By Nan Ressue
By the time I turned sixteen, the idea of working had never floated through my head.
This all changed when my father asked, “Do you want to get your own job or shall I get one for you?”
Miraculously, I had a job at the local Woolworth’s by the end of the week ,learning to “look busy”, and to duck the thirty something whose Mama had decreed that he would get married that year.
I was determined to ditch my dry goods career and went to work reading want ads, enduring interviews and spending sleepless nights. At last, the manager of the local supermarket was willing take me on. My first assignment was to “Put up the Bakery”. Since the boss obviously assumed that this was idiot work, he was amazed that the end result included crooked rows, reversed packages, and squashed loaves.
Next was “Produce” and included such orders as:
“Hey Kid. Grab those potato sacks and bring ‘em over here.”
“Polish up those apples and line ‘em up pretty side out.”
“Mound up those oranges into pyramids and chase the ones which roll under the counter.”
Learning to cash was soul searing. I required to wear an identifying badge which read “Cashier in
Training”. It might just as well said “Slow, Stupid, and Prone to Errors”. These were the days when a $20 order overflowed the grocery cart and were the subject of my most frequent nightmare; a long line of $20 orders pushed by shouting customers while a red faced the manager watched from the sidelines. This experience preceded the day of bar codes which peeps in your head after hours. An additional piece of agony was cashing a customer out with a bill of say $17.23 who gave me a 20 dollar bill and a quarter. This always resulted in the same scenario; my red face, wrong change returned, and either a patient or irate explanation from the customer, depending on their mood.
Visits to the Ladies Lounge were an education…dirty minds, dirty mouths, dirty room. LOBLAWS the sign says on the front of the store, a place I have never failed to avoid. This was also the place where “stupid educated people who have no common sense” were analyzed, ridiculed and mocked, presented with gusto by the resident blue collars.
“How many more weeks until first semester?”’ I asked myself with a sigh. The most important part of the summer was delivered to me by my best friend who worked with me: I would soon be leaving while my co-workers were probably there for life.