My Many Days of Labor

This should have been posted yesterday, but yesterday I was unplugged. Plus, the idea came from one of the blogs I read and I didn’t read it until this morning. So there.

I get a personal kick out of Labor Day, as it celebrates workers, by giving people a day off. As  kid, it was the last official day of summer, so it’s always been an important, if not major, holiday.

This year, I’m celebrating by recapping the list of jobs I’ve held, paid or unpaid.

1. Babysitter. I started at the age of 12, for my cousins Tom and Joe. They’re now in their mid-20s. I’ve sat on babies for many different family members and neighborhood families.

2. Nanny. Being so similar and all…I was a paid nanny one summer to Chrissy and Tarah, Emily’s friends, when they were tiny little girls. Tarah was 4, I think. She is now a mother. During my junior and senior year in high school, I was a nanny to a girl named Taylor, whose mother was the daughter of my grandmother’s hairdresser. How’s that for a connection? Tay was a baby when I started, I got to watch her grow and take her first steps and speak her first words. She called me V. The first to give me that nickname. We were both sad when I graduated high school and moved away for college. Then, for the first few months of his life, I was a nanny to Clayton, which helped cement the special relationship he and I have.

3. Grocery Bagger. My first “real” job. I worked at Byerly’s, where my dad works, bagging groceries. I was very good at it. I never liked it, but I was good at it. I could bag them fast and well, so there were fewer bags and yet, still not heavy. I’m still really good at this. I go to a grocery store now that bags for you. I appreciate it, as I still don’t enjoy it, but I always leave thinking–I could do better.

4. House Cleaner or Maid. My least favorite job. I hated this. HATED it. I knew I would hate it before I ever started doing it. My parents had to talk me into it. As in, the two of them cornered me and took turns firing well-thought out arguments at my 16-year old head until I caved out of pure survival instinct. The worst part was that after I finally quit this job, a couple years later I found myself unemployed and foolishly let myself get talked into going back to do this…again! I’m an idjit. Clearly.

5. Telemarketer. For a brief time, a month?, I worked as a telemarketer. This is a bad job. A bad job. I sold magazine subscriptions. I had long printed lists (yep, prior to computers being the norm) of names and numbers. I had a script to follow. I’d dial, follow the script, get verbally abused, lather, rinse, repeat. Oh joy.

6. Flower shop clerk. I worked for Stillwater Floral (now defunct) for several months during high school. The owner was about as shady a guy as I ever met. He hired me, at 17, gave me 20 minutes training on the register and then would leave me alone in the shop for hours. Literally, the only person in the store. I’d wait on customers–then I started making arrangements, because I was the only one there. I learned to do bouquets and corsages and boutonnieres–I worked a lot during prom. I learned the name and care of every flower we had. I really liked that job. Then, one day, I went in to pick up my check and there was a note pinned to it–“leave your key”. I still don’t know why to this day, but I never worked there again. I went to work for…Steve and Sheila at Flower Affair in Maplewood. They were a tiny mom-and-pop joint, I was the only employee. They raised Weimaraners and brought the dogs to work with them. I finished out high school working for them and they invited me back on college breaks. They were nice people.

7. Animal sitter/House sitter. Steve and Sheila (above) were the first. They had a nice house and when they’d go out of town they’d need someone to house sit and dog sit. They used me. Then I house sat/cat sat for one of the homeowners I used to clean for, then a fellow librarian asked me to house sit/animal sit (three cats and a dog) every Thanksgiving. I’ve done this off and on for years. Literally since senior year of high school, up until last Thanksgiving. It’s pretty good money for easy work.

8. Cashier. My freshman year at college, St. Cloud State, I needed a job. Someone in the dorm told me that Cub Foods was hiring cashiers. I applied and got it. I really, really liked this job. It doesn’t seem like I would, but I did. For one, I was amazing at it. Like a cashier-savant. I consistently had the highest productivity. (They actually measured that. Once we logged on to the register, it kept track of the minutes we were logged in and how many items scanned during that time. They’d calculate to get our productivity. The higher the better. When there was no one in line, you could lock your register–if you were going to step away–and that wouldn’t count on your productivity). I won awards for my productivity. I was a damn fast scanner. I paid attention and memorized where barcodes were located on particular products. I knew which ones didn’t usually scan and would type them. I was fast at 10-key. I memorized produce codes so I didn’t waste time looking them up. I rocked at this job. When I transferred to Cub Foods Stillwater, I was miserable because it wasn’t the same atmosphere. They didn’t track any stats or numbers–that took a lot of the thrill out of the job. I was still good, but I didn’t like it there. I left very soon after.

9. Customer Service Manager (CSM). I was such a good cashier that I was promoted to CSM. They supervise the cashiers during shifts. You’ve probably seen them standing at a little podium near the checkouts. They are the ones that come if a light is flashing. They bring change, make voids, handle problems, etc. They also staff the service desk. I sold lottery tickets (including a $5,000 winning scratch off, once), made keys, rented carpet cleaners, made money orders, sold cigarettes, cashed checks, did postal work and other miscellaneous tasks. The job included one overnight shift a month. I loved that job, too. I was good at it and overnights, after getting over the shock of how long 8 hours seemed from 11p to 7a, were a lot of fun. The nights were slow and it was a free-for-all amongst the staff. The stockers had contests for various things. Sometimes there’d be an odd basketball game happening with a hastily erected display and a bag of chips. It was its own culture and very fun for an 18 year old girl. Plus, it was when the weirdos came out. The lady who’d buy stacks of microwaveable dinners but wouldn’t let you scan her items because of radiation. The guy who paid his bill in pennies. Every time. Not a single other coin or bill to be found. He kept them in a gallon-sized plastic bag. But it didn’t have a zip lock, he used a rubber band.

10. Fraternity treasurer. I don’t know if this counts, but it should. I joined a co-ed fraternity in college, Alpha Eta Rho, and for some reason, they made me treasurer. I then was required to attend every meeting, every event, every everything, and be in charge of the money. It was a ton of work. Plus, I’m not great at managing money. This is more than a decade later and I still suck at it.

11. Health Club worker. After dropping out of college and moving home, I went to work at Cub in Stillwater (above) and it was short lived. Then came a stint working at River Valley Athletic Club. It still seems weird to me that I worked there. But I checked in members and handed out towels. It was real mind-bending stuff.

12. Administrative Assistant. That was my title. It was my first job with an official “title”. What it meant was I did anything no one else wanted to do. Kind of like librarian! I worked for Dayton’s (*when it was still Dayton’s and not Marshall Fields or Macy’s) Corporate Travel Services at their downtown MPLS office. It was also my first job with a “badge” where I needed to swipe to gain access to my floor. I answered phones, I filed invoices, I pulled invoices when they needed them (all on paper…this was 1998, baby!). Mostly, I hand delivered airline tickets…yep, before e-ticketing…to our corporate clients. I knew every office in Minneapolis and the fastest route to get there. I knew where everything was in that city, and the skyway system by memory. It was a handy position, except that once I left, a half a decade passed before I went back and everything changed. Ah well. I also got run over by a car while messengering, I guess it is a hazard of  the job.

13. Deli clerk. Back at Byerly’s, working in the deli this time. Dad still worked there and it seemed like everyone I worked with knew my parents back when they were my age (which was 20). I didn’t love this job, it was just okay. It was a lot of slicing and dicing. What I did like about it is that my whole life, my mom worked in a deli–I got a nice perspective on how she made her living. Then, my dastardly 21st birthday rolled around and my knee injury forever ended my deli career.

14. Restaurant hostess. After 6 weeks out of work, I needed a job. Byerly’s wouldn’t take me back until I was restriction-free, which was at least 6-8 more weeks. So I went to work. I was buh-roke and I think my parents were ready to kill me. I got hired at Awada’s (now defunct) as a hostess. For this job, I interviewed THREE times. Once with the owner, Kris Awada, once with her son, Greg, whom she said made the decisions, but he wanted me to email with the GM, Tom. So, my friend Tom officially hired me at my third interview. To stand at the door and smile. Wow. This was another job I really loved, because there was lots of room for improvement in their policies, and I took every opportunity.

15. Restaurant Expediter. After a few months learning what I could about the restaurant industry (Mindy? Remember Sunday mornings, flipping through the drink book and inspecting every liquor?) I was “promoted” to expediter, or expo. Promoted is a strong word, as it was more a lateral move. But it was more money, once I convinced them it should be a tipped position. Once it was-bam. I revolutionized the job. To this day, one of my favorite jobs I ever held. I was perhaps made for this job. It was coordinating every aspect of the kitchen with the FOH. I was seriously awesome at this. I made new rules, I controlled, and things ran better. It got to the point that they had me doing this 6 days a week, because I’d convinced them the place would fall apart without me. Guess I didn’t really think that through…

16. Restaurant Server. Finally, after two years of being the expo, hand-selecting my replacement and training her in for weeks at a time (Steph Johnson, FTW!), I handed over the reins and became a server. I was good at this, too, but I got bored with it very quickly. Part of me misses the interaction, the light humor and subtle banter…but only a small part. Still, it was experience that I still carry with me to this day. To those who think serving is an easy job–clearly you’ve never tried it.

17. Restaurant Banquet Server. Banquet serving was a whole new beast. It is doing the same old job on a grander scale, in a smaller space. Everything is contained, but it MUST run like a well-oiled machine, or things will fall apart. For me, it wasn’t challenging enough. Too much down time, even being the bartender simultaneously.

18. Restaurant Bartender. I trained as a bartender and even worked a couple shifts at Awada’s, but Kris told me once that I’d never be a bartender there. I think she was biased or something. But, I did get to do it. My first full shift was a Saturday night, working with my friend Jason (the best bartender I’ve ever met–and my favorite, to this day.)He carried me most of the night, because I was insanely nervous. And a busy Saturday is tough for a first time, only my years of restaurant experience carried me through.

19. Restaurant Manager. Once I had that under my belt, I was promoted to manager. It only took a little over two years. That’s pretty quick to the girl who was hired as an entry-level hostess. I’m still pretty proud of that today. I did schedules, I counted tills, I organized the floor, I handled problems, complaints, kitchen flare-ups, anything that happened inside that building was under my control. That was back in the times when the place was so busy it took two managers to keep it running on a Friday night. I used to LOVE working with Tom. He was fun to manage with, because he worked hard AND he asked my opinion on things. I used to HATE working with Greg. He would leave at the peak of the craziness and drive around Woodbury to see if other restaurants were busier than us. Plus he never did any work–just wandered around with his hands clasped behind his back. But, it was hard to become a manager to my friends, people who had been doing this longer than me. That was definitely a challenge for me.

20. Restaurant Utility Player. I don’t know what else to call it. When I left Awada’s I went to work at Great Waters BC in St. Paul. They hired me on as a server/bartender/manager. I also did banquets, helped the brewer as needed and pretty much anything asked of me. I think working at a different restaurant was one of the smartest moves I’ve made. Aside from the wonderful people I met at GW, it gave me a “bigger picture” experience in the restaurant industry.

21. Student. Does this count? I think, once you hit college, it should. Because it isn’t mandatory, it’s a choice and it is a FT time to get an education. For sure I am counting grad school. Two years living in DC to get my degree. And I had to live in a convent and had a curfew. That alone should make it count.

22. Intern. While in grad school, I got a prestigious intership with the Hennepin County library system. They are one of the premier systems in the country and they don’t do too many internships. I had an in with my mentor, Maureen Bell. She helped me get in–AND I got to intern under her. They still talk about her there. I learned the ins and outs of public librarianship, focusing on children’s services. It convinced me it was what I wanted to be doing with my life.

23. Exchange student. If I can count student, I can definitely count studying abroad. I was a student at the Charles University in Prague in the spring of 2006, where I studied international library services. It was a compare/contrast to how we do things stateside. I loved it. If I could afford it, I’d go back as a chaperone for the same trip. But it is unpaid–and I’d need to take a LOT of time off work.

Next was a period of odd jobs. I moved home from DC, I turned down my dream job (Children’s Librarian) because it was in New Jersey and spent seven months looking for work in the Twin Cities. I did odd jobs–pet sitting, house sitting, waitressing now and again, to get by.

24. Test Scorer. My mom saw an ad in the paper one day for this job. Thousands of people needed to score standardized tests. For…a month? Something like that. But FT during that time. And you have to have a college degree. It was grueling. Training was brutal but effective. Then hours on end of scoring test after test. But, I sat next to Mallory. Okay, Karen. But she was a dead ringer for Mallory, Leo’s daughter from The West Wing. She and I became friends. She moved to Corvallis, OR a few years ago, but we still keep in touch. Isn’t that strange?

25. Reference Librarian. After seven frustrating months and more rejections than I care to admit, I finally got a library job. Hamline University hired me to work 8 hours a week. Mondays, 2-10. And they wanted a one year contract. I thought they were nuts. I refused to sign the contract and they still gave me the job. Within weeks, I was up to 18 hours a week, guaranteed. Four years later, they dumped me as unceremoniously as I was hired.

26. Public Services Librarian. Next I got hired in Hennepin County for 12 hours a week. This was in a public library, doing what I wanted to do. I still, every day, miss this job. Best job I’ve ever had. I went through something like 5 bosses during the almost 2 years I was at AP, and they somehow got better each time. Well, okay, not after Kelli, she’s the best boss I’ve ever had. Ever. Then they traded me to Southdale library for a toner cartridge, I think. I didn’t like Sd at all. Too, too big. I’m not cut out for small fish/big pond syndrome. I never felt like I was making a difference. It’s part of the reason I didn’t hesitate to leave when the next opportunity came up. Though if I were still at AP, I might have.

27. Campus Librarian. My first professional FT job. Globe hired me, not because they wanted me, because the person they did want was a kook. I was the second choice. Or so they said. But I never got an interview during the first round, so who knows. But I did end up with the job. Right now, this is where I’m at.

Looking back, it was definitely an interesting road to get me here. It is interesting to think of all the skills I’ve learned and forgotten. It fascinates me to think of the decisions and the stages of life that led me down some of these paths. I might do this again in another 15 years and see what sort of life my jobs tell about me then. But for now, I best get back to work.


2 thoughts on “My Many Days of Labor

  1. Wow!! I remember each and every one of those jobs. Good for you. It’s wonderful to have such an array of talent and experience.

    • Did I forget any? I had this weird feeling I was. Yeah, it was pretty cool to look back. You should make a list! I’d love to see everything you’ve done.

      Dad, too. 1. Byerlys.

      Okay, he’s done.

      But, you’ve had more….

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