain replies, “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

Just the thought of Pinky driving Brain crazy makes me smile. The thought of watching with my kids does, too. And, that day in Subway, I smiled as I engaged with a fellow fan and thought that if we all tried to take over the world with fun, love, and kindness, that would really be something amazing. Pinky would love it!

Maybe We Should Leave the Scientific Method to the Scientists

I witnessed two ladies applying the scientific method the other day. It was fascinating to observe their dedication to discovery and the acquisition of knowledge, even if it might come at their own peril.

It happened at Costco, which is where so much of my writing inspiration has its source. From the moment I drive onto the parking lot and circle, circle, circle to find a parking spot, there is magic and anticipation in the air. This time it began as I exited my car and observed the aforementioned ladies just as they had finished loading their car with the treasures that embody a Costco shopping trip.

Their car was similar to mine, a small-to-mid-size SUV, and it was obviously loaded with the same feature that mine has which allows you to kick your foot under the rear bumper (if you have the key fob on you) and release the hatch to open without the use of your hands. I might add that this is a perfect feature for the regular Costco shopper.

When I say “obviously,” I mean that one of the women was halfway inside of the back of the car while the other woman was kicking her foot under the bumper to see how the stop-and-reverse safety feature worked. I’m sure that this was an experiment and nothing malicious, because there was friendly banter being exchanged the entire time.

Down went the hatch, and then up went the hatch when it hit the woman leaning into the car. She repositioned herself and they tried it again – I guess to see if the intensity of the hatch hitting the woman would change or if in fact she would be squished by the gate, thereby adding the possibility of a law suit, which they would surely win and, therefore, be able to buy more stuff at Costco.

This was so surprising and entertaining to me that I didn’t think to pull out my phone and video them, which would clearly have helped with any impending lawsuits. I just stood there and stared and laughed.

I also engaged them in conversation because I have some knowledge of how it feels to have your hatch hit you when you accidentally put your foot too far under the bumper while loading the back of the car. A summary of the outcome of that event from my firsthand experience is: pain and embarrassment.

In my case, I was putting things in the back of the car and turned to get more from my cart when I was interrupted by the hatch smacking me on the head. I shared this with them with a certain amount of caution, because I was honestly afraid that they might try that one, too. They didn’t, but they did return to their original application of the scientific method. Their systematic observation and testing was truly inspiring. After I thought about it, though, I did wonder if they had already done the experiment where the hatch hits them in the head. That would explain a lot.

Say Cheese! (the story of an immigrant and fellow cheese shopper)

Almost every time I go to Costco I see someone I know.  That’s what happens when you live in one area for forty years.  But today, instead of seeing an old friend, I made a new one.

Part of the fun at Costco is listening to and watching people.  Every trip affords an opportunity for conversation.  Today was an exceptional day in that arena.

We met in the cheese aisle while lamenting the expiration dates on the fresh tubs of mozzarella.  Soon an alert employee asked if she could help us.  As she went to check on the supply, we started chatting – me in my plain old American English and him with a charming old world accent that I could not quite place.

Bulgaria.  He was from Bulgaria.  He was a long way from the food lines of the late 1990s that were the norm at that time in his home country.  In less than twenty years he had gone from those lines and barely being able to feed his family, to Costco lines of carts overflowing with bulk purchases and fresh produce.  And cheese.

He risked it all to come to America so he could feed his daughters.  In those days the food lines started early in the morning, before dawn.  He would get in line and wait for hours.  There was not enough food to buy.  That is a concept that I cannot even imagine as I look at the aisles stacked with more kinds of food than I can count, not to mention my own grocery cart full of steaks, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.

He was a printer and worked in the newspaper business.  One day while reading the paper he saw a small rectangular ad with details of a way to go to America – a lottery.  He secretly applied – too nervous to tell even his wife.  For some reason he was confident that his name would be picked but still kept his action to himself.  And then he waited.  Six months later a letter came.  He was chosen.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when he told his wife the news.  He told me there was a skirmish between them over it – mostly over him keeping it from her.  His intentions were good – he didn’t want their everyday life to be overshadowed by a mere possibility.  Even when it was time to go, they waited until the last days to tell family and friends.  Some things are difficult to share with those you do life with every day.  How does a person find the words to tell loved ones they are going to find a new life in another country?  Words.  Words can cut like a knife and soothe like a balm.  They can elicit tears of hope and gratitude.  They are part of happy hellos and heartbreaking goodbyes.

So I never know what I’m going to bring home from Costco.  This time it was a lot more than a rotisserie chicken.  This time it was a story that made me proud of this man for pursuing a new life to care for his family and proud of my country for welcoming him in.

Author’s Note: This story actually took place a year ago. I submitted it to The Costco Connection; but since I haven’t heard from them, I wanted to share it with you. This gentleman is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. It occurs to me that in this day of tension about immigration, maybe this is timely. There is a path to immigration that welcomes people to our country. I don’t fully understand how it works, but I am grateful for it. It was a process for this man that involved waiting. I’m glad he did.

Beyond the Samples at Costco

I think Sesame Street had the right idea about the people that you meet in your neighborhood. You know, the people that you meet as you’re walking down the street each day? That applies to Costco, too (my other neighborhood).

Let me back up a little. Whenever my dad leaves the house, he is wearing his WWII B29 crew veteran hat. Over the years of going places with him, I’ve grown accustomed to people stopping and thanking him for his service. I’ve seen people engage in long conversations with him, shake his hand, and buy him lunch. It always means so much to him for someone to take the time to show appreciation.

Now it’s hard for me to walk past a veteran without stopping and thanking them for their service – especially a WWII vet. They are easy to spot because the pride they take in their service and their country is so often displayed via their hats.

During my last trip to Costco I met a gentleman who is a WWII vet. His name is Mike Morro. I stopped to thank him for his service and we ended up having a wonderful conversation. He served in the Pacific like my dad did, and then he re-enlisted in the 1970s as a doctor in the navy. This delightful gentleman will turn 90 this summer; and he is still politically active, cares for his country and is a responsible citizen.

img_1555I was impressed that not only did he carry a picture of himself in uniform, but he carries one of his father who served in WWI. There is a lot of history in that wallet!

He pulled out a couple of other pictures and before showing them to me said, “Now, I’m not sure which way you voted in the election, but look at this.”

There he was in a photo with Mike Pence and holding his Veterans for Trump sign. You have to respect an 89-year-old man who is so articulate and active, not to mention polite, respectful, and down-right friendly. It’s easy to see why that generation is called the greatest.

Thank you, Mr. Morro, for your service to our country, and thank you for taking a few minutes to talk beyond the sample line at Costco. It was such a pleasure to meet you!

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Mike Morro and I at Costco (I have to remember to wear make-up when I leave the house. You never know who you’ll run into!)