Jobs Everyone Should Have at Some Point

My oldest son combs back his hair and adjusts the collar on his new McDonald’s uniform. It’s his third day of work. His first job. He’s 17.

I’m really proud of him for going out and finding this job. We gave him my old car this year and agreed to pay for his insurance (which doubled ours, incidentally – ayee!). But we didn’t agree to pay for gas. Or much gas, anyway – we give him about one full tank per month to get to and from school, but beyond that, he’s on his own.

And he’s got a girlfriend.

(Girlfriends can be expensive.)

And he’s got a big group of friends who like to go out and do stuff.

So off to find a job he went. …

Of course, watching him look for a job made us all talk about “first jobs” around the dinner table a lot in recent weeks.

My first job was in a sandwich shop when I was 16. Superman’s first job was in a snack bar at “Gemco” (remember that store?) when he was 16. He also worked at a gas station and a Christmas tree lot. My mom’s first job in high school was in a dress shop in Downtown Akron. She always talks about taking the bus there and how she’d have to change her shoes after slugging through the snow down the sidewalk. My dad’s first job was technically as a newspaper boy, but his first “real” job with a regular paycheck was at a gas station. He likes to tell us how, in the 1950s, the attendants used to pump the gas for the customers. (!) The gas station he worked at is still standing in Ellet, Ohio, and he drove us by there to look at the old pumps a couple of years ago.

I think these are all great experiences. …

I was thinking about this the other day, and how all my friends in high school who had jobs seemed to go on to have a really great work ethic all their lives. I don’t know if it was the job creating the great work ethic or the work ethic creating the desire for the job, but there’s a definite correlation.

I was also thinking about the fact that everyone should have at least one of these jobs sometime in his or her lifetime:

  • Working a food counter
  • Working retail
  • Being a waiter or waitress


Because working one of those jobs creates a huge amount of sympathy and respect for the people who work those jobs now. And, forever after, you will always treat waiters/waitresses, retail workers, and food-counter workers with respect. You know what they’re going through. You’ve been there. You watch them struggle with a cash register that doesn’t work or juggle too many customers because someone called in sick and you think, “God, I remember how awful that was. …” And you become one of those people who is more patient and gracious in the world because you’re more sympathetic that someone else might be having a bad day.

How about you? Did you have one of the “Classic 3” jobs?

What was your first job ever?

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16 thoughts on “Jobs Everyone Should Have at Some Point

  1. At 16, I dressed up in a bear costume and danced out by the 91 freeway holding a balloon. The stores name was Mr. Bare’s unfinished furniture…good times!

  2. First, let me say that I am really proud of Ricky for doing this.
    Now, for my first job. I was 8 years old and summer was just starting. I was sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out how I was going to spend the “free” time between school years. It was a Friday and my Dad’s payday. Back then for us payday was an exciting time. That meant that Dad would go to the store and cash his check and buy goodies for lunch. The menu was fresh cold cuts, fresh bread, lettuce and big fresh juicy tomatoes and green onions and pickles and sodas. This was a royal feast for us. We got a whole soda all to ourselves. We were all sitting at that table waiting for Pop to show up. We had even washed our hands without being told.
    So Pop shows up and he didn’t disappoint us, he had goodies galore. Even brought potatoe chips and Fritos. Wow!, it was party time.
    We were feasting, making a lot of loud noise and everyone talking all at the same time. And it was almost time for Pop to go back to work and he dropped the bomb. Boom! He said in a rather simple matter of fact way and rather proudly- “I got you a job!”. The kitchen went quiet, very quiet. You could hear the blades of grass growing outside. We all looked around to see who he was talking to. I thought, Mom is going to work? She doesnt’ have the time. Then he said”Johnny, are you listening to me?” What?! What?!, me? And he said yes, you. But I wasn’t looking for a job, summer is just starting, I am too young. Panic was starting to set in. He said you are going to work at Saldana’s. This was family owned combination grocery store and gas station a couple of blocks from our house.
    Then he inflicted the lethal blow. ” You better get dressed, I’ll drop you off on my way to work, you start at 1:00″. I wanted to cry.
    So I went to Saldana’s and became a bona fide member of the working society. I was in the Rat Race officially.
    My first job was duting off the gas pumps, all four of them, cleaning the oil cans on the oil can rack, there were 4 of them, plus a few other racks of gas station products. I had to sweep the drive. I carried the groceries out to the cars for the customers. I stocked the shelves. After 6 months ( oh yeah, the job didn’t end when school started up again, I worked after school) I graduated to packing eggs into the egg cartons. In those days the eggs came in a crate and we had to pack them into the cartons you see today. But they were 3X4, not 2 rows of 6 like today. So I did that for a few years until I became a paper boy at 11. My parents liked me working at the store, because I got a discount on groceries and gas. After the paper routes, I worked at a small hamburger stand next to the theater, actually I ran it alone at 12 years of age. Then I was a delivery boy for a drug store, we delivered the prescriptions to people. The pharmacist also had a greenhouse and on Sundays, I worked there re-potting flowers and plants and hauling dirt and fertilizer and stuff. When I got to high school I went to work in a gas station across the highway from our church. Another job my Dad got for me. His friend bought the station, but needed help, so my Dad said” I know someone who would love to work for you.” Guess who he had in mind? When I got old enough to drive, I worked in a restaurant first as a dishwasher, then a soda jerk, then became the short order cook. The restaurant owner had a brother who owned a bar/night club, I got the job of cleaning those places out Saturday and Sunday morning. I would find a lot of change on the floor while sweeping and they told I could keep it all. When I graduated from high school I enlisted in the Air Force 2 days later. All told, I probably had a total of 6 or 7 months without a job of some sort from 8 years of age until I joined the Air Force.

  3. ah, teenage job memories…all bad, unfortunately. my first job was at mickey d’s, which i quit to take a busboy job at a chinese restaurant, from which i was fired after one day after the owner needed a job for his nephew. damn nepotism.

    other notable jobs: drove a horse and carriage, washed windows, worked for the county government as a delinquent property tagger, wrote a hospital’s procedures guide, rented apartments, worked as a newspaper reporter, slung hash in a cafeteria, been a mascot at a pizza parlor, did inventory at a penal farm, worked as a day camp counselor, and filed mail for a company that was probably ripping off its customers.

    and those were all before i turned 21.
    bookfraud´s last blog post ..The Silence and the Fury

  4. I was a junior in high school when I got my first job unless you count ironing for pennies or doing some side stuff for dad to earn pocket change a job. I was a soda jerk (and later a shift manger and ice cream maker) at Swenson’s in Corona del Mar. My next job was the summer after high school working in the Emporium at Disneyland. I got to do crowd control every night for the Main Street Electrical Parade. I loved it.

  5. Oh yup, I had one of the three “classic first jobs.” Well, technically, first, I was a telemarketer for Olan Mills (the picture studio), but I got fired after 2 weeks because I wasn’t selling any picture packages. Then I moved on to waitressing and I waitressed from age 16 to age 22. And I swore I would never to it again and I pray I never have to. It’s definitely one the hardest and most frustrating jobs for a young person to have!

  6. Well I have to say that the GEMCO snackbar was probably my first “real” job that I actually had to get a work permit for. Before that, I got a paper route (a young man’s rite of passage) when I was 10ish. My poor dad had to het up early on the weekends to drive us all over Placentia so we could make our deliveries because it was still dark and he didn’t want us riding our bikes in the dark in the morning-wait, on second thought it was probably I who didn’t want to ride my bike out there on those cold and dark mornings; my dad was was probably thinking, “hey I was running Saldana’s at 9 years old. Get your ass out there boy”!
    Then I worked for about a month with my brother John going door to door trying to sell screens or something like that. Our boss was one of those “Pat” type people where we couldn’t tell if he/she was a man or a woman. That was 12 or 13 years old.
    Then at 14 my brother Ruben helped me get a job at a Christmas tree lot because I wanted to buy Laurie a Christmas present and had no money. That job was so hard! The bosses were always yelling at me for something or other. They LOVED Ruben. Everybody loved Ruben; they probably only kept me because they liked him. Then I worked for about 2 weeks cold calling people for aluminum siding or something… More yelling and a firing because I couldn’t stick to the script. Oh and they chose not to pay me a cent because they said I cost them potential sales or something; frankly I was happy to just get out of there!
    Then I went on hiatus for a few months and got that GEMCO job. Then off to Texaco for most of my high school years. Hey, I could use a vacation!

  7. Laurie,

    My first job was actually 3 jobs at the same time. I was born a hard worker. LOL

    I worked at Subway (Sandwich Artist), Vector Marketing (Sales) and Knott’s Berry Farm (Games during the Halloween Haunt season) all at the same time! I loved all three of these jobs. I gave it my all saved my money then quit everything in May and did nothing but spend moneyand have fun all summer after that. (not the smartest move, but you know how us 17-18 year old’s think.)

    In September i found a job as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of a large Mortgage Co. (Thanks to Vector Marketing for the skills they taught me).

    Uncle Chris, i really enjoyed reading your comment about Ruben Rene. I love hearing stories about him. I think it’s neat that Ruben Daniel and Ruben Leon have had the same personality traits and everyone just loves having them around.


  8. Geri, thanks and it’s so true. EVERYBODY knew and liked my brother. Laurie knew of Ruben before she ever even knew I existed. He was charming and smart and was just great in so many ways. And, yes, I see so much of him in his son and grandson.

  9. Commenting on Chris’ and Geraldines’ viewpoints of Ruben Rene. That is very true. He was a genuine joy to have around. But that was also true of all the boys, Joey, Ruben and Chris. The others in school and around the neighborhood would call them the magnets. Everybody liked being around them.

    So on the job front for round 2.
    I forgot to mention that as soon as I learned to write my name I filled in an entry blank on the back pages of a comic book. It was for seeds to sell. Flower, vegetable and fruits. My mom was real surprised when a big package showed up addressed to me. Actually she was sort of angry. But she and Dad decided to teach me a lesson and they let me keep them and try to sell them. I sold them all and I made a whole dollar. A lot of money for a 6 or 7 year old kid. Then I tried my hand at selling salve, a vaseline for dry skin and other drug type products, such as laxatives, energy pills, headache powders, talc, soaps, shampoos and I don’t remember what else. But I remember trying to sell the laxative to spanish speaking neighbors and couldn’t say it quite right. The spanish slang term for laxative is purga. I was telling everyone if they would like to buy pulgas….this is the term for fleas. The ladies thought I was cute and would buy them all. Then the holiday season came about and I saw a coupon for greeting cards, guess selling was in me by then, I sent for them and soon I was the greeting card king of the neighborhood. Soon people would call or come by and ask if I had seeds or the salve or greeting cards. I did that for awhile, a couple of years anyway. So maybe that is why my Dad thought I was ready for the big times at Saldana.

  10. Another thought on Chris’ comments. Marc and Dave were a bit younger, they were the same way, people would love having them around, especially the grown ups. I remember going around the neighborhood at the end of the day trying to find them and get them home. They would be sitting at some neighbors dinner table with the family having dinner.

  11. I did a lot of baby sitting and house cleaning for money when I was a kid. But my first “real” job was waitressing. My best friend got me into this – she was already working there. I (ahem) lied about my age because it was a restaurant that served liquor and you had to be 18. I was 17 but looked 12 so why they believed me is beyond me. The owner knew my mother and I suppose he figured she wouldn’t let me work there if I weren’t 18. It was an interesting experience and one I never forgot. There were good customers and bad ones. I learned that the nicest people in the world can become Jack the Ripper when they’re hungry. The worst part of the job wasn’t the customers though – it was the crazy people who managed the place. The woman who was in charge was like a prison warden. She didn’t like me and I wasn’t crazy about her either, especially after the time a piece of watermelon slipped off a plate onto the floor just as I was going out to serve it to a customer. She picked it up and made me give it to the customer anyway. The restaurant was the only place in town that boasted Chinese food – we had an authentic Chinese chef who was a bit scary to me. The other chef was just always in a bad mood and I avoided him as much as possible. I learned that I never wanted to be a waitress again. And I tip generously when the service is good. I also write letters to management when the service is exceptional. I know what those people go through.
    Jersey Girl´s last blog post ..My Mother My Child

  12. Well, congrats to Ricky! My first job was also at McDonalds and I gotta say – it was one of my funnest jobs. All of my friends worked there and we always had a good time. I remember one time my dad came in and we were really busy. He stood there watching me run around like crazy and when I got home later that night, he asked me how it was, etc. His comment to me was “people who work the hardest, get paid the least!” I always remembered that, and believe that it’s true. I found another job thru school that next year, but missed McDonalds and went back just on weekends and formed a really good work ethic. I have had had many jobs in the past and have several “customer service” jobs now…..after getting a divorce many moons ago, I tried waitressing and have been doing it ever since! It is really hard to walk away from daily cash! I agree with Jersey Girl – nice people can get really mean when they’re hungry! I never thought I would reach this age and still be doing it – but there are those few customers that make it worth while!! I am always understanding when I go out to eat, I appreciate their hard work, and I know sometimes you have a hard day…..but I also am also aware when the service isn’t up to par =) I remember your sandwich shop you worked in….that was before subways!! I remember that was the summer you quite drinking pop (obviously that didn’t stick =) Anyways, it is alway exciting to watch how your kids take to the “job world” – I think it builds character and teaches you the value of money!

  13. To Debi – I admire your spirit. My best friend (the one who got me my waitressing job) always went back to waitressing whenever she needed extra money or times were tough. I could never bring myself to do it again. It is, in my opinion, some of the hardest work ever. I give credit to anyone who can do it!
    Jersey Girl´s last blog post ..My Mother My Child

  14. For Geraldine,

    First of all, Hi! Would like to catch up with you sometime!

    Second, I always seemed to be working multiple jobs too. After the waitressing debacle, I got a job doing book keeping for a motorcycle shop while I was still in school and after graduating, started working a midnight shift in a glass factory. I started going to Community College and did the book keeping right after the midnight shift. Then I would go to school, come home, sleep for a few hours, and then go to Sears where I worked part time. Then I’d go back for the midnight job. Now that I think about this, I don’t know how I survived that. Youth, I suppose.
    Jersey Girl´s last blog post ..My Mother My Child

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