My first job was walking the golden retriever next door. I got a dollar a day at ten years old. The five dollars would be sticking out of the dog cookie jar. The next year, I got another “client” neighbor with a chocolate lab. Then I looked after the cats of others when they went away on vacation. Though it wasn’t really work for me, I learned how to make money doing something I loved, and that apparently stuck with me through my years of job-seeking.
My first job with a paycheck came at 16, and I walked into Bradford Ski and signed up to be a ski instructor. For the following winters, I’d dawn my uniform – a ski jacket and snow pants, and head out to teach kids from three years old to adults in their 60’s how to ski. I’ve been skiing since I was three myself, so after a few lessons on how to teach, it came naturally.
The next job I got through a family friend at the country club for the summers. I’d sit tucked behind the counter at the pool snack bar, handing out ChocoTacos to kids and frying bagels (is this a Haverhill/New England thing? I’ve never seen it anywhere else) for tweens. Frozen margaritas for adults came in two flavors – strawberry or pina colada. At the end of the day, I’d pour a virgin one for myself. Normally, the job was boring, but I was (kinda) outside, and it wasn’t a bad job.
In college, I got a work-study – meaning I’d get more money for my loans if I worked for it. I had to choose a job from a list put on the university website. I had to apply for them and interview. There were tons of positions in the dining halls, there was one for driving the campus buses, but with my class schedule, there were only a few that worked, and honestly, only a few that I seemed capable of. I walked into a biology lab after emailing about one job offer that had the right hours and was close to my dorm – plus, it was in marine biology. I liked marine biology, even if I was an English major. I met Jenn and Kristen who ran the lab, loved them, and soon started spending hours at what was technically the third job of my life – sorting microscopic worms out of underwater soil samples – and I loved it.
A year later, that job changed to the lab next door, and I was learning to identify lobster sperm (they weren’t reproducing enough) and tracking lobsters off the coast of Newcastle, New Hampshire – maneuvering the boat through a maze of multicolored lobster-trap buoys. That job had the most incredible highs and lows. One day, I’d be heading out into the ocean on the boat, the sun bright, the water clear, just flying over the water waiting for the trackers to beep. Other days. I was carpeting lobster traps. Yes, carpeting them, for the lobsters my boss would hold in traps in the water of the mouth of the river as he studied them.
“They should be more comfortable at least if they’re having to stay in there.” He said one day as he hoisted rolls of astroturf onto the closest pile of traps in the parking lot. So I spent days measuring out each carpet, cutting it, and then zip-tying it to the bottom of the trap, making little piles so I could crawl underneath – because if we didn’t do that, the carpet would float and drown them. I love lobsters, I do, but this was a bit too far. In the next tank over, they were studying how cannibalistic the animal is, and would throw little lobsters to this monster five-pounder that’d tear them to pieces. But I was giving them carpets. In the end, the job was worth it. The days out on the boats, the lunch breaks sitting on the walls of the old fort looking out over the lighthouses.
While I kept the few hours I had with lobsters, I needed more money. I applied to everything but knew that there was more money in certain places. I applied to be a promo girl. I was hired in the parking lot of a shopping mall in the outskirts of Boston, and soon was slinging Monster energy drinks in short shorts and tank tops. It was good money, and when it wasn’t freezing or sweltering hot, it was usually an awesomely fun job.
That led to more promos. Yogurts, alcohols, clothing brands, sports drinks – all different things that wanted marketing. I was setting up folding tables in back-corner liquor stores wearing skin-tight black dresses. I was getting paid more in two hours than I would have made at any job on campus. Gone were my days of test tubes and ski gear, I was wearing stilettos more than anything else. Then, in Italy when I studied abroad, I was a tutor for my school’s secretary. When I got back home, I worked in the school gym renting out workout equipment and wiping down sweaty benches, as well as a few days a month as a cashier in the convenience store behind my dorm. I sought out jobs online for posting signs for events around campus, and once I even found a job editing a cops writeup of some ongoing court case. Then I got a job at Victoria’s Secret and suddenly became an expert in lingerie. Just to throw a curveball into the lineup one more time. A year later, I was waitressing at the Hampton Casino Ballroom for Marilyn Manson.
After college, I couldn’t find work. I applied to everything. I taped my resume to the front doors of the companies I wanted to work for. I kept working promos in the meantime. I missed the lobsters. I finally found a job at a little company that rented out Italian vacation villas. I sat in a glass cubicle and listened to others dream about Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast.
Then, of course, I flew here, and became a tour guide for students, roaming this country and other parts of Europe, in full control of busloads of kids driving international roads. There aren’t many lessons I learned from lobster sperm that made sense on a tour bus, though the ski instructing certainly helped when I realized people lie when they say they can ski, and then get to the top of the Swiss Alps and can not.
Only after that, did I get a “big girl job” and sat in an office, ran a school program, etc, etc. Only for three years. And now I’m finally getting back to writing and getting paid for it – which is something I was technically trying to get to through all this mess I just related. My jobs aren’t the norm, but my life hasn’t really turned out that way either. When I put down a CV – which is a long resume that’s used here, that should include every job you’ve had, it looks a bit ridiculous – but I’ve certainly enjoyed it, mostly, all except for those few days carpeting lobster traps.