There are few things more full of angst than a minimum wage job. It’s the cashier snapping her gum at you behind the register, wishing you dead with her eyes. It’s the kid behind the McDonald’s counter who can’t even bring himself to care that his uniform’s on inside out. It’s the physical personification of hating everyone and everything and wishing we’d all just go away.
My first job at the tender age of seventeen was as a phone girl at Mark’s Pizzeria. A phone girl did what you might expect, we answered the phones. But we had lots of other responsibilities as well. We kept the restaurant afloat by hiding from the owner because he scared the life out of us, washing the same counter with the same rag 27 times in a row, gossiping about our coworkers, and sometimes even mixing up people’s orders.
We were a group of small, young girls, presumably hired for being small and young girls. We worked with huge, old, male drivers who reeked of pot and freedom.
I worked after school shifts and Saturday nights and I got out of there as fast as college would take me.
The next summer meant a big step up for Victoria. I graduated from the food industry to the teenage dream, retail. You guessed it, I landed myself a gig in the apparel section of Dick’s Sporting Goods. In order to work at Dick’s you have to be Passionate About Sports which meant I had to fake a running addiction to get through the door. Part of job security was talking about a fictitious half marathon training and comparing war stories form our respective high school sports teams (I quit after freshmen year, don’t tell a soul I wasn’t at states).
Dick’s boasted nine hour shifts, fluorescent lighting, and a floor plan you will never master. I walked around with my headset on hiding behind mannequins from customers. I rearranged the swimwear section at least twice a week because it was in the back by the guns where the nice, retired old men worked. I could also hide in between the camo jackets and decoys. It was like the Garden of Eden.
This is the summer I learned the evils of basketball shorts. They may seem harmless. Unflattering and unfit attire for every situation but an actual basketball game, yes, but harmless. But what’s you forget about basketball shorts is that they’re made for teenage boys. And America’s teenage boys wear three colors: black, red, and blue. Do you know what that means? That means I have 28 different varieties of short so heavy I’m crumbling under the weight and they ALL LOOK THE SAME. They all look the same. And they all have a very particular, special, assigned location. I can’t express to you how many circles I made around the Men’s Nike pad, tears in my eyes and heaviness in my soul. What choice but to hide in the fitting room and lock the door?
Every day at lunch I walked to Barnes & Nobles and ate carrots out of my purse while I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. 54 minutes of heaven before I was back to pricking my fingers on sensor tags.
The reason we have summer jobs is to remind us why we’re still in school.