I met a friend for lunch yesterday and we got to discussing really crappy jobs we had when we were young. She's a bit older than I, but many of the jobs available to teens and college students didn't change much from when we were both young. Her most disastrous job was at was a popular fast food restaurant at $1.69 an hour. Turned out she was allergic to one of the food ingredients and not only bloated up terribly but ended up covered in little spots. I said "did you look like one of those seseme seed buns" and she started choking on her drink (she knows better than to tell me these stories when we're eating).
I worked as an elf.
And got fired.
You see, in college there was a company that hired students and homemakers looking for part time work to do "product demos". You know, those annoying smiling people who try and assault you with a spray of Calvin Klein "Narcissist" as you walk through the cosmetics section at Macy's. Or those friendly people with food at grocery stores. "Sure I'll try your hickory smoked bacon but be advised I'm shopping with my identical twin so she'll probably be by for some too."
The pay was much better than minimum wage so it was a popular job and not everyone got hired. I applied. The choices though, for my first job assignment weren't great. A Mr. Peanut Costume, handing out nuts (oh please please please dear god no), more of the perfume thing (I LIKE rejection) or wait, this is perfect! An elf at Santa's Workshop at the fancy department store! All I had to do was wear the elf costume and help keep the kiddies organized while they lined up to sit on Santa's lap for a photo. I got picked for one reason only. Flaming red hair and bright green eyes. Elf material if there ever was one. Plus it was double minimum wage. Woo Hoo!!
The problem was the costume. Scooped neck Elf Dress, Elf shoes, plastic Elf Ears. All too small, especially the dress. We found bigger shoes, probably boy elf ones, but I was stuck with the dress. They usually hired petite students to be the elves, but there were a sucker for the hair and eyes, overlooking the fact that I'm half Viking. But I squeezed into it. Some parts didn't exactly squeeze into it well and were sort of on display.
Don't picture a female Herbie the elf.
Picture a green hooters waitress with really pointy shoes.
But I really needed the extra cash for college and flight lessons. So off I went, having fun with the kids, chatting with Santa (who was VERY jolly that day). It was all kinds of fun, and I collected enough money to pay for more education.
Until I got fired.
For you see, I was called to come in the next morning and canned as an elf, with an abject apology "It just wasn't suited for you, we've got an even BETTER position for the rest of the week, we're so sorry, here's your apron".
Apparently some of the Mom's complained that
(1) I was distracting Santa
(2) (and I quote) Elves do NOT have bosoms!!
So much for my elfin career.
The next day I was standing in a grocery store handing out hot dogs wearing an apron that said on it, in big letters "Have I Got a Wiener for YOU !"
THAT wasn't humiliating.
It was a job though, something even as a teen, I knew was a precious commodity and something to be thankful for. That was something I'd learned from my parents, even if I still totally disregard the whole "wait an hour after eating before going swimming Mom Rule #47".
But apparently, that thought process is not the norm in our "entitlement generation". I was in line at the grocery store the other day, and two very well dressed young mid 20 somethings, were chatting. One said "well I could get a job, but none I've been offered I really liked. I'd rather keep getting the unemployment since with what I save on daycare I have more money for me anyway".
That's not the attitude I was raised with. If you could work you did. Perhaps it is because I was raised by the generation of "if you didn't work you didn't eat". Both my parents grew up in the Depression, my Mom's Dad killed in a logging accident when she was a teen, leaving the family with neither insurance money or benefits. My grandmother could have just sat down and given up, abandoned in the backwater of lonely isolation of a small Montana homestead. But she did not.
She could cook and bake like no ones business and she did. Gathering up her tattered pride around her like a shawl, she sought out the prosperous in town and let them sample what she could create. Soon she had full time employment as a cook, while still tending to chickens, cows, stall and garden to feed 3 teenagers. Meat on the table was game, the other animals being sold for what they could bring in. Not only did she survive, she put my Mom through college, my Mom in turn helping to put her two younger brothers through. Both of them majored in engineering, ending up at Boeing with good jobs to support their families and grandma, who lived with us until she died.
A gamble it might have been, but it was one, that by hard work, paid off.
My Dad did ROTC in college, and had to work to pay for his expenses. My Dad is a very handsome, proud man, always popular with his peers. The job he had was going around the University of Montana campus with a nail on a stick, picking up other kids trash while the more well to do students made fun of him. He spoke years later of how he worked so hard so that he could do more in life than pick up the waste of others. He remembers the taunts. It drove him to excel, but even as much as he said he hated the task he was given, he never hated the job. He was thankful to have it, looking up from the leaves and trash to the high, pale, morning star of the future.
As a youngster, some kids teased me because my parents were so much older than theirs. I know I benefited from it, their words and wisdom. From them I got what work ethic I have. I learned that if you couldn't get work (and I've been there) you continued to try. I'd left a government position for a job in the private sector when unexpectedly, the economy tanked. I sold most of my possessions to get back into school, working multiple low paying jobs to make ends meet while taking more courses towards a goal I'd always had, looking at a uniform in my closet with no regret, only pride. I learned it again when the great hundred year flooding of the Mississippi took out most of my husbands poorly insured business, leaving us broke and me soon alone.
No complaints, no whining, it's life, plain and simple. But I know I'm beyond fortunate to have a good job. I say thank you in a blessing as I have food on the table each and every day. Yes, I worked my butt off for the qualifications to get it, but simply having it is a blessing. But I will never forget NOT having anything.
This Saturday instead of going to the range I'm volunteering with some other squirrels to staff a food bank where we will spend the day packaging up meal kits for seniors and some disabled vets. Sure, I'd rather go shooting, but I have good health, time and two hands. I won't think of it as missing range time, but rather "reloading" some deserving folks with supplies.
For those of you with jobs you like, you are beyond fortunate. Never forget it, and try and give some of it back. Not to the freeloaders and the lazy, they get enough of our hard earned tax dollars, but those in your community who are down on their luck after working and serving most of their lives.
For those of you still looking for work, my prayers are with you. It's never, ever easy. You're used to working, waking up each day to an early alarm, an orderly flow of named and numbered dates that line up like the pickets in the fence, holding in what's dear. Then you wake up one day and it's gone, bulldozed by bad decisions, politics and fear and you're left exposed, with nothing more than a pittance of a bank account and false promises from our leaders, blowing as trivial as trash and dead leaves.
It's true you never really appreciate something until it's gone be it home, a job or love. You spend years underneath a slow constellation of stars, brights spots of light that have no name and you don't even think about them until clouds roll in, leaving you without reference or direction. It's as much like being lost as any feeling I know. But please don't give up; keep searching.
For those of you with jobs you hate, remember it's not a lifetime, it's just this moment. Be proud of a character that propels you to work, rather than live off of the hard work of others. You may think the job beneath you or not worthy, but there will be those that are proud of you for simply having the ethics and strength to hold it.
For all of you, remember that there are those who care, even if they are terminated elfin people.