My first job, besides babysitting, was working at a satellite receiver manufacturer. Before I started my “real job,” they had me do one other thing, reorganize their filing system. After I was finished, I was convinced of two things. First, the company was involved in illegal activities. Two, graduating high school seniors ought to be forced to recite the ABCs, or at least sing the alphabet song—you’d think people would know their letters in order, but they don’t.
After the filing, I moved to customer service. This consisted of me answering the phone and listening to people pitch hissy fits. My job was to pacify them by murmuring platitudes. And if that didn’t work, I transferred them to my boss once they began swearing. Needless to say, I discovered that most Americans have the vocabulary of drunken sailors.
My first job is the standard by which I judge my kids’ first jobs. Luke’s first job was umpiring Little League games. Umpiring is similar to customer service—you’re paid to listen to people scream at you. However, umpiring is worse since the people are actually physically present and trying to intimidate you with nasty looks and threats. And, of course, a Little League pitcher can throw a wicked fastball, and he knows just where the pads end. Enough said.
For Ariel’s first job, she tutored at the Chattanooga State Math Lab. This is a hard comparison. Teaching calculations to people who suck at math is like working as a voodoo doll—it’s only great when they stop sticking pins into you. The problem with this comparison is that Ariel actually liked the job, except for the guys with multiple piercings that tried to “befriend” her or the “old” students who said things like “oh, my goodness, you’re the age of my granddaughter, you must be such a smart little girl.”
Jacob started his first job this fall. Jacob is “mannying.” If this is a new word for you, it’s a combination of the words “man” and “nannying.” Jacob is a manny. (Kind of cool, huh?) He nannies four kids. And aside from changing dirty diapers, which his future wife will appreciate, Jacob’s enjoyed the job. After all, he plays outside with them, and the kids are well behaved. When Jacob started this job, I had no idea how it would change my own status in the world. I mean, you always know that eventually your importance in the world becomes derivative, i.e. “Oh, you’re the mother of so-and-so.” But, you tend to deny it. With Jacob’s job, it smacked me in the face. Jacob babysits a little girl that I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to make friends with for a long time. Then one day with wide eyes and an incredulous voice the little girl said to me, “Do you live in the same house as Mr. Jacob?” I said, “Yes.” She breathed out a “Wow,” and I became her friend. As first jobs go, Jacob’s is number one. After all, being yelled at by irate customers or rocking a child’s world—it’s no contest. That’s part of the reason I became a mom and teach, to rock someone’s world—and to be really mean, at least that’s what my kids think.