Thursday, September 15, 2011

Glasses Half Empty. . .

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.


Dick said...

Elfs don't have bosoms???? Who said so? In my mind they do. Then again, in my mind mailboxes have bosoms and trees, and.... Great story and thanks for sharing.

North said...

I would pay money to see the pictures.

Paladin said...

Wonderful post! Some random thoughts that came to me while I was reading:

Have you ever heard David Sedaris read his essay "The Santaland Diaries"? Its the tale of his stint as a Macy's Elf at Christmas. Hilarious :)

The mental image of College Brigid in the elf suit is gonna stick with me all day.

One of my college jobs was cutting down lumber in a lumber yard to stock inside the store for yuppie DIY folks who didn't want to deal messy big hunks of wood. Also, loading concrete bags and shingles for contractors. Pretty rough in the Texas summer heat, but I met Mrs. Paladin while working there - so it was well worth it.

I gave up on having a job that I "love" a long time ago. I wasted too much time waiting for life to start and almost missed the life I was living right now, you know? I'm not what I do. That just pays the bills while I live the rest of my life that I love :)

Dori said...

Oh, just lost all of the boys at imagining you as a green Hooter's waitress. They'll be in their bunks. :)

Worst job ever? Selling Cutco knives. Whilst living in a friend's basement apartment in Bismark, ND. I am not a sales person. I recall sitting all alone one night, wallowing in self pity and then remembering I was raised better than that! I called up the Navy recruiter the next day. 2nd best phone call I've ever made!

Best job ever? What I'm doing right now. It was a long, winding road to get here, but we've worked for everything we have and we're blessed beyond measure!

Tango Juliet said...

I notice you neglected to relate your role in "Elves Gone Wild."


Guffaw in AZ said...

I'm with North, except I have no money. He did post a photo on his blog the other day with an elfin redhead. I really hoped it was you!
But, alas...

wv: curoma...the smell of bacon?

Roscoe said...

For a while during college, I ran the heatshrink gun at a branch of a software store with a *very* liberal return policy. I was an artist at making the packages look like new despite working conditions of a 100+ degree warehouse in summer and a primary tool which was essentially a repurposed paint stripper.

If you bought software at that "egg"-themed chain in the late 80s or early 90s, chances are that the contents of the box probably passed through my capable hands or those of someone like me multiple times before it reached yours, especially high-end items like the early Microsoft Office boxes which ran about $700 retail.

Rabbit said...

Oh, that's just wrong. Now I've got to try to work and not think about you in a naughty elf suit.

I've had some pathetic jobs, but the most degrading had to have been standing in a second-rate shopping mall holding a sample tray shouting "Hey! Try my Beef Log!". I enjoyed mopping and polishing floors more than that.

Ed Rasimus said...

I'm doing a mental mashup of "green Hooters waitress with really pointy shoes" and the Santa Clause scene from Christmas Story. I'm stuck with how to deal with morphing the pointy shoes, the Hooters connection and "you'll shoot your eye out, Kid."

It will be a blockbuster if I get that sorted out.

john bord said...

I had a pair of half full glasses and it was hard to see beyond my nose. On top of that they were rose tinted. So the reality of the world was lost in idealism and dreams.

Now that those days are history I pad my feet along to the path of another drummer.

Josh K. said...

PICTURES!!!! *said while shaking fists at the sky.*

How.... how could you tell the elf story with out any pictures.

Agh... You are a cruel... cruel woman. And to think I shared my Bacon goodness find with you.

And for that reason I'll tell you the worst and best job I ever had.
A was a Navy Hull Tech. stationed of the Air Craft Carrier CVN 71 THE US THEODORE ROSEVELT for a time after high scool. Part of being a Hull Tech. is you spend time assigned to the Pipeshop. The Pipe is in charge of the List Control System, the Fire Main and the CHT system. CHT stand for Collecting, Holding and Transfer... of sewage. From the heads all the way down to the holding tanks.
So if there was a backed up head, clogged toilet or bust CHT line we got to clean it up.
So, if I ever tell you something tastes like shit, I'm being literal.


Brigid said...

Sorry, no pictures - I didn't get into taking pictures until just the last couple of years, though there are a scattering of ones from early career days and a few that others took of myself and family.

But there are pictures my Dad has that involve both ballet and tap dancing lessons including some monstrosity of art form involving taps and a mexican sombrero. Charo meets Riverdance. Shudder.

If my Dad's home mysteriously burns after his passing, and the pictures are destroyed, I KNOW NOTHING.

warhawkeishere said...

The problem was advertising, if the dad's in your area had known there was a buxom flame-haired elf at the mall THEY would have escorted junior to the mall instead of mom. I know I would have! You could have paid for collage out of tips in a month.

Hey! There is an idea for a book, busty collage student/Elf saves local strip-mall (I'll have to work on that).

Good story, and good philosophy but all those with testosterone are now struggling with images of jade-eyed hooters-girls in elven cosplay outfits. Thanks!

Mulliga said...

My Mom has a great work ethic. She worked as a pension administrator for two decades (really good at it, too). When she got laid off, and couldn't find a pension job, she became a hairdresser. Paid a lot less, but you have to do what you have to do.

Old NFO said...

Meh... I'd have taken that job! My first job was shoveling crap- LITERALLY... Worked for a Vet, had to clean out stalls of sick horses, mules, cows and bulls. That decided me that I was going to get an education and not have to do that for a living!!!

Larry said...

The first thing I thought of was the Santa scene in A Christmas Story.
The second thing I thought of was my Chief at Pax River (he was a slightly built fellow) saying he wasn't an elf, he was a leader of men (after being asked to be an elf for Santa's visit to the hangar).
(Josh K, that's why I spent my time on the TOP of the aircraft carriers.)
The worst job I ever had was cutting 1" weeds out of 2" asparagus plants working for Henry Fields in Shenandoah, IA. I can't stand asparagus to this day.

God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

For some reason a mentl picture of Christina Hendricks in an elf suit keeps sticking in my mind...

Maybe it's Brigid, Maybe it's North's recent post:

My first job, other than working for family, was baling hay and straw... couldn't wait to dive into the pond after a 100 degree, sweaty, itchy day of baling...

Dann in Ohio

MauserMedic said...

Nice finish on that Turk!

Mrs. S. said...

An elf -really - you either have a very mischievous streak, were really desperate for cash, &/or have a serious lack of foresight - not sure which fits.

Some jobs can be wonderful and awful at the same time. My first paying job, (aside from baby-sitting), in high school was Saturdays at a small, family owned pet store. They were great employers! The couple who owned the shop had seven children, but they were running out of home-made child labor as their youngest was already a few years older than me. Customers just assumed they were my parents, and after a while I gave up explaining. Working on Christmas Eve was actually fun. (It is really hard to hide gerbils, parakeets, etc. without ruining the kiddies' surprise after all.)

I did not mind cleaning the small animal cages except for the hamsters! You see, people buy the cute baby hamsters, because they are nice. But if a hamster matures in the solitary confinement of a pet store cage, it becomes a cranky mean monster that will bite anything that disturbs its nap. Anyone attempting to rearrange its home is marked for death. One bit clear into the knuckle on my thumb.

Lesson: Don't buy a hamster if it is on clearance! It has probably been a very bad hamster. Don't even buy it as a treat for your snake, because it will go down fighting and you might have to take your snake to the vet for stitches.

Worst ever job - receptionist.
I really dislike telephones and seriously wonder why anyone would want to carry one on their person all the time?!

Hat Trick said...

I read "I worked as an elf.

And got fired." Recognized the christmas lights in the top edge of the next picture and thought "oh boy she posted pictures!!" and was very disappointed when I scrolled further.

Great post and good philosphy of life.

Dann in Ohio - I too know well the itchy sweaty feeling of baling hay and straw. I actually enjoyed that work and I didn't have a pond to dive into at the end of the day though.

Brigid said...

Mrs.S. - seriously desperate for legal cash. I was in the last phases of getting my commercial pilot ticket and in my third year of college (I started at 14 and a half). I had no money. With two jobs and college I had no social life. I still laugh about it though.

My brother always had hamsters and they always bit the ()#* out of me. Mr. Hamster. Meet Mr. Potato Gun (just kidding, they died natural deaths, not for thinking otherwise).

Mrs. S. said...

Had a friend in school who frequently discussed the possibility of cleaning his younger sister's hamster cage using a shop-vac. He never did - whether out of kindness to his sister or fear of her wrath I will never know. said...

Thanks Brigid, I needed that as I've been struggling with a job I really dislike. I'll go to work tomorrow knowing that I'll never, ever, be an elf with bosoms!!!!

Mick said...

As to the lads who would rely on the taxpayer: at one point, my loving wife and I had medical bills beyond our means. We were told by family, friends and the hospital, "Go on Public Aid". Our reply was that the State of Illinois hadn't accrued these bills, nor were the people responsible for them. 15 years later the bill and interest were paid. Builds character. As an aside, if I'm in a checkout line where someone is a bit short on their government food money, I'll put in $10-20 to cover it. If they ask why--rarely-- I reply that I simply want them to see the face of someone who's buying their Twinkies. I get some interesting responses, both from them and good ones from others in line.

Cond0010 said...

"Elves do NOT have bosoms"


This was an obviously, this was the Pre-Internet era...

Onkel Brumla said...

Great post! Elvish part is just awesome, appreciating job you have is just truthful. It reminded me:
"If we live in idyll for longer time, we cease to perceive it and the Fate would do us invaluable service if he would pick us by our ruffs and threw us temporarily out to the cold. Then we would not recall the smoke of the stove, but its heat. And that it was entirely in our powers to make it only heating, not smoking."
Thank you for this one reminding me the value of employment.

Kirk A said...

+1 photos.

The Mauser receiver pictured pleasantly reminded me of my first high-powered experiences. My mentor built a custom .257 Roberts on a Mauser short action. Like everything of his, it drove tacks. And it was just right for this 12yo. Bagged my first buck with it before buying my own M70 .270Win the next year. (Lots of newspapers carried and lawns mowed for that rifle.)

Professor Hale said...

Just because you didn't have pictures then doesn't mean you couldn't take some now. Throwing together a green hooter's girl costume shouldn't take much work for a girl with your skills.

I'll wait.

Keads said...

Have a good time tomorrow! I won't talk about my first job. Involved "Free Battery Cards". And stuff.

Tango Juliet said...

All visions of red headed elves aside (what is it with you and green dresses anyway?), I believe it was George Carlin who told us "The glass is not half full but rather, twice as big as it needs to be."

quizikle said...

Top picture:
I like your definition of "half empty"
..and dark as well...

Murphy's Law said...

You in this elf suit...we need pics.

Six said...

That was sweet Brigid. I am among the very fortunate who knew exactly what I was going to be from a very young age and was able to accomplish it (somehow).
As for pictures. There's this one of me in a dress.... A story for another time :)

J.R.Shirley said...

I think bosoms on elves are a requirement. Just sayin'.

I could have made MORE staying on unemployment after I got back from my deployment, than the job I took at the science museum. But it wouldn't feel right.

Nothing like a little privation to help you appreciate the little things like a roof, a bed, and enough food.

Sarah Says said...

Yes, even crappy jobs are just a phase. A couple years ago I was in a job I really hated, but I learned some terrific skills that have led me to my current job. I wouldn't have had that opportunity if I wasn't willing to wade through the mud for a while.

Lee King said...

It was obviously anti-Viking discrimination! :-)

My worst job was probably selling ours and pans out of the trunk of my car. It was straight commission and I SUCKED at it.