Jobs: The First, Worst, Best & Surprisingly Unpleasant by Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman

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!

Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman


14 Replies to “Jobs: The First, Worst, Best & Surprisingly Unpleasant by Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman”

  1. Congratulations Danielle – you are officially living the dream. Although I’m sure you’ll agree that less than perfect jobs are definitely character-building.

    Great post!

  2. Note the absence of the most common job for teenage girls … babysitting!!! And yes, I’m here to tell everyone that you never spent a minute of your life babysitting! Who knew you would turn out to be such a natural & gifted mother!

  3. Great post, Danielle.

    I admit I’m terrible to people who make unsolicited marketing or research calls to me at home, about anything. I write at home, sleep at odd hours, enjoy my privacy, and it makes me so, so, angry when either my writing or my sleep (or even my TV watching) is interrupted by a telemarketer of some kind.

    But mostly I hate how I’ve become rude, because of these intrusions. Ten years ago, I NEVER would have considered cutting someone off, or hanging up on them. But I do it more often now than a I care to admit. Hard to remember the person calling’s just doing his or her very thankless job. I hope I never hung up on you. Sorry. 🙂

  4. I LOVE the eclectic jobs you’ve had! Lingerie sales and aerosol production…ha! I also waitressed, and I have to conclude that few jobs build character like those in the food service industry. I’m writing a little about my telephone aversion in my post tomorrow, but for now I’ll say that telephone research would NOT have been up my alley, either.

  5. Babysitting? You wouldn’t have had time, Danielle, between the French bras, waitressing, telephone research and trying to calm the yogis. Hmm, wait a sec, take the lingerie job off your resume and you WERE babysitting. 😉

    Delighted that you found your true calling because I can’t wait for August!

  6. Who knew that aerosol had to be produced?
    I, too, had a few interesting waitressing gigs. My first was the worst–we had to “marry” ketchups (never knew that was the lingo) and it was disgusting and think of the germs! Plus they were in glass bottles so it took forever. The owner made us clean the bathrooms–ugh. It was when restaurants first computerized ordering and was very complex and we screwed up a lot and she gleefully deducted our errors from our meager salary (which I think was $1.75/hour–all our earnings came from tips), so that we often got BILLS rather than paychecks. Can you imagine? It was at one of those quaint seaside restaurants where the boats pull up and think they’re getting really authentic seafood. But the cooks warned all of us wait staff NEVER to order seafood there–the stuff was recycled till it smelled to the high heavens! I got out of there after 3 grueling weeks and went to work at an upscale Mexican restaurant. The shoes were killers, I gave up eating chips for many years, the giant cans of that chile con queso about made me want to barf, and oh, the refried beans we had to slam with the force of a fast pitch against the big dumpsters to dislodge the glued-on muck from the bowls when bussing the tables…. I will NEVER eat refried beans…And the night I spilled a large tray with 16 Midori shooters all over a table (some guy got animated in his conversation as I stood directly behind him with the drinks and his arm knocked it everywhere). What a mess! But the tips there were fabulous, and I do miss pulling in $150/night tax-free LOL

  7. Maureen: I don’t blame you for your intolerance toward these calls. I REALLY HATE gettting them, especially now that I have a child. For a few years I was very nice to anyone calling with a survey, as long as they weren’t selling anything and I would do the survey if I could. Now I don’t. I still try to be polite but don’t always manage, especially if the person is really persistent. The good news is that now with all those spam calls it’s computerized and there’s that delay when you answer. If I hear that delay, I just hang up. I tell myself I’m not hanging up on the person, just the computer. A merciful death, as it were. The Oppressor, on the other hand, loves to get these people on the phone and engage them in all kinds of debates.

    Jess: I can’t wait to hear about your telephone aversion! Hey, if I could have waitressed with you and Jenny, life might have been a little more fun!

    Larramie: LOL! Yes, the yogis were on the babyish side–good point!

    Jenny: Wow, you have a gift for description–I can see and (almost) smell it all! With the dentisty post and your gross waitressing experiences I’m starting to understand your tolerance for parrot poop!

  8. What a fascinating journey through your jobs, Danielle. We had a few in common (waitressing and telephone soliciting). I kind of liked waitressing and actually met my husband when I was a waitress. But I have to agree that this debut year and the deb “job” is the best I’ve ever had. And all because of you and the other debs!!

  9. I can’t believe you never did any babysitting! I think your aunts and uncles let you down by being such breeders, although you are proof-positive that its a cultural myth that girls need babysitting experience to gain maternal skills!(p.s. I remember how disgusted you were by the smell of your clothes when you came home from a restaurant shift…)

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