This week, us Randoms are focusing on the craptastic jobs that made us who we are today. Counting part-time jobs, I’ve had something like 30. Does Barack Obama have such a varied resume? I think not:
1) Sandwich artist. Seriously. This is what Subway called their employees back in the early 90s, back when you had to cut the sub with a “U-gouge.” I won’t even tell you how many times I “gouged” my finger. This job taught me I didn’t want to make $4.25 an hour for the rest of my life, or smell like mustard when I got home. Everyone should have a fast food job as a kid. It’ll make you stay in school until you’re on your 10th Ph.D. I know that Sarah Dessen worked at a taco joint (or was that a burrito joint?) for a bit. And notice how well she does with her books. Lesson learned: For some people, a trip to prison gets you motivated. For others, it’s scrubbing toilets and counting out a register.
2) Snapple girl. Seriously. A friend and I spent the summer after our senior year standing at the end of grocery store aisles with Dixie Cups filled with Kiwi Strawberry Snapple and asking, “Would you like a sample of Snapple?” This was a pretty fun job, with travel (to the tiny towns 60 miles away from us), wardrobe (a Snapple shirt), and perks (a four-pack of our favorite Snapple flavor after each gig). Lesson learned: Made me think there were other fun jobs out there that didn’t include florescent lights or cubicles.
3) Worker under florescent lights in a cubicle. I think everyone should go through this type of job. I did, for four-and-a-half years at a trade magazine company. I was so bored, I’d sometimes sneak into the bathroom, go into a stall, and close my eyes for a cat nap. Other times, I was so busy, I felt like I was on 10 cups of caffeine due to deadline-induced stress. I was a good employee for three and a half years. That last year, I felt tortured. Lesson learned: What am I doing with my life?
4) Assistant to the assistant to the editor in chief. Yes, I was once the Anne Hathaway of my own Devil Wears Prada moment. It lasted for five months, and sometimes I was so broke I had to walk 34 blocks from my apartment to that office near Central Park. This was an internship that turned into a paying job by Day 3, and it was my dream come true. Or so I thought. I realized that working in NYC for a fashion magazine for $27,000 a year was not my dream. Sure, I could’ve made ends meet better if I’d rented that curtained-off partition in that yoga studio (only $600 a month AND I’d get free yoga lessons, even though I would have to share the one grimy bathroom with three other renters). Lesson learned: Sometimes dreams change slightly.
5) Book Goddess. (Seriously. It was on my name tag, way before being precocious was trendy.) By far, the salaried-with-benefits job that I loved the most. During my master’s, I worked at an independent bookstore. I. Loved. It. I got to meet authors (Diana Gabaldon) and book vendors and, most importantly, readers. I helped them find similar authors; I helped them find out of print books; and I helped them find the one book our system said was in the store but wasn’t where it should be (Hint: You gotta think like the lazy customer/lazy sales associate who misplaced the book). Lesson learned: Surrounded by about 20,000 books for about 40 hours each week, it just seemed natural that I would one day have my own book there.*
*By the way, I wrote to the VP of that chain of independent bookstores, asking him to stock Black Tuesday since I’d once been an employee. My book came out and 10 cold calls later, I found out that my book, indeed, was stocked by that chain. Lesson learned: I should go work for Borders and Barnes and Noble and Wal-Mart and Target and Amazon.com and…