After short but stellar careers in babysitting and newspaper delivery I landed my third job without any effort at all. It fell into my lap, and left me with the impression that getting a job was easy and always would be.
As it turned out this job came to me not as a result of some wonderful skill or earnest job hunt on my part, but as the result of someone's need to control a situation. And, as it turned out, there is no real way to control such situations, but people will try....
In grade 11 I turned 16, and found my first serious boyfriend. Or he found me. He was an older man, (Grade 12!) and one of only a handful of boys who was not allowed to wear his hair long like most of the others. It was the late 70's and Beatles hairstyles had reached our small town some years before. This poor boy had what we called a 'pig shave', a haircut so short it followed the contours of his head and let his scalp show through. He had an unfortunate (for that day and age) last name which was easily changed to 'Hard On'; the other boys delighted in yelling it derisively as they shoved him into the bank of lockers whenever there was an audience. Thus, he was a scrawny, bruised, pig-shaven young man nick-named 'Hard On'. My first real boyfriend.
Poor H and his two younger sisters had been raised by a STEPmother (gasp!), a strict woman who stepped into the breach when their own mother abandoned the kids when they were only 6, 4, and 2.
Looking back, now that I am a mom myself, I give her full credit for taking on this challenge: taking on 3 young step children, and putting up with the inevitable cries of 'You can't tell me what to do. You're not my REAL mother!' that surely came along with pimples and puberty.
As the children grew, so did her need to control them; she dressed the girls just differently enough so that they were not 'cool' and made them tie their hair back while the rest of us wore it long and straight, and in our eyes. She made her son wear that awful haircut, and made sure his jeans were nicely hemmed, and not dragging on the ground as was the style of the day.
For some reason, one day he decided to 'like' me. I was still geeky and underdeveloped (the more cruel boys called me 'Flatsy'), and he probably decided that I was attainable to one such as himself. I liked him back, just for liking me! A boy liked me! Beggars can't be choosers.
We started to 'go around', which meant that we spent time near each other between classes, talked, wrote notes to each other....and attempted to see each other after school as well.
His mother must have found out from his tattle-tale sisters that he now had a girlfriend. Feeling the need to monitor the situation, and needing to find out just what kind of jail bait-floozy-seductress her son had gotten himself entangled with (had she no idea what he looked like in that ridiculous haircut?) she decided to give me a job, effectively killing two birds with one stone. Not only could she get to observe me at close range, she could arrange the schedule so that I was as unavailable for socializing as possible!
Of course I had no idea what was happening. One evening at home my mother received a phone call offering me a job. She got off the phone and said, puzzled, 'That was Mrs. H. She says you know her son. She says that she needs someone to help with inventory and would you be interested in starting right away?'
A job! Someone wants to give me a job! Wow!
So, I took the bus to the local mall, and helped take inventory at McLeod's, a small-town department store.
Mrs. H. was the manager of the ladies wear department. I still hadn't met her, but she was later pointed out to me; I'd been told to report to the supervisor, who got me a smock, and showed me how to take inventory. I didn't have an interview, but was introduced to my coworkers, and given a clipboard. We counted clothes in ladies and childrens wear, down to the tiniest pair of socks.
Little did I know that I was being observed for that two weeks....and that Mrs. H would be asking the supervisor what kind of girl I was. Luckily, I seemed not only harmless, but acceptable. I was quiet, respectful, a good student, I followed instructions, I was punctual....
Mrs. H, seeing that I was a good enough worker, arranged to hire me on permanently, but forgot to tell me.
One week after inventory was over I was sitting at home one evening when I received a frantic call from the supervisor. 'Where are you?' she hissed.
'Um, I'm at home. (Duh). Why?
'You're supposed to be here! You're on the schedule!' she said.
'But inventory is over!, I said.
'But you're on the SCHEDULE. You WORK here!, said the poor supervisor. 'Get here as quickly as you can, and I'll cover for you!', she said, hanging up.
And thus, I was employed. Not just for inventory. Well, well, well.
I still didn't really understand that the situation was being controlled. I was scheduled for every Friday night and all day Saturday (Saturday being the coveted 8 hour shift). The pay was $2.75 per hour, and the weekly pay cheque, encompassing those two shifts, was usually a massive $33.00 - a fortune compared to $18.00 per MONTH delivering newspapers.
Coincidentally I didn't have much time to see my new boyfriend. It took me a while to put 2 and 2 together. (I was an 'A' student in school, not in life.)
After a few months my boyfriend turned 18. At this point his mother gave in and let him grow his hair long. He grew taller and filled out, and turned out to be quite cute.
We found ways to see each other outside of school and work, heh heh, and I continued to meet with his mother's approval. I also continued to get that great Saturday shift.
Months passed, the bloom of love wore off, and we broke up. Almost immediately my shifts were reduced to the minimum, that least desirable shift: 5-9 pm Friday. No coveted Saturday shift. No Wednesday or Thursday nights. Just the social-life wrecking dreaded Friday, and nothing else.
And my weekly pay cheque....shrunk to $11.00. I still remember cashing those $11.00 pay cheques.
My third job paid $2.75 per hour. I learned to walk up to women and ask if I could help them. I learned to fold clothes properly. I learned to stab the price ticket needle into the intersection of the underarm seam, where it would do the least amount of damage. I learned that some ladies used the change room to try on a bra, put their old one in the box and leave the store wearing the new one, without paying. I then learned to remove the bra and hold on to the bra box before unlocking the change room door! I learned how to cash a pay cheque...I learned to juggle school and work and homework...and a boyfriend.
And I learned that jobs don't fall into your lap without a reason.