Today we are talking about our first job. I am really humbled talking about my first job. This is a little embarrassing because it wasn’t very glamorous, or easy. My first job(s) were humiliating.
I started working a few days after I turned 16. I dropped out of school on my 16th birthday. That was an idiot move, but it made sense for me at the time since I never attended school. Yup, I was one of those kids. I partied a lot and hung out with all the bad kids. None of my friends at the time actually attended school. A few days after my birthday I went looking for a job to fund my self destructive lifestyle.
I put in just one application and got the job. I started my awesome career at Checkers.
We lived about a mile away from Checker’s in Orlando, FL. I can clearly remember the long walk to work in the wee hours of the morning. I had to be there by 8:30 and more often than not it was hot as hell outside. 8:30 was really early for a kid like me. I had a stupid uniform shirt and hat and black pants. I thought I was so cool going to work, little did I realize it would be for the rest of my life.
Once upon a time… child labor laws did not exist. I know this sounds cruel, but for me this was perfect. I worked 40 hours a week right away. I made pretty good money for a kid with no bills. I made like 25¢ over minimum wage. Minimum wage was $4.25. I thought I was doing okay. I started off working the fries, then I graduated to making the burgers (think: frozen hockey puck patties on the grill). Once I did that for a bit, they made me a cashier. I did really well and it wasn’t long before I was running the “busy side”. I even worked it during the busy lunch hour.
Not everything was perfect though. Checkers had a problem keeping people. It didn’t take me long to figure out that revolving staff meant for shitty work conditions. For extra fun sometimes they would ask me to go out front of the store and wave that stupid flag. I hated it. It was really humiliating. I went looking somewhere else after about six months. It was then that I started working at Wendy’s.
I had to share this picture, it is pretty funny.
In all seriousness, I enjoyed working at Wendy’s. Dave Thomas really had a great concept of keeping food fresh. The burgers came in refrigerated, not frozen. I don’t want to say I was proud to work there, but I was proud of the quality of the food. I mean, as fast food goes, Wendy’s is probably the highest quality. The food is really good and always fresh. I actually ate there, even after working there. I still love Wendy’s.
I worked for Wendy’s for two years. That is a looooong time to work at at any fast food place. This was a time when employers didn’t have to offer medical, but Wendy’s did after one year of full-time employment. They ended up offering me the medical benefits, which I declined because my mother still had me insured. They started me at 75¢ over minimum wage and raised my pay regularly. I think I made $5.25 at the end of my two years.
I did learn a lot from my experience at my first 2 jobs, but mostly it was that I needed to go back to school. I got my GED and started attending college towards the end of my career at fast food. My greatest fear back then was to end up working fast food for the rest of my life.
My kids will not be working fast food as their first jobs. One is going to work on a local farm and the other will work at dog groomers until that job she was promised at the library opens up. I have campaigned against working fast food pretty heavily. I started at fast food because I didn’t think I had a choice, and no one told me anything different. Also, my kids are not dropping out of school like I did. Neither of them want to go to work and ask people “do you want fries with that?”