Friday, February 3, 2012

My First Job

Inspired by Friko, I've decided to do a series on all the jobs I've had.  Most are normal, some a little unusual, but I bet if you think about it you've had some unusual jobs too.  This wasn't one of them, or maybe it was......

Like many girls my first paid work was babysitting.  I had it easy - my customers were the next door neighbours, and their one child was always already in his crib when I arrived to babysit.  Basically I was paid to watch TV and eat ice-cream.  Their house, unlike mine, was immaculate.  I never saw any evidence of toys - they were always picked up and put away somewhere by the time I arrived.  The little boy would sometimes wake up - I would hear a small cry, and I'd go into his room, which always seemed really warm, and he would sit or stand up in his crib and look at me.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see him in his little yellow or blue sleeper, looking at me.  He usually wasn't quite awake, and I would stay and look at him until he lay down and went back to sleep.  If he seemed to be really awake I would wind up a little musical toy that was attached to the side of the crib and he'd lie down almost immediately.  I found out later that his mom always wound up that toy when she put him to bed, so he'd been conditioned to know that it was time to sleep.  I never once changed a diaper, never held him, rocked him, or had to clean up a mess.

These neighbours had a dog, named Rua.  She was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, similar in size and breed to a pit bull.  She never intentionally did me any harm, and I felt safe having her there in the house with me, but she was so eager to be loved that if I made eye contact she would see that as a signal to jump up and put her paws on me as high as she could.  Because she was  nearly 40 pounds of sheer muscle, and I was tiny, this would knock me over, and I would be licked and stepped on nearly to death. As long as I didn't make eye contact everything was fine.  One day when I came over to babysit, Rua was sitting on a towel in the living room.  Mrs. Neighbour told me that Rua was 'in heat' and that she would have to sit on the towel all evening.  I took this to mean that Rua had her period!  Huh? I'm sure I turned 6 shades of red when I figured it out.
Whenever Rua wanted to stand up and wander away I had to tell her to go back to the towel, and good girl that she was, back she'd go, looking abashed and resigned all at once.  I wonder if she had cramps? I think that was my hardest session of babysitting at that house.

When my eyes grew tired of staring at the TV and not staring at the dog I'd go to the freezer, find the ice-cream (it was always vanilla) and root around in the cupboards for something to jazz it up with.  Invariably this was Roger's Golden Corn Syrup.  I'd pour a completely outrageous amount of the sticky stuff over the ice-cream and as it cooled it got to be kind of chewy.  I'd stuff my face with that  (thin as a rail back then I hadn't even heard of dieting), leave the dish in the sink, and go back to the TV.  At that point in my life I had not been trained to clean up after myself (and I struggle with that to this day).

The most exciting part of the evening came when the the neighbours came home.  I wore glasses to watch TV, but never in public, and never outside (though I should have - I missed a lot, and was horrible at sports when I couldn't see...).  I was embarrassed to wear those ugly things!  Anyway, Mr. neighbour knew that I would have my glasses on to watch TV and he loved to tease me, so he and his wife would park the car in the driveway and sneak up to the front door, quietly turn the key and then BURST in, to see me snatching the glasses off my face in great consternation.  'Almost caught you!' Mr. neighbour would shout.  And I would shrivel a bit more into the couch and wait to get paid.
I was horribly shy and gawky, and a late bloomer to boot. I don't think the word 'nerd' had been invented yet, but when it was I fit the bill.

The very first time these neighbours asked me to babysit I was 12 or 13.  They offered me 50 cents per hour and I countered with 35.  See? What a nerd.  I think they ended up paying me the 50 cents per hour under the guise of giving me a tip.  At the end of the evening Mr. Neighbour (after scaring the bejeepers out of me) would walk me home.  Even though my house was 15 feet away from his house he would walk me down his driveway, along the front of his lawn, along the front of my lawn, up my driveway, and right to the door.  We never cut across his lawn; other than his shoes during lawn mowing, human shoes were not allowed to touch that lawn.

My first job paid me a princely 50 cents (give or take) per hour, and taught me absolutely nothing except not to make eye contact with a bull terrier, and not to relax with my glasses on.  When it came close to time for Mr. and Mrs. Neighbour to come home I actually sat with my hands gripping the sides of the eyeglass frame, ready to whip them off at the sound of the key in the door.
When I grow old and demented, and have to go and live behind locked doors in the old folks home, the staff are going to wonder why I throw my glasses off every time they come in to change my diaper.
Speaking of diapers, since I never had to do it while babysitting, the first time I ever changed a diaper myself was the day I gave birth to my own daughter when I was 26.  The nurse showed me how.  I didn't make eye contact with her, either.


Jocelyn said...

You've just taken me back to my first babysitting job, when I was ten, and I had to be in the house with a sleeping 10 week old. It was best for all involved that she stayed asleep.

Oh, and I beg to differ that babysitting

"...taught me absolutely nothing except not to make eye contact with a bull terrier, and not to relax with my glasses on." That part about pouring corn syrup on ice cream? That's a life skill.

Red said...

I never babysat , but I did hire babysitters. I always took them home. I'm sure some of them felt like you. I didn't have a dog though.
I had a brother 15 years younger and guess what I changed lots of diapers.

DJan said...

Your experience of babysitting is in such contrast to my own. I had plenty of diapers to change and kids to corral. But I sure do remember the ice cream in the freezer, which I stuffed myself with. And I was also not overweight at that time and wonder how I did it. I also made 50 cents an hour, which these days is ridiculously low.

That was a good story, very well told. I love the part about the glasses... :-)

viv said...

Loved it. My first job also paid 50 cents an hour, but it was shelving books at the Public Library. Later, they added reading to chilren on Saturdays at Story Hour and mending books, etc.
Someday I'll have to tell you about the three librarians I worked with...

Von said...

Goodness, Kathryn, I thought I was shy as a kid, but you had me beat!! I babysat all summer when I was 13 for a co-worker of my mom's. They lived just outside of town, so it was very quiet. I could earn extra $ by doing laundry and ironing. :)

Deborah said...

Oh Kath, I just wanted to give you a big hug and tell you it would all be all right - that you would grow up to have perfect eyesight, cavity-free teeth, children who were toilet-trained from birth and that you would marry a big, strong, handsome man.
Aren't you glad one of those things came true?

Honestly, I felt sorry for you sitting there waiting for Mr and Mrs Neighbour to do their mean thing to you!
This read like a 50s sitcom - so even though my heart was breaking, I just couldn't stop laughing. Great job - I want moooooooore.

Friko said...

Oh Kathryn, what an easy time you had of it, in spite of having to rip your glasses off.

I never babysat, in fact, I never had a job at all until I worked in the UK. Talk about green.

But why would you have to take your glasses off for the nursing staff? Without them they won't be able to tell it's you.

Diapers? Horrible job, I barely managed to clean up my own kids and certainly never anyone else's.