Work as History

I’ve been through a myriad of jobs – barrista, kennel attendant, pet store associate, concierge, movie theater clerk, inventory control, video game clerk, community editor, office assistant and probably others I’ve forgotten, almost all of which I spent at least two years at.  I like to consider myself fairly decent at things, but not really an “expert” at one thing.  I learn fast and generally enjoy trying to streamline processes for efficiency, as well as spend time researching the parts of the job that particularly fascinate me.

A few of the jobs I’ve worked didn’t last long and I have no regrets.  Things happen.  My first job was the barrista job at the coffee shop in town.  A few of my friends also worked there, so I figured it’d be fun.  I can’t honestly say I enjoyed it, as I’d come home feeling awful, sometimes with hives and feeling like my lungs and windpipe were jammed full of cotton, (which I’d later come to find is an odd, but serious, coffee allergy.)  Within two weeks, I’d managed to piss off one of my friends (how was I supposed to know I’d been hired at a higher pay rate than he was – he asked and I told him,) break some very expensive glassware, upset the owner by bursting into tears when he asked me how I was doing after a particularly difficult evening, somehow managed to break down the espresso machine for almost my entire shift, and accepted a full tip (from my own mother) that got me in trouble with the manager because we were supposed to share ANY and ALL tips recieved, despite my argument that it was lunch money my mom was giving me.  (According to my friends who still worked there, my mother marched right in there and told off the manager for making me share money she was giving me for lunch.  Apparently, the conversation didn’t go well and Mom never went back to the coffee shop, or the neigboring pet shop/groomer that the manager owned, again.  To this day, she won’t confirm or deny that she was banned from both.  I tell people she was banned, just because it makes her more badass.)

The other short-term job was as an office assistant for a one-woman consulting company.  That lasted a few months and I tried to do my best, but after my first week, it became somewhat obvious that the woman wasn’t very good at running her business.  Don’t get me wrong – she knew how to do her job very well; hearing her sweet-talking hedge funds to invest in “up and coming” biopharmacutical companies was pretty impressive, but she wasn’t really great at the other facets of the business and she also lived way beyond her means.  My first “official” task was to go pick up several thousand dollars worth of computer equipment at the Apple Store, then come back to the office and set it all up.  Not a problem.  It got weird when she had me keep two checkbooks – her personal one and the business one – and had me constantly shuffling money between the two.  I didn’t think anything of it, to be honest, since it wasn’t my business, though it was kind of frustrating that she would use business funds to buy antiques and furniture and not tell me about it until I’d find a discrepancy the next day while balancing her checkbooks, and then she’d either become obstinate and ask me why I needed to know or just tell me she “bought something.”  That’s cool.  I don’t care what you buy, I just need to know how much it was so I can keep your checkbook balanced.  In the two and a half months I was there, she went on two week-long vacations, where I was expected to still be in the office.   No big deal, I’d answer the few phone calls that would come in (usually from her to make sure I was actually at the office,) hang out with the office cat, watch TV and try my best to keep up on her checkbooks, since she used funds from both her personal and business accounts interchangably, much to my frustration.  Things kind of came to a head when it was becoming more and more obvious that she was looking for a personal assistant/friend, whereas I was more interested in assisting in her business.  She’d make passive-aggressive comments to me in regards to how her previous assistant would go to her house and pick up her garbage, bring her to antiquing, make her breakfast in the mornings (sometimes,) and hang out with her.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was when her previous office assistant’s mother came in, begging my boss to give her son his job back, since his current arrangement didn’t work out.  After the mother left, I waited a few and then told my boss that I was quitting, which she then felt it necessary to double down and fire me (?) and tell me how her old office assistant (whom she was most certainly taking back,) used to do all these personal things for her that (I’m being quite honest here,) I wasn’t comfortable with, such as making dinner for her at her home, helping her move furniture, driving her son around, going antique/furniture shopping, running personal errands, and the aforementioned taking out her garbage.

I also spent a lot of time working with animals at various animal hospitals in the area.  My official title was “Kennel Attendant,” which suited me fine.  I got to hang out with (mostly) friendly pets all day and sometimes I’d get called to assist the doctors or vet techs with something.  There was one hospital in particular that I remember most fondly, where the staff were treated like family.  The hospital was situated on basically the front lawn of the doctor’s home, where he’d walk up the driveway with his Rottweiler every day.  (Sometimes, the dog would come on his own on Dr. K’s day off, which he’d then call and ask “Is Brutus up there?  Can you walk him home?  He needs his pill.”  Though Brutus would be fine coming to the hospital on his own, for whatever reason, he needed an escort home or he’d sit outside being a nuisance until the door opened, then he’d barrel through and go straight to the little house/pen that was specifically set up for him.)  We’d often have storytime sessions with Dr. K, where he’d tell us about strange or funny things he’d come across in his career, or even stories from when he was growing up.  He was everyone’s papa bear.  He knew my dad, which was comforting, particularly when I’d gotten a call from my father saying he’d lost his job.  I was told to have a seat for a few minutes before I went back downstairs to my kennel kingdom and tend to my canine pals.  When I returned upstairs to feed the cats and Brutus and check in for any extra tasks, Dr. K took me aside to his office and informed me that he’d made a few phone calls and should my dad want it, there was a position for him at a local company.  This, of course, turned on the waterworks again and I don’t think I’ve ever hugged an employer before that, but at this point, Dr. K had resigned himself to being everyone’s “Work Dad”.  I’ll never forget the chuckle from “Work Dad” and how he said that they were also giving me a dollar raise.  After I’d moved on from that job, my grandparents, who brought their Yorkies to see Dr. K, would tell me that he’d always ask about me, making sure I was doing well.  (I wound up quitting after a dispute with the office manager, despite Dr. K’s best efforts to keep me from leaving.)  He eventually sold his practice and cut his work schedule to once or twice a week until he eventually retired.  I’d heard he was heartbroken when Brutus passed away, as well as one of the practice’s cats, after which he wasn’t really the same.  I do regret never stopping back in, especially after hearing Dr. K had been keeping tabs on me through my grandparents, but I’ll never forget his kindness and the subtle lessons he taught us all through his stories.

To many, work sucks.  It’s a job.  It pays bills.  Jobs give people stability, security or freedom.  It’s rare when someone’s stayed at their first job for their entire career.  Nowadays, it can be hard to find a job that will afford you the stabilities and/or security you require and once you find that particular job, there are likely at least a dozen others vying for the same thing.

I’ve had a varied work history, but it’s just that, it’s history.  It’s part of my history and to be honest, I wouldn’t do it any differently.  Sure, I’ve been fired from a few places or left on bad terms, (I’m still not sure if I quit or was fired from that office assistant job,) but there are also places I left because that was the direction I needed to take in my life.  Some places leave behind memories that I can look back on and smile, others I can look back on and learn.

In retrospect, I don’t regret the choices I’ve made in my work history, (except for maybe that time I flooded the fish room at a pet store,) because each and every one, as well as the memories I’ve made equal an experience I needed to grow.  You need experiences, both negative and positive, to help you grow as a person.

Work isn’t rainbows and unicorns.  Work is work, but if you take a moment to think about it, work contributes to you as much as you contribute to it.  You form bonds with the people you work with, you encounter things you normally may not come across otherwise and you create memories that stick with you, even if you don’t intend for them to.  They create your history and in turn, create you, which, is an adventure.

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