The First: I worked in a lingerie store when I was seventeen. I’d had two-week office temp gigs and even worked in an aerosol factory over March Break one year (which gave me a lifelong aversion to the feel of cardboard and the smell of latex gloves) but those jobs were through family connections and only short term. The lingerie store was a “real” job and a thrill at first because I was working in a mall—the Mecca of my teenage existence. I was introduced to proper bra-fitting and expensive French lingerie which I had little need for but couldn’t resist buying with my 30% discount. By the end of the summer it was clear I would never save a cent working in retail and that the 30% discount was the only fun thing about the job.
The Worst: It’s a tie between telephone research and waitressing.
The telephone research was simultaneously mortifying and infuriating; on the one hand, I was polite, never pushy and didn’t deserve the harsh rejections and rudeness that came my way. On the other hand I was fighting a deep conviction that it was wrong and (worse) tacky to call people and bother them in their homes. I did not have a skin thick enough for this job, nor did I want to develop one.
I worked in a restaurant for three years. I made friends and had some good times (usually after work in the bar) and the experience was certainly valuable and character building. But the vile, combined smell of fajitas and cigarette smoke seeped into every item of clothing I owned, I permanently damaged my feet and knees by wearing bad shoes the first few months (vanity combined with stupidity, I confess) and then of course, there were the endless renditions of Happy Birthday, pre-shift “cheers”, secret shoppers who might report you if you didn’t try to up-sell every single thing (“would you like cheese with that?”) marrying ketchups (so disgusting!) and smiling and laughing with total creeps because I needed the tips. With my (admittedly useless) English degree and Shakespearean aspirations, this job was endlessly demoralizing.
The Surprisingly Unpleasant: Working reception at a yoga studio. You’d think working at a yoga studio would be delightful with all the well-balanced, enlightened yogis hanging around. And the staff and management were delightful. But you’d be shocked at the way people behave before their yoga class. Sixty-eighty people coming in to three separate studios within a twenty-minute span, all of them stressed out from traffic and city living in general and expecting service ASAP. We dreaded the pre-natal and ashtanga folks in particular—they were intense! Of course everyone would be lovely once their class was done but by then the next batch of agro-yogis would be on their way. Despite the incense, crystals and clear chakras, it was one of the most stressful places I ever worked. The good news is that this job inspired me to do pilates teacher training and teaching pilates ended up being very rewarding.
The Best: You’re looking at it. Writing in general and being here at The Ball during the year of my debut is proving to be one of the best experiences of my life and the best “job” ever, bar none.
Thanks to all of you!
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