The Hardest Job I’ve Ever Had

Right after I turned 17 I decided that babysitting wasn’t going to be a good enough income for my needs. I decided to get a job. My friend Ashley, who drove me home from school everyday, took me to the local Shoney’s restaurant, and I filled out an application. The manager talked to me right then, and I was essentially hired on the spot.

The next week I started orientation. It seemed so silly, learning how to cut lemons and how to hold a tray, but I guess it was important to the company that their servers knew how to do these things. I was given my uniform, but since I was so small, they had to order a skirt for me. I would have to make do with what they had. I pinned about two inches on either side of my waist in and I never did get that smaller skirt. I looked like a little girl playing dress up.

I learned to have a great, fake smile, to flirt with people, and to act as if the customer was always right… all for a tip. I had to work weekend nights and several weekday nights. I didn’t mind too much. It was my junior year of high school, and I felt abandoned by my friends who had graduated the year before. The only time it was really bad to work was the night of the Valentine’s dance at school. A large group of students (who weren’t really my friends because they were the popular kids, but I had classes with all of them) came in and guess who got to be their server? I had to endure watching everyone having fun with their dates and answer questions about why I didn’t go to the dance and then get a lousy tip from them in the end.

As soon as I found another part-time job, I quit. I hated being a server. However, I can still hold a very full tray of food with the best of them.

*****

I have worked for two movie theatres. One was a small, family-owned theatre in our town. The owner’s daughter and I had a mutual best friend, and the daughter and I became really close from that job. Of course, it helped that she was also in band, so we got to see each other a lot. I really liked working at that theatre. Everyone was friendly and like a family in many ways. We had a lot of fun at work, too. When Arkansas won the NCAA basketball tournament in 1994, we also happened to be showing the Flinstone’s movie. We listened to the game on the radio, and when Arkansas won, we (like the rest of the state) were ecstatic! We talked to our boss, and someone ran to Wal-mart, bringing back red Arkansas Champions t-shirts with Fred Flinstone playing basketball on the front. We got to wear those to work for a while. Later, we talked the boss into letting us order polo shirts with the name of the movie theatre and our names embroidered on them. We had them dyed the same green as the new carpet. We all liked wearing those shirts rather than a white button-down shirt with a vest and bow-tie. I still have my shirt.

The second movie theatre I workd for was part of a very large chain. There were a lot more people that worked there, and we even had several managers. It was a bit different from the first theatre, but I still enjoyed it. I made friends quickly, and had lots of people to hang out with. It was the summer after my sophomore year at Ricks College… the summer I was living with my aunt… the summer where I was dating my future husband, but he was living in a completely different state and working, so I didn’t see him for almost four months… the summer I took to really think about how I am and what I wanted. At the end of the summer, Mr. Universe came out to visit me. I still had to work for a few days, and I didn’t want him to be totally bored. He got to come to the movie theatre and watch movie after movie… all for free. Usually I could only get people in for free movies if they were accompanying me. However, the managers had become good friends of mine, and after we were married and came back for visits, these guys still offered free movies to us. It was fun working there.

*****

I worked as an early-morning janitor my first fall semester at Ricks. I was assigned to the Hart Building, which was the physical education building. I could often be found sweeping the floors of the racketball courts, the dance studio, and the main gym. I worked from 4 am to 7 am, and my first class was at 8. I hated that job. I had blisters on my hands from the push brooms, which made my flute playing harder and learning the piano almost impossible. I was exhausted and falling asleep in my 10 am algebra class. After a few weeks of total misery, my mom and stepdad said I could quit my job and focus on my studies. My new job was simply to get good grades.

*****

After Mr. Universe and I had been married about 2 years, we spent a summer in Utah to find jobs. He had one from before we were married, and I found a job working for a telemarketing company. I was “Corporate Quality Assurance”, which basically meant I listened to the recordings of the calls the telemarketers made and had to make sure they followed their script word for word. I had to write a report on every single call (actually, it was more of filling out a form), and we were expected to do a certain number of calls in an hour. We listened to the calls on fast speed. Let me tell you, even on this so-called “fast speed”, some of the telemarketers would read sooooooooo slowly, it would take them forever to get through one simple sentence! I hated it! One day, as I was clearly frustrated and leaving after a day of listening to a bunch of idiots try and sell stuff to people who could care less, a manager asked me, “What do you think would make this job better?” I quickly answered, “Give reading tests to the telemarketers before they are hired!”

“Ummm, we already do that,” the manager said quietly.

“Well, does it count for anything??” I quite that job and worked for a few weeks at a temp agency instead. I ended up working at a factory that makes bows and arrows. It was noisy, but satisfying. I liked that job so much better.

*****

After I graduated from university, we moved here to Arizona so Ches could do his student teaching. I was to find work. I ended up subbing for the Mesa School District, and I mostly loved it! I was a little scared to sub because it really hadn’t been all that long since I was a student who would do things to subs. Okay, I didn’t do things, but I didn’t stop them, either. Anyway…

Shortly after I started working, I had a miscarriage. It was a really rough time for me, and a really rough time for our marriage as we dealt with our grief in totally different ways. One day I got the call to sub at a special school. This school is for pregnant and ntewly delivered teen mothers. I would be teaching English literature and history. I loved the subjects, but since I was still grieving I wasn’t sure if I could handle seeing all these pregnant girls. I felt it so unfair that I was doing what I deemed “right”, and yet I had lost a much wanted baby, and these stupid, irresponsible teenagers were not only able to get pregnant, but they were all keeping their babies. I was bitter at the situation. I was unsure about taking this job, but I needed to work. So I accepted and went to sub the next morning.

I loved it. These girls found out about the miscarriage and they were so kind. They were not stupid and irresponsible. They were smart girls who had made a “mistake”, but were continuing to get their education and do the best they could for their new situation. I left a message at the front desk saying I would sub for this school anytime.

*****

I currently don’t get paid for the job I have. I don’t get vacations. I don’t even get a lunch break. I am always on duty. I have to learn and do things I never thought I would do (mainly cooking!!), and I have to answer questions that I would never have thought of asking in the first place. I am exhausted constantly, and I have to take medication for depression. I’m constantly on the go. I don’t have family near by to help out in a pinch. I am a mother, and parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Facing hungry, angry customers is much easier than facing a 3-year-old pitching a huge fit in the middle of Target. Listening to a 20-year-old who can’t read attempt to sell Disney books to a 75-year-old widower is much easier than watching the same Blue’s Clues DVD 4 times in a row… everyday! Facing teen moms and trying not to take out my bitterness and grief on them is much easier than facing a two year old who has just colored all over your bedspread with permanent markers and then NOT beating them to a pulp.

Yes, all of my previous jobs had some really hard days, but you know what? I wouldn’t trade my job right now for anything in the world. Parenting is hard, but there is nothing like raising these three boys and wondering what kind of men they will turn out to be. I love it.

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6 responses to “The Hardest Job I’ve Ever Had

  1. I agree!

    Every time I quit food service I said, “I’m so glad I never have to do that again because of such and such…” and I always ended up going back. Now I think, “I could never do that again,” but look at what I do instead?!”

    I really liked reading about your jobs. You and I have only had a few similar jobs, but I felt like I understood them from your writing.

  2. I’ve had a few similar jobs as you. I worked in a movie theatre, and a dog kennel, and at a telephone survey company, and a tutor, and then at a cable company. Looking back there were things I disliked at every one of those jobs but there are things in each of those that have prepared me for this the hardest job ever.

    You’re last paragraphy brought tears to my eyes but apparently that’s pretty easy to do today.

  3. Being a mom was always the job that I wanted. Now that I am a mom, it is so hard and frustrating, yet so rewarding and wonderful at the exact same time!

    You have had many a job, girl, I admire you! Especially for the one you are doing now!

  4. Oh, I just wanted to mention… these aren’t the only jobs I have had. Just most of the jobs I’ve had. The post was getting long, and I didn’t think you needed to hear about every single stinkin’ job I’ve ever held! 🙂 I just wanted to mention the hardest but the best job last.

  5. I have often had to remind myself how much I wanted this job and how close I was to not getting it.

    Great post Sariah! I enjoyed reading it.

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