Question: What was your first job and how old were you?
The husband’s “first job” was selling fortune eggs. He hollowed out raw eggs and inserted a tiny folded paper with “fortunes” he copied out of the horoscope section of the newspaper, took them to school and sold them to classmates. Well, at least until his fourth-grade teacher told him he couldn’t sell fortune eggs anymore.
From there, he sold Burpee seed packets door to door. He also sold tomato plants and night crawlers by the dozen. At 15, he began shooting sports for a local newspaper. That was the job that never ended. It lasted an entire career in newspapers.
My first job, after babysitting and accidentally flushing numerous cloth diapers down toilets, was at Smaks. It was a fast food joint in Kansas City that offered burgers, shakes and fries. Smakie girls worked the front line, wore orange sailor dresses with white ties, white sailor hats, white tennis shoes — and made change without a computer.
During college, I worked at an insurance company doing data entry for motorcycle policies (the most boring job in the universe), in several law firms (where I learned the basics of accounting) and the 6 a.m. shift in the dorm cafeteria sorting dirty dishes on a conveyor belt.
When I got a speeding ticket driving home from college and didn’t have money to pay it, I worked at a Dairy Queen until I earned the money. Yep, I know how to make a dip cone.
Our son’s first job was at a small outdoor outfitter that specialized in fly fishing. He was “let go” for not chit-chatting with the customers. Never has been a big talker. After that, he started mowing yards and had 31 customers by the time he went to college. Both of our girls babysat, and one worked at a big box store; she can tell you all about sheets and linens.
I got to thinking about all those first jobs after hearing a wise and thoughtful man speak recently. He talked about growing up in Dubuque, Iowa, which was the headquarters for Maytag. He said no Maytag executive lived in a 15,000-square-foot house or drove a Cadillac. It would have been proof they were too big for their britches.
Kids he grew up with, like the kids we grew up with, worked in restaurants, retail stores, grocery stores and gas stations.
Then he asked a question every parent who has achieved any measure of success in life should ask of themselves: “Are you systematically depriving your children of the things that made you who you are?”
We stand to lose a lot when we turn our backs on the experiences and values that got us where we are. As they would have cautioned in Dubuque, “Don’t get too big for your britches.”