First jobs are special, really. Like a first car or first crush, they are unforgettable. Recently at the lunch table my friends were reminiscing about their first jobs. As I traced back my own work history, I realized I have worn many hats. Here are some of my most interesting jobs, beginning with my first.
The Tanning Bed Sanitizer
Gramma Ginny owned a tanning salon within walking distance from my home. To prepare me for the workforce, I was hired to clean the tanning beds after the customers zapped themselves orange with ultraviolet rays. The beds were shaped like a large celery sticks, dipping in the middle where people would lie on their backs wearing nothing but goggles and a playboy bunny sticker. After roasting for ten minutes the skin underneath the sticker would remind the customer what their skin was supposed to look like. I knew to focus my sanitation work on this middle section of the bed because this is where the mixture of sweat and tanning lotion would settle. Of course this all happened a very long time ago… by the age of twenty-five I was on to bigger and better things.
After college graduation I needed a job quick so I made the sensible choice and searched for employment on Craigslist.
I forget the actual job title and description, but I was basically a butler for a rich, elderly couple in Wayne, PA. Some days I would weed the garden or clean parts of the house, other days I would show up and Louis would hand me the keys to his black Escalade. “Sandra has physical therapy at 10:00 AM, and drop the clothes off at the dry cleaners.” At physical therapy, Sandra would lay on her side to complete her leg lifts. “Nice work, Sandra,” I would say “Only three more.” Sandra was clinically bi-polar and depending on the day she would be angry at me or her husband. When she was angry with her husband, she would nonchalantly explain that she was waiting for her husband to die because she was going to marry Mr. Nelson, her hairdresser. “We have it all planned out,” she would say.
For six months I was greeted with the same question every morning, “Are you the sub?” Yes, I would say, as I reintroduced myself to a new set of smelly middle school kids. I would then glance at the lesson plans and have a conversation like this:
“Ok everyone pipe down. We’re watching a movie and you’re supposed to fill out this worksheet.”
“Oh man, do we have to fill out the worksheet?”
“It’s up to you.”
“Can we eat snacks?”
“Can we sleep?”
After I worked my way up the substitute teacher rankings, the online scheduling system allowed me to hand-pick the school and subject area I would teach. I learned quickly that phys-ed teachers never leave lesson plans (not the surprise of the century, I know). This meant I could show up to the gym, take role, then dominate the pickup basketball games until the end of the period.